*Content warning: This story includes topics some readers may find upsetting and triggering*
Julio Ramirez was found dead in the back of a cab shortly after leaving a gay bar in Manhattan, New York City, with three unidentified men.
Over a month later, his family are still left with unanswered questions and are trying to piece together details of his final hours.
25-year-old social worker Julio Ramirez is said to have met up with a friend on April 20 in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan, before heading to the Ritz Bar and Lounge where he was later separated from his group, reports NBC News.
Nearby surveillance footage shows Ramirez walking away from the Ritz Bar and Lounge with three unidentified men at 3:17 a.m., according to his brother, Carlos, who was briefed by investigators.
The four men entered a nearby taxi, a police source said, but Ramirez was alone in the backseat at 4:10 a.m. when the taxi driver approached a police officer 3 miles away in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood to say his passenger was unresponsive.
Despite efforts by the attending officer and the Emergency Medical Services team, Julio was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 4:49am.
His initial cause of death was listed as a “possible drug overdose”, a police source told NBC News, but the medical examiner told the outlet that Ramirez’s official “cause and manner of death are pending further study”, adding in an Email that this could take “at least a few weeks.”
Julio was described as a “sweet” and “smart” young man who, according to his brother, “believed in serving underprivileged communities.”
Originally from Long Island, New York, he moved to New York City last year after obtaining a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees from the University at Buffalo. He had been living in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, where he worked as a bilingual mental health counselor.
Ramirez was initially identified as “John Doe”, because neither his wallet nor phone were with him when he was discovered.
An investigation is said to be underway but family members and friends are still left with major unanswered questions about Julio’s death, over month later. Some social media users have adopted the hashtag #JusticeforJulio, to keep the pressure in the hopes of a thorough and conclusive investigation.
Julio’s phone and wallet were reportedly no longer with him when he was found and his brother, Carlos Ramirez, said $20,000 was taken from his accounts and that his Apple iCloud password had been changed – though the NYPD, at the time of writing, is yet to confirm this publicly.
Carlos, 32, recounted trying to call his brother in the afternoon on April 21 and noticed his phone seemed to be off.
It wasn’t until a day later, on April 22 at around 11am, he got a call from his girlfriend telling him to immediately leave work and call his father.
His parents had received a phone call from Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital, Manhattan, just 20 minutes earlier, informing them Julio had died the prior morning.
“My dad said, ‘This is really hard, but Julio is dead,’ and he just started crying,” Carlos recalled. “I just lost it. Wow, I couldn’t believe it yet. That was just the worst day of my life.”
Three days later, the Ramirez family went to Julio’s apartment to collect some of his personal belongings, where his brother, Carlos, said he logged onto his laptop to find iCloud password had been changed. He was able to access Julio Ramirez’s emails where he noticed a string of weird money transfers, he told NBC News.
Carlos said that his younger brother’s bank accounts were emptied between the day he died and April 25 – through app purchases on Apple Pay and Zelle.
“They had literally taken every dollar that he had, all his savings and all of his money,” Carlos said, adding that approximately $20,000 was taken from his brother’s accounts and that neither his wallet nor phone were on Ramirez after he died.
Ramirez is said to have met with a friend, Carlos Camacho (24), on April 20 at 7 p.m. The two visited three venues in total, all within a half-mile of each other: Rise Bar, a gay cocktail lounge; Mickey Spillane’s, a bar and restaurant; and, finally, Ritz Bar and Lounge.
The two friends, who had been known each other since June, got separated just before 3am, according to their last text exchange, which Camacho shared with NBC News.
At 2:58am, Camacho told Ramirez he was inside the Ritz. A minute later, Ramirez responded saying he was outside the bar. Then, at 3:10 am, Ramirez asked his friend to come outside. After not receiving a response, Ramirez followed up with Camacho, who lives nearby, at 3:29am to ask if he went home. Camacho responded at 3:45am to confirming he was home and asked his friend to come over. Ramirez never responded.
At 12:10pm on April 21, Camacho sent a follow-up message to Ramirez asking him “what happened” the night before. An alert popped up notifying Camacho that his message to Ramirez had been “read,” though unbeknownst to Camacho at the time, Julio had been pronounced dead more than seven hours earlier.
Julio’s brother Carlos – who has not seen the security footage himself but was briefed by investigators – believed his brother might have been drugged and robbed in a targeted attack. Neither the police nor the medical examiner have confirmed if Julio Ramirez was drugged before his death.
NBC News reports that Ramirez had been texting with Shiva Campbell, a friend from Buffalo who said that the two were in “constant contact”, having initially met as college freshmen.
They had, in messages shared with NBC News, been chatting only that evening about ‘saving money and Adam Sandler movies’, before Ramirez stopped responding at 10:25pm on the night he died.
The two used the location sharing feature on their iPhones and Campbell said she became concerned when at 3:46am when an alert popped up saying, “Julio Ramirez stopped sharing location with you.”
Campbell continued to text Ramirez to check in throughout the day of April 21, and said her concern escalated to alarm when she noticed the color of the her messages to him turned from blue to green, as through his phone was off or out of battery.
“Julio never lets his phone die,” Campbell said. “Even if he lost his phone, he would text me on his iPad, so I knew something was up.”
An Instagram post on May 9 read: “We urge you to raise awareness on the death of Julio Cesar Ramirez, to give a voice to gay Latino men who are victims of the crime in this city and to seek justice for the loved ones he left behind.”
“Julio’s story needs to be heard.”
Julio was buried by friends and family at Pinelawn Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York on April 30, with a memorial service taking place in Buffalo on May 14.
The investigation into Julio’s death remains ongoing.
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