By Daniel Bendtsen
Via Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE — Wyoming’s Division of Criminal Investigation released its report regarding Robbie Ramirez’s death to the Laramie Boomerang late Tuesday afternoon.
The state policy agency previously denied other reporters’ access to the 73-page document, which reveals previously unreported details about the fatal shooting of the 39-year-old Laramie man in November at the hands of Albany County Sheriff’s Deputy Derek Colling.
The report details Ramirez’s many run-ins with Laramie police, Colling’s account of the shooting, how emergency responders attended to Ramirez’s wounds and interviews with witnesses.
The report was Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent’s primary tool in decided whether to bring charges against Colling, who shot Ramirez three times amid a traffic stop. Trent also requested, and received, other material from DCI.
Ultimately, Trent convened a grand jury, which declined in January to indict Colling on a manslaughter charge.
The DCI report details many of Ramirez’s mental health challenges, his occasionally violent conduct, and his unsuccessful attempts to buy a gun in 2018.
The report does, briefly, discuss the two previous police shootings Colling was involved in as an officer in Las Vegas. However, it makes no mention of the violent run-in with a citizen in 2011 that led Colling to be fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Debbie Hinkel, Ramirez’s mother, praised Trent’s handling of the case at an April meeting of the Albany County Commission while also criticizing the DCI report as biased against Ramirez.
“If this was just handed over to another prosecutor with the way that DCI report was written, it just would’ve been rubber-stamped,” Hinkel said at the April 16 commission meeting.
Hinkel had already been provided a copy of the report at the time.
“I thought DCI was was supposed to be at least reasonably fair,” she said at the April 16 meeting. “It wasn’t fair. It was so biased. They made such a big deal about everything that Robbie had done, but yet they don’t even mention that Derek had beat someone up because he didn’t comply with his orders.”
In the report’s list of “pertinent facts,” DCI special agent Tina Trimble notes Ramirez had 98 total contacts with police since 2003.
“They don’t mention the fact that the majority of them were because of a runaway dog,” Hinkel said.
The report does note that 10 of the contacts “were made as a result of Ramirez exhibiting violent behavior toward others (including police officers) or were calls in reference to his apparent schizophrenia.”
Unlike Ramirez’s violent history, the one-page “investigator summary” of the case does not include information about Colling’s previous shootings as “pertinent.”
Ramirez had dealt with a variant of schizophrenia for most of his adult life. The DCI report indicates Ramirez had not been taking his prescribed antipsychotic medication in the six months leading up to the ill-fated traffic stop.
After his death, Hinkel and others have called for greater training of the police officers in regard to mental health issues.
Colling told investigators “he never got any indication that mental illness was a factor in the attack.”
“Colling was aware that Crisis Intervention Training was available in Laramie, but he had not attended the training,” the DCI report states.
In the wake of the November shooting, family members of Ramirez told the Laramie Boomerang that Colling knew Ramirez and was familiar with his mental illness.
In the DCI report, Colling makes it clear he knew Ramirez and even pulled him over in 2013 or 2014, a contact Colling described as “friendly.”
However, Colling was adamant in his interview with investigators that he did not recognized Ramirez on the day of the shooting, and was not aware he had shot a former high school classmate until after Ramirez was pronounced dead.
Colling shot Ramirez during a scuffle in front of the Laramie resident’s apartment off East Garfield Street. Colling told investigators “he felt that if Ramirez connected one of the punches to Colling's head, that he would be rendered unconscious and that the driver would most likely kill him.”
“Colling thought that the driver was not trying to evade the police, but was instead trying to get Colling's gun by attacking him,” the DCI report states.
During the scuffle, Colling’s body-cam shut off. The DCI report, however, does not note that fact or provide an explanation of why the footage ended prematurely before fatal shots were fired. Much of the scuffle occurred out of the view of Colling’s dash-cam footage.
The DCI investigator summary states Colling’s account of the incident was “supported by both the body camera and dash camera video review.”
After Colling shot Ramirez three times, he testified Ramirez “continued to move around, which Colling interpreted as a continued resistance.”
“Colling advised that he holstered his weapon and conducted a ‘face down stabilization’ technique to keep the driver from getting off the ground,” the DCI report states. “Colling said that the driver continued to push himself up off the ground and continually moved his hands under his body. Colling was still concerned that the driver might have a weapon in his waistband so he maintained the face down stabilization until backup units arrived.”
The report indicates CPR was not performed until sheriff’s deputy Jay Peyton arrived. Peyton said he “believed he was the fourth responding officer on the scene.”
Peyton told investigators that, when he arrived on scene, Colling and another officer were hand-cuffing Ramirez.