Waves of sorrow rippled far and wide after Ventura County Supervisor Carmen Ramirez was struck and killed by a truck in downtown Oxnard on Friday evening, August 12. Ramirez was hit while walking in a crosswalk on her way to a concert at Heritage Square. She was 73 years old.
An attorney and an outspoken environmentalist, Ramirez was a member of the Oxnard City Council for 10 years before her election to District 5 county supervisor in 2020. Hundreds of mourners attended a remembrance ceremony on Saturday evening, and flowers and notes are strewn at the intersection where she was hit.
Ramirez’s friends and colleagues described her as a lovely person and a fierce advocate for the community and the environment. “We’ve lost a great champion in our shared fight to protect our environment and the communities we represent,” said Luz Reyes-Martín, chair of the Santa Barbara Sierra Club. “In every fight, at every rally, in every campaign — she was there, with her steady, brilliant, and fierce determination. … Que descanse en paz la reina de Oxnard, nuestra ‘Tía Carmen,’ la valiente Carmen Ramírez.”
She was an extraordinary leader, said David Gold, a member of the Sierra Club executive committee for Ventura: “Her recent work with us in stopping yet another power plant from being inflicted upon the people of Oxnard was a master class in leadership. The Puente plant was basically a done deal, yet she deftly marshalled community support, managed a world-class legal effort, and expertly maneuvered politically and bureaucratically to undo that deal and protect our shores.”
“Carmen had always been a voice for the underrepresented,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel for Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center (EDC). “When she ran for Oxnard City Council, she’d decided we really needed someone in decision-making agencies to make the right decision. She was always there for us when something was happening. Her response was: ‘What do you need? Tell me when, tell me where.'”
EDC worked with Ramirez to defeat the fossil-fuel burning Puente plant — EDC found a rare legless lizard under the sand dunes — as well as in the successful fights against a liquified natural gas terminal offshore and development in the Ormond Beach wetlands of Oxnard. She was a member of EDC’s board before becoming a city councilmember. “We will miss her staunch determination and generous heart,” EDC wrote at its Facebook page, mourning the loss of “an amazing community leader, fierce environmental advocate, and inspiring human.”
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Ramirez had come to Oxnard in 1978 to coordinate the Self-Help Legal Access Center in the town’s Colonia neighborhood, which was “across the tracks” from the city’s downtown area. She was born in Oklahoma, where her father — a sixth-generation Mexican American from California — was stationed during World War II, with her mother, a Swedish-Irish-English-American. Ramirez grew up in Pico Rivera and graduated from Loyola Law School, according to the Ventura County Star. She was a trustee for the Colleges of Law for Santa Barbara & Ventura; taught courses in landlord-tenant law, consumer law, and collaborative advocacy; and was on the executive committee of the California Bench Bar Coalition, which advocates for public access to justice.
The Oxnard Police Department stated a 2020 GMC Sierra driven by a 38-year-old man was headed west up 7th Street at 6:40 p.m. when he struck Ramirez in a crosswalk on A Street — an intersection controlled by four stop signs. The county supervisor was taken to an area hospital, where doctors pronounced her dead.
The Ventura County Star reported Ramirez had parked her Prius on 7th and was walking toward Heritage Square, which makes up the adjacent block. Police investigator Andrew Pinkstaff said officers were collecting witness statements and video from nearby businesses to get details of the tragedy. The block was part of a commercial business and residential area “pretty well blanketed with video surveillance cameras,” Corporal Pinkstaff said, and a number of people were coming and going from the concert at the time.
“The bottom line is this was a true accident, and the driver was not arrested,” Pinkstaff said, stating that gross negligence and elements of criminality were not involved. He anticipated the medical examiner’s report would give final cause of death information and said the investigation could take several months to complete.
“Ms. Ramirez was a well-respected and truly liked person,” Pinkstaff said. “I would agree on those statements.”
That Friday night, Ramirez was moved from Ventura County Medical Center to the county coroner’s office on Foothill Road, accompanied by a procession of vehicles flashing their lights that included Sheriff Bill Ayub, the Oxnard Police Department, and area fire agencies. She is the sixth Ventura supervisor to have died while in office in just over 100 years, the next most recent being P.W. Dennis in 1947, said Jackie Nuñez of the county’s executive office. A second, even longer procession accompanied Ramirez on Monday afternoon from Ventura to the Camino del Sol funeral home on C Street in Oxnard.