An American arrested for allegedly abusing two girls aged 11 and 14 killed himself
in police custody on October 31.
The body of American Donald Rene Ramirez, is being taken from the Economic Police Department in Toul Kok to Calmette Hospital.
Donald Rene Ramirez, 50, a policeman on vacation from San Francisco, California,
shot himself through the head using a police officer's K-54 handgun, said Keo Thea,
deputy chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking bureau.
"When the guard went to the toilet [Ramirez] used a broom handle to obtain the
guard's gun," Thea said. "He shot himself through the temple and as he
fell to the floor, another bullet was discharged which embedded in the cell wall."
Ramirez was being kept in a temporary detention cell at the Economic Police Department
in Toul Kok district, Phnom Penh. In the adjoining cell was the mother of one of
his alleged victims, Ho Tien, who had been charged for her role in prostituting her
daughter to Ramirez.
The pair had been under guard by an armed policeman who was sleeping on a fold-up
cot about three meters away from the cell doors. It is standard practice for police
to keep their handguns under their pillows when guarding detainees, Thea said.
The guard left his gun, and the two cell-bound detainees, momentarily unattended
while he went to the toilet. Ramirez then used a broom handle to pull the bed close
enough to his cell to get the gun.
"He said to Ho Tien that he didn't want to live any more, then pulled the trigger,"
Thea said. "I think he was ashamed that he, a policeman, had committed such
Police are investigating the chain of events that enabled Ramirez to commit suicide,
and are awaiting orders as to whether disciplinary measures need to be taken against
the guard himself, Thea said.
"When the guard heard the shots he rushed back and saw his bed had been pulled
close to the metal bars of the temporary detention room [in which Ramirez was being
kept]," Thea said. "The guard saw Ramirez was bleeding, began preparing
to move him to a hospital, but when he turned him over the guard realized he had
already stopped breathing."
The US Embassy was notified of the death in the early morning on October 31, said
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle.
"A consular officer and a regional security officer went to the scene, identified
the body [and] assisted in the transfer of the body to Calmette hospital," he
said. "We are closely following the investigation by Cambodian authorities and
await their final report."
The Ministry of Interior is satisfied that Ramirez's death was a suicide and will
not be carrying out its own investigation, said Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry
Earlier this year a German arrested on debauchery charges, Karl Heinz Henning, twice
attempted to commit suicide while in police custody. He jumped from his third floor
balcony as police searched his house, then later, slashed his wrists while recovering
at Calmette Hospital from injuries suffered during the first suicide attempt.
Henning's case was one of a string of high-profile arrests of foreign pedophiles
this year that local and international anti-pedophile NGOs have said testify to improvements
within the Cambodian police force in the prosecution of foreign sex offenders.
In this latest case, the police were aware Ramirez was a suicide risk and had been
taking extra precautions to ensure his safety.
"We knew he was very sorry for his crimes and were consequently very careful
when we took him into custody as we have experience of similar detainees attempting
suicide," Thea said. "But still, he managed to kill himself."
The police had arrested Ramirez on the basis of allegations made by one of Henning's
"During our investigation into Henning one of the young girls who he had abused
told us that she had also been abused by Ramirez," Thea said. "This is
why we arrested him."
Ramirez had been travelling to and from Cambodia for the past 12 years. His body
was moved shortly after midday on October 31 to Calmette Hospital, where it will
remain while the US Embassy contacts his family, Thea said.
Ramirez's death negates the possibility of prosecuting him for his crimes, but this
does not mean his accomplice will go unpunished, Thea said.
"We will ask the courts to punish the mother [Ho Tien] who sold her child to
the foreigner," he said. "If the courts let this women go free, it would
be a great injustice."