Wasco gunman faced domestic violence charges at time of shooting

·4 min read

Jul. 27—The man Kern County law enforcement says killed four people in Wasco on Sunday was involved in ongoing domestic violence court cases at the time of the shooting.

Jose Manuel Ramirez Jr., 41, who is suspected of killing his partner, Viviana Ramirez, and two of their sons along with Kern County Sheriff's Deputy Phillip Campas, faced three misdemeanor charges related to the battery of a spouse and willful cruelty for a child.

The charges stem from two 2020 incidents which law enforcement documents say involved physical confrontations between Ramirez and Viviana, who told police at the time they had been married for more than 20 years.

A restraining order barring Ramirez from possessing firearms was issued as a result of the allegations. But despite the legal mandate, he seemingly found a way to obtain the weapons.

The Kern County Sheriff's Office says the suspect in the shooting brandished a handgun and an AK-47 style rifle in a standoff with law enforcement that lasted for hours.

KCSO has not yet revealed a motive for the shooting.

"It has the implications of what we see in law enforcement when it comes to domestic violence and how serious it is, and quite frankly how a restraining order is not bulletproof," Sheriff Donny Youngblood said of the case on Monday.

Ramirez pleaded not guilty on June 3 to two counts of battery to a spouse and one count of willful cruelty to a child. The court issued him a criminal protective order allowing him peaceful contact with his spouse, but barring him from possessing a firearm for three years, according to Kern County District Attorney spokesman Joe Kinzel.

"If someone knew he had guns or was concerned about it, that order was in place and it could have been enforced," Kinzel said. "But there wasn't any indication that there were any firearms to seize."

Ramirez retained an attorney, who attended pre-trial conferences on his behalf in June and July. Kinzel said the court cases were in the early stages when the shooting took place. The next scheduled conference was Aug. 18, but since the defendant is deceased, the cases will be dismissed.

Neither incident involved serious injury, and Kinzel commented that the court proceedings were unlikely directly linked to the shooting.

"I don't see a direct connection that something about the court proceedings might have triggered it," he said. "It's not really the type of thing that would engender something like that."

Deputies first responded to the Wasco home in the 1700 block of First Street in which the shooting later occurred on March 26, 2020. The DA's Office says Viviana told deputies she woke up to one of her daughters holding a baggie containing what Viviana believed to be methamphetamine. The daughter was 8 years old at the time, and Kinzel said she was "very close to eating it" before the mother grabbed it away.

Kinzel said police documents indicate Viviana told deputies she had seen Ramirez with the baggie earlier that night. Ramirez became aware of the situation between Viviana and his daughter and twisted Viviana's arm to get it back, according to the DA.

He then went into the bathroom for an hour before Viviana said he came out under the influence, documents indicate.

He was not at the scene when deputies arrived, and Viviana filed an emergency protective order against Ramirez that barred him from committing violence against her for seven days. A court date was set for June 11, but Ramirez did not appear, Kinzel said. A warrant was then issued for his arrest.

Prior to his first mandated court appearance, however, a second incident occurred. According to the DA's Office, Viviana told deputies she was in her car trying to leave for work on May 14 when Ramirez tried to go with her.

A struggle ensued when Viviana first held the door shut and then tried to keep her cell phone from Ramirez. Kinzel said Viviana reported Ramirez grabbed her hair and twisted her arm to get the phone, which was dropped after a 15-year-old boy pulled Ramirez away.

Viviana was then able to call the police on her phone.

Deputies took Ramirez into custody, but he did not make a statement, Kinzel added.

No guns were found in either incident.

Ramirez had multiple felony convictions ranging from 2001 to 2018 involving marijuana, drunken driving and illegally possessing firearms, according to the DA's Office. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison in 2018 after pleading no contest to a felony DUI charge, but served 188 days, according to the Kern County Superior Court website.

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