According to Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni, Sergio Carranza Ramos acted in self-defense when he opened fire on a man at a bar in Pajaro, California earlier this month. But Pacioni is still charging Ramos with a felony count of carrying a loaded firearm in public, though if he hadn’t been carrying his gun at the time he probably wouldn’t be alive today.
Ramos was at the El Torero Bar around 1 a.m. on November 21st when the shooting erupted, killing Gerardo Hernandez Herrera and waitress Carolina Martinez, while two other women suffered injuries. Initial press accounts stated that a fight had taken place earlier in the evening and several patrons were kicked out, but “one of them returned with a gun and started shooting.” KSWB-TV even went so far as to report that unnamed police investigators said “Ramos is believed to be the lone gunman,” but Pacioni’s office now says that Herrera was armed as well and actually initiated the confrontation that led to his death.
According to the District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday, Herrera entered the bar with a gun and confronted Carranza. Herrera then shot first, with Carranza returning fire in self-defense.
“All shots were fired within three-and-a-half seconds,” The DA’s office reported.
Carranza will be in court on Tuesday, facing a felony charge of carrying a loaded firearm in public. Prosecutors clarified why he wasn’t charged further.
“Under the legal doctrine of transferred intent, if a person fires justifiably in self-defense and inadvertently injures or kills an innocent bystander, the law of self-defense applies, and the person does not commit a criminal act. Under this law, the person who initiated the gunfire is responsible for all injuries or deaths that result,” the DA’s office noted.
At this point it’s unclear who fired the shots that took the life of Carolina Martinez and injured the two other victims, but as the D.A.’s office said, even if those shots were fired by Ramos, it’s Herrera who’s ultimately to blame for initiating the encounter. And honestly, given the fact that police investigators originally said that Ramos was the only one with a gun when he was the second one to start shooting, we probably need to wait for a full forensics report before coming to any conclusions about who fired the shots that took Martinez’s life and left two others with injuries.
It’s also unclear why Ramos is being charged with a felony count of carrying a loaded firearm in public, which is generally a misdemeanor offense in California. There are some aggravating factors that can elevate the charge to a felony, however, including a previous felony or firearm conviction, possessing a stolen firearm, membership in a criminal street gang, or unlawful possession of the firearm. There’s also nothing in California statutes that prohibits concealed carry licensees from carrying in bars or establishments that serve alcohol, though the standard CCW application includes language that carrying in any business that has the primary purpose of dispensing alcoholic beverages is not allowed If the D.A. hasn’t charged Ramos with possessing a gun as a prohibited person or possessing a stolen firearm, then I’m not sure why he’s facing a felony charge and not a misdemeanor.
Ramos is due in court this afternoon, so maybe we’ll learn more about the circumstances surrounding the felony charge he’s facing after his hearing has taken place. It’s an interesting case, to be sure, and we’ll be following along and reporting on additional details as they become available.