A drunken Harper College wrestler may have believed he was returning to a party when he allegedly entered the home of an off-duty police officer and was shot in the abdomen, according to two men who said they attended the party with him.
Kerin Ramirez, 19, of Addison, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of invading the officer's home near Wheaton and attacking the officer, who prosecutors said eventually shot Ramirez with his service weapon early Sept. 24.
Hours before the altercation, Ramirez was at a drinking party two or three doors away from the officer's home, Addison residents Vince Ellis and Dominic Chesney said Wednesday. About 4 a.m., they said, another partygoer began scuffling with Ramirez, who then left the party alone on foot.
It wasn't until later that morning that Ellis and Chesney said they learned Ramirez had returned to the same block and been shot inside a neighboring residence.
"They all looked the same," Ellis, 18, said of the houses in that area. "He would never do anything like that. He probably walked into the wrong house thinking it was the same one. I just think it was an accident. He's not like that." Ellis said he gave Ramirez a ride to the party -- attended mostly by wrestlers, he said -- about 11 p.m. He said he attempted to drive Ramirez home about 2 a.m., but Ramirez ended up sticking around. When Ellis returned from dropping off another friend, he said, Ramirez was drunk and possibly "blacked out."
Both Ellis and Chesney said it would have been out of character for Ramirez to pick a fight with anyone, particularly a police officer. They said he spent the summer training for Ultimate Fighting Championship-style grappling and that he wouldn't have wanted to jeopardize his future in the sport.
"He's a smart kid, a good kid," Chesney, 18, said. "He wants to stay out of trouble because he's so into wrestling."
Prosecutors said the officer, a 14-year veteran of the Wood Dale police force, was home with his wife and children when a loud noise awakened him about 7 a.m. He went to investigate, they said, and found Ramirez milling around the first floor of his home.
When the officer confronted Ramirez and ordered him out, Ramirez swore at the officer, tore off his own shirt and charged, prosecutors said.
As Ramirez fought with the officer, authorities said, a retired police veteran who lived nearby came to the homeowner's aid. Prosecutors said the three then fought for at least 10 minutes before the Wood Dale officer retrieved his duty weapon and opened fire.
Ramirez, who was shot in the abdomen, later told investigators he was intoxicated and had no memory of the fight, prosecutors said. He underwent several surgeries at Central DuPage Hospital in the following weeks.
Defense attorney Kevin Talbot said Ramirez has received ongoing treatment since his arrest in October. He declined to comment on the circumstances of the case, but said the teen has "overwhelming support" from friends, coaches and classmates.
"He's not a bad kid by any means," Talbot said. "There's a lot more to what happened than the initial facts that have come out. It's an unfortunate situation. He's never been through this before, and he's scared. I think he wants to put it behind him quickly."
Ramirez, a graduate of Addison Trail High School, is a second-year student and wrestler at Harper College studying education, officials at the Palatine school said.
Ramirez entered a formal not guilty plea Wednesday to home invasion, residential burglary and aggravated battery to a police officer. He returns to court Dec. 14.
Meanwhile, he remains in DuPage County jail on $300,000 bail, meaning he would have to post $30,000 bond to be released.