January 28, 2007

Warren County (OH) Illegal Immigration Update: The Stories, Government Action, and Media Letdown (Part 2, Jose Ramon Ocasio Nuñez)

NOTE: I believe this post and the previous one have relevance outside of Southwest Ohio. Many local governments are considering illegal immigration laws, and I find it unlikely that metro Cincinnati is the only area where the city’s newspaper and other media outlets are failing to provide, or are misreporting, basic facts about illegal-immigrant cases.

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When I blogged on the frightening construction-site incident that took place in Hamilton Township in Warren County, OH in July of last year, I called it a possible “sneak preview of the consequences we face, even in America’s heartland, of our government’s decades-long abandonment of border control and immigration sanity.”

One of those feared consequences took place just six weeks later, when 27 year-old Kevin Barnhill was brutally murdered in Mason. As noted in the Part 1 post yesterday (which unfortunately appears to be the only published location of reasonably complete and accurate info about the alleged perpetrators of the crime), three men characterized as “no doubt” illegal immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been indicted for murder. One of the three, Enrique Torres, is still at large.

Is it at least somewhat possible that the poor reporting and swept-under-the-rug treatment of the construction-site incident by the local media, in combination with subsequent events that I will detail shortly, emboldened the criminal element in the illegal-immigrant community to believe that it is untouchable? I think so. This is the criminal element that Krista Ramsey of the Cincinnati Enquirer, for one, wants to pretend, in the face of massive proof to the contrary (specifics here and here) doesn’t exist (Ramsey link is to copy of her October 1, 2006 column at the NewsBank library database copied to BizzyBlog’s web host for fair use and discussion purposes).

Let’s go over the facts and chronology of the Nuñez case, starting with one of the better initial reports from local station WCPO-TV on July 14, 2006, the date of the incident:

Police are looking for as many as ten suspects after a fight broke out at a Warren County construction site after an employee was fired and later sought retaliation. It happened at a worksite for All-Good Construction on SR 22 in Hamilton Township.

The supervisor of the construction company reportedly fired the worker earlier in the day after he said the man had repeatedly not shown up for work.

The employee told the supervisor he’d be back as he left the site.

The supervisor said he eventually did make his way back, only this time with a car full of other men who fired shots and repeatedly swung baseball bats at him in what onlookers describe as “pure melee.”

The supervisor called 911 and hid in a nearby wooded area.

It’s a miracle that no one was seriously injured or killed. WKRC’s TV report that evening (video at link loads slow, and may not work in your browser) said that one man “narrowly escap(ed) a bullet to the head by shielding himself with this board”:

http://www.bizzyblog.com/wp-images/BulletBoard

I spoke with Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel and Hamilton Township Police Lt. Braley earlier this week about the history and current status of the investigation of and prosecution related to the incident, and learned the following:

  • The fired worker, apparently known as Victor “Max” Martinez at the job site, is really Jose Ramon Ocasio Nuñez.
  • Nuñez was arrested on July 17, 2006.
  • A $10,000 bond was set by the county court.
  • The county court has the discretion to allow the payment of an amount as low as 10% of the bond for a suspect to be released.
  • Nuñez was released a few days later without a preliminary hearing after only $1,000 was posted.
  • Nuñez was indicted for Felonious Assault with a Firearm on August 4, 2006. A “John Doe” indictment was also entered to cover whoever else was involved in the incident.
  • Attempts to locate Nuñez have been unsuccessful, and there is a “warrant on indictment” out for his arrest and apprehension.
  • Police and and the prosecutor do not know the identities of the other eight or nine other people who came back to the construction site with Nuñez armed with bats and guns. (I think it’s possible they are holding back what they might know, which would be understandable if they thought that tipping their hand might cause those they are looking for to flee. By the way — Does anyone want to bet against me that one or more of the three illegals indicted for the Kevin Barnhill murder weren’t among the 8-9 others who came back to the construction site with Nuñez? I didn’t think so. — Ed.)
  • Police are confident that most or all of those involved are gang members, most likely MS-13, based on tattoos observed at the scene.
  • Ms. Hutzel said that ICE has told her that there is “no doubt” that Nuñez, pictured below in photos sent to me by the prosecutor’s office, is an illegal immigrant, contrary to some local TV reports shortly after the incident that stated otherwise:
JoseOcasioNunezVar0806
  • Active attempts to find Nuñez and his accomplices have been in place throughout multiple law-enforcement jurisdictions, and they remain in place.
  • Hutzel and police believe that Nuñez is still in the Metro Cincinnati area.

Now, with this rundown of the facts, ask yourself two questions:

  1. First, if you and your fellow gang members had just engaged in a very violent action, the result of which was just one indictment, and where even the one person who was caught was able to game the system and avoid apprehension (thus far), wouldn’t you feel a bit full of yourself and more inclined to cross the line into further violence at the smallest real or perceived slight? I would think so. (Though it may be out there, I have searched and haven’t found any evidence that Nuñez’s effective escape thanks to a bail “down payment” was covered anywhere. In fact, this WCPO-TV story from August 7 mentions the “John Doe” indictment, but at the same time reports that “Nuñez was arrested” — without reporting that he had gotten out on bail roughly two weeks earlier and was at large!)
  2. Second, is it possible that Nuñez et al’s avoidance thus far of any consequences for their actions, combined with the lack of story follow-up by the local media, emboldened those who murdered Kevin Barnhill (some of whom might be the same people)? I believe it has.

All of this brings me back to the points I raised back in October:

The fact is that there is a significant criminal element in the illegal-immigrant population, that they are operating with virtual impunity in Southwestern Ohio, and that the problem is probably getting worse. ….. Local (media’s) failure to inform us of the dangers that exist could cause people to either miss clues that might lead to the apprehension of perpetrators, or could put people unknowingly into dangerous situations. It is totally inexcusable, and breathtakingly irresponsible.

How many more Kevin Barnhills will have to die before our local press and federal immigration officials start doing their jobs?

Why should anyone be surprised that local and county governments (like Mason, noted in Part 1) are attempting to take some control over immigration enforcement?

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UPDATE (and an apology): In that October 2 post, I strongly criticized Channel 12′s Crimestoppers and Wheel of Justice for their handling of the Nuñez situation:

The “Wheels of Justice” link is so weak that it doesn’t even have a picture of Nunez. It also doesn’t bother to chronicle the complete list of charges against him or to completely describe his possible whereabouts (both sections end with ellipses).

Nuñez came off of the Wheel of Justice list some time after that, even though he remained, and remains, at large.

I spoke and exchanged several e-mails with Channel 12′s Crimestoppers/Wheel of Justice reporter Debra Dixon during this past week to find out why Nuñez had dropped off, and to see what needed to be done to get him back on. What apparently happened is that Wheel staff found an indication that Nuñez had been arrested without taking note of the July date of that arrest. They then (I believe erroneously) dropped him from the list as a result.

As of this writing (late Saturday night), I believe Nuñez is on the verge of being placed on the Wheel or otherwise appropriately highlighted at Crimestoppers. I will take note of when that actually does take place. Please let me know or put in a comment if you see it before I get a chance to.

That said, it is clear that what I wrote on October 2, while accurate, was overly critical in failing to note the overall success of a decades-old Cincinnati institution that has done more to combat crime and take dangerous people (hundreds of them) off the streets than any other media initiative I can think of. That context was lacking in my comments about Crimestoppers’/The Wheel’s handling of Nuñez, and as such may have conveyed to some readers that I have general contempt for Channel 12′s outstanding efforts in this area for so many years. That is absolutely NOT the case. I apologize to Deb Dixon and Channel 12 for neglecting to paint the bigger picture while making what I maintain are valid criticisms of how Nuñez’s situation has been handled. Such a lack of perspective won’t happen again, as I’d like to think we’re on the same team.

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UPDATE 2, Jan. 30: I received this e-mail from Cara at WKRC-TV (thanks for the note, Cara):

Hello Tom. There was a misunderstanding today in our graphics department and unfortunately Nunez’s mug was not printed for the Wheel spin tomorrow, therefore, he will be added again next Wednesday. I have been in touch with Lt. Braley in Hamilton Twp. and he knows we will be adding him back on the Wheel, I’m just sorry it isn’t tomorrow.
Thanks for your interest…

Sincerely,
Cara Mia Brooke-McMullen
Local 12 WKRC-TV News
Producer, ‘Wheel of Justice’ & ‘School Crimetracker’

That would be February 7. I’ll be on the lookout. Good to see the movement.

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