Nearly a month after a 21-year-old gang member was shot and killed in Highland Park, police have yet to identify a suspect or come up with any useful leads—other than to confirm that the murder was was a "gang crime," in the words of Los Angeles Police Department Northeast Division Capt. Jeff Bert.
"It is gang-related by virtue of the fact that the person killed is a gang member," Bert told Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch. "What we call gang-related is if the victim or suspect is a gang member."
Ramirez was shot multiple times by car-borne assailants on May 28 while he was on the sidewalk on the 4700 block of Benner Street, near Avenue 57, where some of his relatives live. From the start, the LAPD has declined to give his gang affiliation for investigatory reasons, although it's well known that he was a member of the Avenues gang.
At the time of the incident, Bert told Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch that it appeared Ramirez was not killed because of his gang affiliation, nor was his murder part of any retaliatory gang warfare.
But at least two LAPD officers familiar with Highland Park have hinted on condition of anonymity to Patch that a gang is indeed responsible for the killing.
There have also been rumors that Ramirez was killed by a member of the Avenues recently freed under California's Public Safety Realignment law (AB 109). Although from the day of Ramirez's murder, Bert has denied any gang involvement other than to confirm that Ramirez was a documented gang member, the captain did refer to Avenues members returning to Highland Park from prison.
“What we’re seeing now is that as time goes on, some of them are getting out [of prison],” Bert said in an interview to Patch last month. “As a result, I’m putting most of my gang units in Highland Park ..."
According to one source who has lived in the area for more than four decades and closely followed its gang violence, Ramirez was killed because he allegedly snitched on the Avenues while they were being arrested in a 2009 countywide joint taskforce operation. (Ramirez was a minor at the time.)
"Personally, I don't have any indication of that," Bert told Patch, referring to the possibility that Ramirez was targeted by the Avenues. "And if I did, I wouldn't be able to tell you," the captain said, adding that any information pertaining to "confidential informants" is not for public consumption.
Meanwhile, the investigation continues. "We have video and vehicle leads of the suspect but we're nowhere identifying the suspect," Bert said. "We're active in working it [the case]—all we're doing is working this."