U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
We respectfully request that the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice file federal hate crime charges against the assailants that fatally beat Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The Justice Department must send a strong message that violence targeting Latinos or any ethnic or minority community will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
On July 14, 2008, Ramirez lost his life after he was knocked unconscious and severely beaten by a group of Shenandoah teenagers who yelled racial epithets throughout the fatal beating. Charging documents and eyewitness accounts indicate that Ramirez was punched and kicked in the body and head causing him to foam at the mouth, to sustain two skull fractures, and ultimately, to die.
While local officials initially failed to bring charges against the perpetrators and denied that race played a role in the attack, MALDEF intervened to pressure the local prosecutor to charge the defendants with a hate crime. Soon thereafter, the county district attorney filed murder and ethnic intimidation charges against the assailants.
A retired Philadelphia police officer testified at a preliminary hearing that she heard one of the attackers yell “Tell your [expletive] Mexican friends to get the [expletive] out of Shenandoah or you’ll be [expletive] laying next to him.” The attacker’s comments were directed at Ramirez’s friends who came to his aid after receiving a distress call from him on a cell phone during the beating.
On Friday, May 1, 2009, a jury in Schuylkill County found two of the defendants accused of beating the 25-year-old father of two, guilty of simple assault. Despite the overwhelming evidence of a hate-driven and violent attack, the jury acquitted the defendants of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation. The jury's conclusion is an outrage. Most shocking was the news article describing the jury foreman’s view that the trial appeared to be biased because of the racism and prejudice he noted among his fellow jurors. Luis Ramirez was fatally beaten and, even in death, Ramirez remains a victim of extreme racism which denies his family the justice they deserve.
The death of Luis Ramirez has repercussions beyond his family and community. The FBI Hate Crimes Statistics Report documents that hate crimes against Latinos have increased by 40% over the past several years. We must work aggressively to prevent hate crimes, and when they occur, prosecute and punish the perpetrators to the full extent of the law.
We thank you for launching an investigation into the horrible crime that occurred last July in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania and urge you to file federal hate crime charges against the assailants. It is imperative that the Department of Justice step in, send a strong message that hate crimes of any kind will not be tolerated in our great nation and the safety, protection and rights of all will be vigorously pursued by our federal government.