San Francisco has been a sanctuary city for a while and I was always very proud of that fact until the triple murder of a family I knew very well. Apparently, I didn’t know everything there was to know about sanctuary cities. Back in the day I was the little league coach for the two boys in the picture on the left. Their dad Tony was a dedicated family man who would do anything for his kids. I knew this family and coached these kids for years. My nephew went to school with them from kindergarden through 12th grade. The wife, daughter and the son who was in the car at the time and ID’d the killer have been in hiding ever since. This poor boy is living this nightmare over and over again. He doens’t know what made him duck but he was the only survivor. This is a horrific tragedy.
The family of a father and two sons who were shot dead on a San Francisco street in 2008 can’t hold the city responsible for failing to turn their alleged killer over to immigration authorities after earlier arrests, a judge has ruled.
The city isn’t legally to blame for any crimes Edwin Ramos, a suspected illegal immigrant from El Salvador, committed after his release for the offenses he committed as a juvenile, Judge Charlotte Woolard of San Francisco Superior Court said Monday.
Cities “generally are not liable for failing to protect individuals against crime,” Woolard said.
She dismissed a damage suit by the widow and daughter of Tony Bologna, 48, who was shot to death in his car near the family’s home in the Excelsior district in June 2008. His sons Michael Bologna, 20, and Matthew Bologna, 16, were also killed.
Their brother, who survived the attack, identified Ramos, then 21, as the man who fired the fatal shots from a passing car. Police said the gunman may have mistaken the younger Bolognas for gang members.
Ramos told police that he had been driving the car but that another man had fired the shots. He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder and faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
The Bologna family’s lawyer, Matthew Davis, said they would appeal Woolard’s ruling. Davis said he agrees that a city usually can’t be held responsible for failing to prevent a crime, but he contended that the shield of immunity shouldn’t protect San Francisco because by failing to turn over Ramos to immigration authorities, it was “flat-out violating the law.”
Matt Dorsey, spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said Woolard had relied on well-established law in deciding that San Francisco was not liable for Ramos’ actions.
Ramos, whom prosecutors describe as a member of the MS-13 gang, was arrested as a juvenile for an assault in October 2003 and an attempted purse-snatching in 2004. Juvenile courts sent him to a shelter after the first incident and to the city-run Log Cabin Ranch in the Peninsula hills after the second.
Case records don’t show whether police or juvenile courts suspected that Ramos had entered the United States illegally. But under the city’s sanctuary policy, as juvenile authorities then interpreted it, they would not have passed along that information to federal immigration officials.
Mayor Gavin Newsom reversed that practice in 2008 and ordered city employees to report suspected illegal immigrant youths to federal authorities after felony arrests. City supervisors passed an ordinance over Newsom’s veto that delayed reporting until a youth is found to have committed a felony, but the mayor is refusing to enforce it, saying it violates federal law.
After Ramos’ release, federal authorities learned of his immigration status but did not take him into custody. The family’s lawsuit contended, however, that the city was responsible for the shootings because its policy had allowed Ramos to go free.
In her ruling, Woolard said San Francisco had no duty to protect the Bolognas or anyone else from Ramos unless city officials had information that he posed a specific danger to them. There was no such evidence in this case, she said.
Davis also argued that San Francisco had violated a federal law prohibiting local authorities from interfering in immigration enforcement and should be held responsible for any resulting harm. The judge, however, questioned whether the law applied to the city’s actions.
She said the law couldn’t be a basis for finding the city liable because it was intended to improve immigration controls, not to prevent crime.
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