Capt. John Ramirez (Courtesy SFSD)

Sheriff’s captain seen pushing protester on video faces criminal probe

The San Francisco sheriff’s captain facing a criminal investigation after being caught on camera pushing a protester to the ground is a veteran of the department with more than two decades on the force.

Capt. John Ramirez, a 22-year member of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, has been identified as the law enforcement official seen on video using a baton to knock over a protester May 31, multiple sources told the San Francisco Examiner.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin launched an investigation into Ramirez Wednesday after a video posted to social media appeared to show him pushing the protester from behind near Pine and Davis streets.

“If you or I were to come up behind somebody and hit them with enough force to be knocked into the street, we would want them to be investigated,” Boudin said Thursday. “Sheriff’s staff, even command staff, are not above the law.”

While Boudin stressed that the investigation into this incident is ongoing and no legal conclusions have been made, he told the Examiner that it is “unacceptable for law enforcement to silence peaceful protest.”

“This isn’t just a random altercation,” Boudin said. “Here you have got someone exercising First Amendment rights peacefully, then you have law enforcement using physical force making it violent. That is particularly troubling.”

The Sheriff’s Department declined to release the name or rank of the deputy involved, citing an open administrative investigation into the incident launched by Sheriff Paul Miyamoto.

“Our initial review of available information and circumstances show that the incident does not appear to rise to criminal conduct,” sheriff’s spokesperson Nancy Crowley said.

But former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said the conduct seen in the video could violate department policy depending on the circumstances.

“Without knowing all the facts, the video is disturbing and reminds us that law enforcement is there to keep the peace which means also protecting protesters by not shoving them in front of moving cars,” Mirkarimi said.

The video comes amid calls for more oversight of the Sheriff’s Department and concerns about deputies using excessive force, particularly in the jails.

Supervisor Shamann Walton has proposed a charter amendment for the November ballot that would create an Office of the Inspector General and an Oversight Board to review and investigate allegations against deputies.

While the Department of Police Accountability can currently investigate complaints under an agreement with the sheriff, the ballot measure would give the office and board power under the City Charter to subpoena witnesses and documents.

“We want to make sure that investigations are independent and thorough,” Walton said. “This needs to be written policy and in place forever.”

Ramirez joined the Sheriff’s Department in 1998, “fulfilling a longtime dream to follow and honor his family’s tradition in law enforcement,” according to the department website.

He was promoted to senior deputy in 2005, lieutenant in 2008 and became a captain in December 2015 under Mirkarimi. He has experience working across the department including at the various jails, the Investigative Services Unit and Sheriff’s Patrol Unit.

Capt. Lisette Adams, president of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Managers and Supervisors Association, which represents captains, said Wednesday that she hoped thorough and swift investigations were conducted into the incident.

She declined to comment further Thursday.

“I have no further information about any specifics that occurred before or after the event beyond it is under investigation,” Adams said.

Ramirez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story has been updated to include additional comments and information.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

Crime

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