Raleigh police release video from alleged kidnapper’s fatal encounter with officers

Editor’s note: The city of Raleigh on Friday, Oct. 4, released dash and body camera video in the officer-involved shooting that took place Sep. 24.

A report from the Raleigh Police Chief released Tuesday says a suspect fleeing law enforcement last week fired the final shot before he was found dead in the woods.

The report also says the officer’s body camera failed to record the incident because the battery was dead. This is the second time this year in Raleigh that a shooting involving an officer failed to record the incident.

The early-morning chase and search on Sept. 24 closed four Wake County schools after a reported kidnapping. Police identified the suspect as Hugo Yaret Cortes-Ramirez, 23.

The report does not say how many shots were fired, how many shots may have struck Cortes-Ramirez or whether he died by suicide.

Here is what police say happened, according to the report from Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown.

Late on Sept. 23, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office asked for help finding a missing person and provided a vehicle description.

Police officers found the vehicle near Buck Jones and Bashford roads, but when they tried to stop it, the driver fled. They did not pursue it because department policy only allows police to chase a suspect after a violent felony. At that time, officers didn’t know a kidnapping had been reported.

The next day, around 4:45 a.m., the Durham Sheriff’s Office advised it was a potential kidnapping, that the reported victim was in the car and that the vehicle was last seen at 4044 Capital Blvd.

Raleigh Police Sgt. R.L. Warner and two others officers found the car, but the driver sped off again, fleeing southbound on Capital Boulevard toward I-440, according to the report.

Warner pursued the car onto the interstate and then onto I-87/264. Other law enforcement agencies joined in, and the State Highway Patrol deployed a tire deflation device that slowed the suspect down just before exit 436 on I-87.

Final gunshot heard

When the car finally stopped, Cortes-Ramirez ran toward the tree line with a pistol in his right hand, the report said. He fired several shots at the officers, including at Warner, who returned fire, the report said.

Cortes-Ramirez then disappeared into the woods, while Warner took cover behind a patrol car, the report said.

“Moments later officers heard a final gunshot from within the woods,” the report said.

Officers rescued the reported kidnapping victim from the car and began searching the woods. Police have not identified the kidnapping victim.

They found Cortes-Ramirez dead in the woods with the pistol in his right hand, the report said.

Both Raleigh police and the State Bureau of Investigation are investigating the incident, which is standard procedure for shootings with officers. The SBI will forward its report to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted.

Warner remains on administrative duty until those reports are completed.

Body camera battery died

The report says Warner was wearing a body camera during the incident, but when he went to turn it on the battery was dead.

The incident was recorded by other body and dash cameras, however, and the city has requested that a judge allow its release, according to the report.

A body camera also failed to record a fatal shooting April 20 when Senior Officer W.B. Edwards shot 30-year-old Soheil Mojarrad, who was brandishing a knife after reportedly stealing a cell phone, according to police.

Edwards was wearing a body camera but did not turn it on, according to the police chief’s report on that shooting.

Police policy had required cameras to be turned on at the start of a shift and then go into standby mode until activated by clicking a button.

After Mojarrad’s death, the department changed the policy to use a feature that lets the cameras passively record all the time, even if officers fail to activate them.

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