One of five men fatally shot by Vallejo police in recent years, Angel Ramos, will be getting some kind of justice after the city has agreed to pay his family $2.8 million to settle a wrongful death case.
Ramos was shot and killed by a Vallejo police officer in January 2017 during a family fight. He was 21 at the time. Police insisted Ramos was holding a knife over a person who was prostrate on the ground. Ramos's family insists he had no knife.
As the Vallejo Sun reported, five years after the family filed a wrongful death suit in the case, the city has capitulated and agreed to a $2.8 million settlement. The family's case had been bolstered by a federal judge's denial, last December, of a motion for summary judgement by the city.
"There will never be a dollar amount high enough to measure the value of Angel’s life and what our family lost,” said Ramos’s sister Antoinette Saddler in a statement. “We have experienced pain, terror and anxiety that no words can ever explain, and no family should ever have to experience."
Police were called to the family's Sacramento Street home in Vallejo on the night of January 23, 2017, on the report of a fight. Officer Zachary Jacobsen and his partner, Officer Matt Samida, responded to the scene and Jacobsen would later say that he saw two people fighting on a second-story balcony. He then said he saw Ramos "run from inside the house, mount another man, and make stabbing motions," per the Vallejo Sun.
No knife was ever found in the area, and Samida would later testify that he only ever saw Ramos punching the other man.
As Melissa Nold, the local civil rights attorney who fought the civil case, tweeted on Wednesday, "The City of Vallejo lied about Angel Ramos being armed when he was shot, in order to deter public outcry."
Referring to a scandal in which it came to light that Vallejo officers allegedly made bends in their star-shaped badges to celebrate and mark the number of kills they committed on duty, Nold added, "Angel’s family was determined to get the truth revealed, that Angel was UNARMED when he was shot & killed by Vallejo PD badge bender Zach Jacobsen."
The case harkens back to a moment when Vallejo police seemed to act with impunity — before several more scandals caused the California Department of Justice to heighten oversight of the department and impose 45 reforms, only two of which have been undertaken to date, according to ProPublica. The department has been known to be especially lethal, and officers were responsible for the deaths of four other men — Willie McCoy, Ronell Foster, Eric Reason, and Sean Monterrosa — in highly controversial cases.
The settlement in the Ramos case comes just over a month after the officer responsible for Monterrosa's June 2020 killing was officially fired, and a week after we learned that Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams is resigning after three years on the job.
Monterrosa's family continues to push for Attorney General Rob Bonta to look into criminal charges in that case, and they have a wrongful death case also still pending.
Back in September 2020, the City of Vallejo settled another wrongful death case, in the 2018 shooting death of Ronell Foster, for $5.7 million — a local record. Foster, who was unarmed when he was shot by Officer Ryan McMahon, had been riding a bicycle "erratically" in the dark without a front light, and McMahon had claimed Foster posed a threat when he grabbed for his flashlight.
McMahon also stands accused of shooting Willie McCoy 55 times while he was in his car in a Taco Bell drive-thru in February 2019. McCoy fell asleep behind the wheel, leading to the cops being called, and he had a gun in his lap at the time, but it was never clear whether he posed a threat to officers as they attempted to wake him up.