Miami-Dade County’s police director is hospitalized and in stable condition after shooting himself in the head on the side of a highway in Florida on Sunday night, law enforcement officials confirmed on Monday. According to police, the officer, Alfredo Ramirez, pulled over on a highway south of Tampa and shot himself, with his wife reportedly in the car, shortly after an alleged domestic dispute between the two. Multiple sources familiar with the incident told the Miami Herald that before the shooting, Ramirez pushed his wife, Jody, against a wall and attempted to strangle her at one point in their argument.
Prior to the shooting, the Tampa Police Department says officers were called to the JW Marriott Water Street after receiving a call about a man standing outside the hotel, engaged in a heated argument with his wife and pointing a gun at himself. The Tampa police officers learned the man and woman involved in the alleged dispute were Ramirez and Jody, who were attending a law enforcement convention at the hotel. According to the Herald, at least three attendees at the conference said they were told Ramirez had pushed his wife against a wall and put his hands around her throat right before the couple went outside. Tampa police say “there were no first-hand witnesses or security camera footage capturing the alleged incident.”
When police arrived on the scene, the couple had already returned to their hotel room, where police performed a wellness check on them. Both Ramirez and his wife denied that the incident had taken place, and Ramirez denied that he intended to harm himself or anyone else. No further action seems to have been taken by the officers—or any of the law enforcement agents at the conference—to protect Jody or de-escalate the situation.
Within hours of the reported domestic dispute, Ramirez, driving back to Miami, pulled over on the I-75. Police didn’t confirm whether Ramirez was in or out of his car when he shot himself, or whether his wife Jody was present, but said that no one else had been injured. But multiple sources told the Miami Herald that Jody was in the car. The Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Law Enforcement are currently conducting a joint investigation into the incident.
Ramirez, who’s worked in law enforcement for almost three decades and is reportedly highly respected by his colleagues, had announced in May that he intended to run for sheriff of Miami-Dade County. He currently leads the largest police force in the southeastern region of the country, according to the Associated Press.
Shortly after the reported domestic dispute at the hotel and just hours before the shooting, Ramirez reportedly called Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and his campaign manager, and talked to both about how to handle the incident. Per the Herald, sources familiar with the conversations say Ramirez “discussed how he would address what was likely to be an embarrassing situation as he embarked on a quest to become an elected senior member of the Levine Cava administration.”
The Miami-Dade Police have said little about the Sunday night shooting or the alleged domestic violence that preceded it. On social media, the department has asked for “privacy at this difficult time,” and maintained its support for Ramirez, saying he remains “surrounded by... MDPD brothers and sisters.” Despite the domestic violence allegations against Ramirez, he’s received an outpouring of support from community members, political leaders, and law enforcement officials. Levine-Cava and the chair of the Miami-Dade County Commission traveled from Miami-Dade to Tampa overnight on Sunday in response to the shooting. “All that matters right now is Chief Ramirez’s well-being, and I join his family, his loved ones and all his Miami-Dade Police Department and Miami-Dade family in praying for his swift recovery,” Levine Cava wrote on Twitter.
Several studies have shown at least 40% of police officers have perpetrated acts of domestic violence, and domestic violence experts have long characterized law enforcement’s responses to domestic violence reports as inadequate and sometimes dangerous. The tragic incident certainly raises questions about why no actions were taken by Tampa police—or any of the attendees who work in law enforcement at the convention that weekend—to monitor or de-escalate the situation involving Ramirez and his wife.