City and federal authorities are energetically tossing each other the hot potato of blame for accused triple-killer Edwin Ramos walking out of jail in March, after a passenger in his car tried to dispose of a handgun found to be tied to a double murder. San Salvador native Ramos, 21, is now charged with fatally shooting Anthony Bologna and his two oldest sons over a particularly pointless traffic incident in the Excelsior district June 22.Sheriff Mike Hennessey insists the San Francisco jail faxed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about both of the car’s occupants within four hours of the March arrests, but ICE officials issued an immigration hold only for the passenger. The District Attorney’s Office then declined to file charges against Ramos due to the difficulty of proving he knew the passenger had a gun, and Ramos was released after three days behind bars.
Following some initial hemming and hawing, ICE countered that their electronic log showed The City did not contact them about Ramos until two hours after the prisoner was already released. Federal authorities claimed they promptly responded that Ramos was under deportation and then prepared a detainer hold. But no record of detainment paperwork being forwarded to San Francisco has surfaced yet.
Hennessey disputed this account, calling the post-release database query to ICE a routine follow-up request for Ramos’ official immigration status, so Washington could possibly be billed for his jailing costs. The sheriff said city jail turned over 1,100 adult prisoners to ICE in the last 18 months and well-established notification procedures were followed on Ramos, who was arrested on a felony charge and was shown on his booking card to not be a U.S. citizen.
Although full facts of this tragic foul-up still remain in dispute, it would not be surprising if all agencies involved share some blame. After all, Immigration and Customs Enforcement repeatedly comes under fire for its notorious losses of case records and endless delays in processing even the most straightforward citizenship and residency applications.
On the other hand, it is hardly unknown for San Francisco law enforcement agencies to work at cross-purposes and allow dangerous suspects to slip through the cracks. Without The City’s now hastily rescinded sanctuary policy for illegal-immigrant juvenile offenders, Ramos might well have been deported at age 17 after confinement in juvenile facilities for two violent felonies.
At least when Ramos reached legal adulthood and was beyond shelter of the sanctuary law, The City seems to have done the right thing and tried to turn him over to federal immigration authorities. But that likely is to be of little consolation to the grieving Bologna family survivors.