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Authorities Confirm Investigation Into Dead Officer's Past
POSTED: 6:49 pm PST November 16, 2006
UPDATED: 7:01 pm PST November 16, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO -- Federal authorities confirmed Thursday an investigation into the past actions of San Francisco police Officer Donald Ramirez, who died of an apparent suicide last month in a Cambodian jail cell where he was being held for sex crimes.
The death of Officer Donald Ramirez, 50, has some in and around the Police Department calling for a renewed investigation into whether he was traveling for years to Southeast Asia for sexual tourism -- a name given to the crime of traveling overseas to solicit children for sex.
On the evening of Oct. 31, police Sgt. Neville Gittens confirmed that Ramirez, a 25-year veteran of the force, had killed himself days earlier in a jail cell in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Local authorities had apparently arrested Ramirez for sexual activity with a 14-year girl.
A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday that Ramirez had been under investigation since 2001 when the San Francisco Police Department reported his suspicious travels.
According to Virginia Kice, immigration officials searched Ramirez as he came into the country several times but they never found any evidence of a crime.
"We have received several new leads and we will pursue those vigorously," Kice said.
Akha human rights activist Matthew McDaniel says he told an FBI agent that Ramirez "… had a real appetite for underage girls" when the agent contacted him a decade ago in Burma. McDaniel became aware of Ramirez and his habits when the officer frequented the village of Chiang Rei on the Thai-Burmese border when the activist lived there in the mid-1990s.
And McDaniel and sources in the police department told KTVU reporter Rita Williams that other officers sometimes accompanied Ramirez on his extended visits and returned to work to brag about it.
Thursday, the mayor reacted by saying that there will be an internal investigation in the police department to see who knew what and when.
"Look, we take this seriously. I take this seriously," said Mayor Newsom. "We're going to do what's appropriate."
Police Chief Heather Fong also addressed questions about the renewed investigation into Ramirez's past and whether anyone in the department knew whether or not he traveled to Southeast Asia for sexual tourism.
"As the federal investigation moves forward, and there's information, the department will take any necessary steps," Fong said. "If people had factual information then that is a problem. We are law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect the public and to enforce the law, so if someone is aware of criminal activity and they choose not to do anything about it, that is a problem."
Police commissioner Joe Veronese said last week of the investigation that "there was no greater issue in the department than this." The police commission, however, has yet to announce if it will take up the issue.
Other police organizations are staying away from any involvement in the incident.
"Whatever he does in his off-duty time is his matter," Police Officers Association Vice President Kevin Martin said. "This is not a POA issue."
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