Cheney officers keep burglary suspect from committing 'suicide by cop'
Training and quick responses likely prevented a burglary suspect and Spokane Police Academy reserve officer graduate from killing himself and possibly taking a pair of Cheney police officers with him.
Valente Abundez-Ramirez, 26, was booked into Spokane County Jail Jan. 12 after he first broke into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and then tried to remove a pistol from Cheney Officer Chris Oakes’ holster as he and Sgt. Rick Beghtol were retrieving police property from Abundez-Ramirez’s apartment.
Spokane Superior Court arresting documents indicate Abundez-Ramirez broke into his ex-girlfriend’s Barrington Apartment Complex apartment about 3 a.m. that Sunday morning, startling her roommate by standing over her bed. Abundez-Ramirez yelled at the roommate for approximately 15 minutes demanding to know where his ex-girlfriend was, offering at one point to pay the roommate – who told officers he smelled of intoxicants – to not tell anyone before leaving.
The roommate received several phone calls from Abundez-Ramirez throughout the course of the day, including from his roommate’s phone after she blocked his personal cell number.
Cheney Police Chief John Hensley said they learned of Abundez-Ramirez’s activities and after he and Cmdr. Rick Campbell and Beghtol discussed the issue, decided his reserve training at the Spokane Academy was over.
“He’s not going to the academy, he’s not going to training,” Hensley said Jan. 27. “We’re just going to release him.”
The decision was made to arrest Abundez-Ramirez on the charge of residential burglary/domestic violence, and Beghtol and Oakes both contacted him and instructed him to come into the Police Department where he was arrested. A knife and 9mm handgun were confiscated upon a body search, and he was twice read his Miranda rights, refusing to answer questions without his attorney.
Beghtol told Abundez-Ramirez it was necessary to get other department equipment issued him, and they subsequently retrieved his badge and handgun after he gave them permission to search his vehicle. The rest of the equipment was at his College Hill apartment, and after saying his roommate was home, gave Beghtol permission to enter the apartment and retrieve the uniform, ballistic vest and utility belt.
Oakes and Beghtol drove Abundez-Ramirez to the complex, parking out of sight of the apartment in what Oakes termed a “tactical approach.” Beghtol went to the apartment and knocked on the door while Oakes stood outside the vehicle, keeping the back door open in order to maintain line of sight contact with Beghtol and communicate with Abundez-Ramirez.
Beghtol received no answers to his knocks. Oakes said while this was happening he looked in at Abundez-Ramirez and noticed he had slid to the passenger side of the back seat and was sitting with this handcuffed hands in front of him, “quite the feat” Oakes said considering the handcuffs were hinged to limit movement and Abundez-Ramirez is not a small man.
Oakes said he attempted to take the suspect out of the vehicle to reposition the handcuffs when Abundez-Ramirez attacked him.
“He lunged face to face,” Oakes said. “He started going for my gun.”
Both men hit the pavement as Oakes struck Abundez-Ramirez repeatedly in the face while pulling on the handgun. Beghtol, hearing Oakes calls for help, quickly joined the fight, but couldn’t pry Abundez-Ramirez’s hand from Oakes holster. Cheney Officer Nate Conley and an Eastern Washington University Police office responded to calls for backup and eventually helped subdue Abundez-Ramirez.
Cheney Fire Department medical personal treated Oakes and Abundez-Ramirez at the scene, and Abundez-Ramirez was transported to Sacred Heart Medical Clinic. He was booked into jail on charges of second-degree burglary/domestic violence and first-degree attempted assault.
Hensley said upon questioning before transport Abundez-Ramirez told the officers his intention was to grab Oakes gun and commit suicide, hoping officers would fire on him to subdue him. Hensley added that Oakes has received training in weapons retention.
“His plan was suicide by cop,” Hensley said. “He knew how to get the gun out, but he picked the wrong cop.”
“The fight was so quick and so violent,” Oakes added. “Fortunately we didn’t have to oblige him of his wish. Everybody went home safe, including me.”
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.