An outpouring of grief and frustration rang through the streets of Manhattan this week when friends, LGBTQ+ community members and Hell’s Kitchen residents demanded justice for 25-year-old Bay Shore High School graduate Julio Ramirez.
Ramirez reportedly went out with a friend in Hell’s Kitchen on April 20, left with three unidentified men in a taxi, and was pronounced dead less than two hours later.
Ramirez’s death remains unsolved and his loved ones want action and answers.
“It’s been over 40 days, I don’t know what happened to my friend,” said Karinina Sevilla Quimpo, one of Ramierz’s best friends.
Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday night outside of the Ritz Bar and Lounge at 369 W. 46th St. — where Ramirez was last seen — for a candlelight vigil for the young Brooklyn resident.
Close friends of Ramirez and strangers touched by the circumstances of his death marched toward Times Square where they expressed sadness and anger with what they believe has been a lack of attention for Ramirez’s death.
“What occurred around the block from my childhood home is unacceptable,” said Chris LeBron, community activist and Hell’s Kitchen native. “What I found absolutely disgusting over the last six weeks, is that we have not said Julio’s name … a Latino life was lost and we’re now talking about him.”
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What we know so far about the events of April 20
Hell’s Kitchen is known for its queer nightlife scene and popular LGBTQ+ bars, including The Ritz Bar and Lounge.
The Ritz was the last place Ramirez was seen on April 21, before CCTV footage showed him getting into a taxi about 3:17 a.m. with three unidentified men, according to reports.
Family and friends said at 3:46 a.m., Ramirez’s shared phone location was turned off.
Three miles away from the venue at about 4:10 a.m., the taxi driver approached a police officer on the Lower East Side — Ramirez was found alone and unresponsive in the backseat.
He was taken to Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:49 a.m.
Ramirez’s parents received a call from the medical examiner at 11 a.m. and were told an autopsy was already initiated.
In an interview with Pix 11 News, Ramirez’s mother, Ana, said when they arrived at the hospital, they were not allowed to see their son.
Days after his death, $20,000 was drained from Rameriz’s bank account; his phone and wallet are still missing, NBC News reported.
Ramirez was buried at Pinelawn Cemetery in Farmingdale on April 30.
Quimpo said the investigation is ongoing, but the initial toxicology report was negative and the cause of death on Ramirez’s death certificate reads “pending further testing.”
She said what happened to Ramirez is not like him and she believes his case was underreported because of his identity as a gay, Latino man.
“I fully believe the NYPD is doing what they can, but if it’s taking a long time for some reason, if they need answers, I want people to come forward with answers if they have any,” she said. “People are informally speculating that Julio willingly took drugs from these strangers and willingly got into the car with them and I don’t think that’s true.”
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Quimpo went to college with Ramirez and remembers him as an accomplished, confident young man who was full of life.
He graduated from Bay Shore High School in 2014 and went on to study at the University of Buffalo, graduating with a dual bachelor’s degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences and Psychology.
Ramirez then earned a dual Master’s degree in Social Work and Public Health, all while working multiple full-time jobs throughout his education, Quimpo said.
Ramirez worked as a mental health therapist at the New York Psychotherapy & Counseling Center and provided counseling for the disadvantaged.
“I was so impressed by his drive, his passion for his family, his passion for his career and life,” Quimpo said. “He was so fun.”
Many took to Facebook to share their memories of Ramirez, saying he had an “infectious laugh,” an “intoxicatingly hilarious personality” and that he was someone who brought joy and happiness to others.
Kathy Aquino, a Bay Shore High School classmate remained friends with Ramirez over the years, said he would never hurt anyone. He always put his family and friends at the top of his priority list, she added.
Aquino reflected on times they would go out together, noting that Ramirez always behaved responsibly.
“He was always careful,” Aquino said. “He never got a taxi, it was always Uber specifically … He was always in charge of everything. If he was separated with his friends, he would go and try to find them.”
Celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month safely
At the rally in Times Square, LGBTQ+ advocates and Hell’s Kitchen community members stressed the importance of safety while celebrating Pride Month in New York City.
“I want to make sure the Hell’s Kitchen community is aware because it’s Pride Month, and we’re going to have a lot of people coming out here from all over the city, the state, the country, and the world,” said organizer Catie Savage.
Zara Nasir, deputy director of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said the organization she works for tracks incidents like Ramirez’s. She noted that they are unfortunately very common.
During Pride season in 2019, which marked the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported a spike in anti-LGBTQ+ homicides, targeted threats and other acts of violence impacting the LGBTQ+ community across the nation.
“This is happening all the time and Julio is one of many, many queer and trans people who are murdered or killed by neglect, lack of resources, and lack of care, that the city, the state, and the federal government show to queer and trans people every single day,” said Nasir.
Participants in Pride activities are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings, look out for their friends, and never leave their drinks unattended.
Marti Cummings, an New York City drag artist, community leader and political figure, said the New York City Police Department needs to better protect the LGBTQ+ community.
In addition, Cummings urged nightclubs to implement stronger safety measures, such as Narcan training in case of heroin or fentanyl overdose emergencies and security to make sure people are getting safe rides home.
“We have to make sure that our queer spaces, not only during Pride but every single day of the year, are safe spaces,” Cummings said. “If you are out there at the club and you see someone shady talking to your friend who is in need, step in and help them.”
“While the rest of the world wants to come after us, it’s us that is going to be there to protect one another,” Cummings added.
Those who have lost someone or are experiencing anti-LGBTQ+ violence can reach out to the New York City Anti-Violence Project at their 24/7 hotline at (212).714.1141.
Scroll down to view more photos of Wednesday’s candlelight vigil and rally in Times Square for Julio Ramirez.
Photos taken by Ana Borruto.