Police: man charged with murder in Tukwila human remains case was in country illegally
SEATTLE - A Tukwila man accused of stabbing his cousin then dismembering the man last month should have been in the custody of federal immigration agents, according to Kent police.
Rosalio Ramos-Ramos, 37, was being sought by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) late last year and was almost turned over, when an apparent lack of communication between police and Harborview Medical Center resulted in his discharge from the Seattle trauma hospital, police said.
“I believe this person needed to be off the streets. He had been deported four times prior, he is a convicted felon and he’s a very violent person,” Kent police Chief Ken Thomas told KOMO on Thursday.
Thomas said his officers arrested Ramos-Ramos in October after the man dialed 911 to report being involved in a sexual assault. Officers did not find any evidence of an assault, but found a drug pipe and a small amount of methamphetamine on Ramos-Ramos. They booked him into the Kent Jail in connection with misdemeanor drug possession, Thomas said.
Once at the jail Ramos-Ramos told officers he wanted to die then started fighting with corrections staff when they tried to fingerprint him to learn his identity, Thomas said.
Thomas said five of his corrections staff were hurt in the fight, one even suffered a hand injury that put him on light-duty for several months. Ramos-Ramos he said was taken to a nearby hospital then to Harborview for a head injury.
Once Ramos-Ramos was at Harborview he was placed in a medically-induced coma because he was acting volatile toward staff, Thomas said.
While Ramos-Ramos was at Harborview police learned his identity. Thomas saido officers were soon contacted by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“We initially did not reach out to ICE,” Thomas said. “They looked out at the booking log, saw he was in custody and they reached out to us.”
Thomas said that agents told him they couldn’t arrest Ramos-Ramos at the hospital because it was considered a “sensitive location.”
According to ICE a hospital, just like school, are considered a “sensitive location” where enforcement can’t occur unless an “exigent circumstance” exists.
Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe, a spokeswoman for ICE, said in an email that she’s looking into the case.
Because ICE couldn’t make an arrest at the hospital, Thomas promised agents his officers would keep tabs on Ramos-Ramos. Kent police called the hospital daily, but he said staff there were reluctant to give them information.
“We called up and let Harborview know that we were on our way to pick him up and we were notified he was released at about midnight the night prior,” Thomas said.
But Harborview, in a statement, said they had no duty to give information to police over the phone.
“When we care for patients who are incarcerated or under the custody of law enforcement, it is the role of the law enforcement agency to guard the patient while they are hospitalized. This particular patient was not under guard when he was released from the medical center last fall after five days of hospitalization. We also follow federal privacy laws that dictate the amount and type of patient medical information that we can release.”
Thomas said officers searched for Ramos-Ramos after his release from the hospital, but couldn’t find him. He said the man had a few run-ins with other South King County police agencies before he was arrested on Jan. 11.
Tukwila police were called to an apartment complex in the 5800 block of South 152nd Place on Jan. 10 for a welfare check on Ramos-Ramos, according to a police report.
The man who called said his brother “had a history of mental illness and was upset and throwing things around the apartment,” the report said.
The brother said he had found blood in the apartment bathroom and on the shower curtain “and thought that Rosalio might have killed someone,” the report said.
The following day officers were called to a nearby apartment after a woman reported seeing someone abandoning a suitcase. The woman said she checked inside and found “what appeared to be the knee of a male,” the report said.
Officers checked the trash bins and found clothes and a butcher knife, the report said. They then returned to Ramos-Ramos’ apartment.
Police said the remains in the suitcase were identified as Pedro Venegas-Ramos, the suspect’s cousin.
“If the cops that tell you specifically, 'do not let this guy out until you contact us first.' And you let him out anyway? " said Rich Richardson, who saw the suitcase stuffed with the dead body for a day and half. "Who’s fault is it? It’s not the cops fault.”
King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole said in the second-degree murder charges he filed against Ramos-Ramos that the man has multiple aliases and birthdates. He told KOMO that the man’s green card appears to be fraudulent.
Thomas said national immigration politics were never on his mind when he focused on getting Ramos-Ramos back in jail.
“The politics make it a challenge because everybody’s trying to do the right thing and this could be the result. It’s the most feared thing anyone would want happen and it actually happened,” he said.