ICE Cold Murder

An Oakland family sues U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for losing track of the gun used to kill their son.

A mural Ramos had been working on at the time of his death. (William Newton/Flickr)

A mural in West Oakland’s Hoover-Foster neighborhood that depicts local heroes brings color to the concrete beneath Interstate 580. But that anti-violence mural has a tragic footnote: Artist Antonio Ramos, 27, was shot and killed while working on the painting in September 2015.

This was no ordinary homicide. The Glock handgun used to kill Antonio Ramos had been stolen from the car of an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent, who left the loaded weapon unprotected in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, where break-ins are common.

In response, the Ramos family has filed a lawsuit against ICE for negligence and for the wrongful death of their son, arguing the ICE agent’s carelessness is responsible for Ramos’ death.

“From what we know, the gun was left in a bag in plain sight in a car,” family attorney Alison Cordova said in a statement. “It wasn’t in a lock box or secured or even put in the trunk of the car. These are all steps that could have been taken to keep a lethal firearm out of the hands of a known gang member and prior convicted felon.”

ICE has not commented on the pending litigation, but a senior attorney at Cordova’s firm, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, doesn’t mince words.

“This is a rampant, agency-wide problem for ICE that has been well-documented for nearly a decade,” the firm’s partner Frank Pitre said. “Despite ICE’s knowledge and awareness of the problem and despite recommendations by other government agencies for corrective action, ICE agents continue to have their unsecured firearms stolen at alarming rates.”

That’s not just an attorney’s hyperbolic claim. According to a 2010 federal report, agents of the Department of Homeland Security — which includes ICE — lost 289 firearms over a three-year period.

That averages to a federal agent losing or misplacing their gun once every four days. The problem is widespread, as the report estimates that ICE and Customs and Border Protection were responsible for a shocking 85 percent of those lost firearms.

While that report is from several years ago, we know the problem persists. In a highly publicized shooting, Jose Ines Garcia-Zarate killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle just two months before Ramos was murdered. That crime also involved a handgun that a federal agent misplaced.

Ramos’ killer, Marquise Holloway, was a convicted felon who could not buy a gun legally — nor could Garcia-Zarate. But both obtained them illegally, and as the cases reach the courts, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be on thin ice.

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