Who Murdered Damian Ramirez? A Year Later, Family & Friends Remain Baffled

Damian Ramirez with wife Myriam

By Joy Bergmann

A year has passed since a still-unidentified gunman shot and killed Damian Ramirez, 48, as he left his bar/restaurant, Manhattan Brew & Vine [MBV], at 109th Street and Columbus Avenue. A video surveillance camera captured the hooded murderer apparently awaiting Damian, surprising him as he approached his car to leave for the night, around 1am on December 16, 2017.

Family and friends will gather this Sunday, the 16th, at 3:30pm on that same corner to remember Damian, light a candle and perhaps reignite a homicide investigation that has generated no arrests, no “Wanted” posters naming suspects and no news from NYPD’s 24th Precinct.

“Somebody saw something. Somebody knows something,” Myriam Ramirez, Damian’s wife, told WSR. “I would ask them to come forward. Even anonymously. It would help us know why this happened. Right now, we have no idea what this was about.”

Manhattan Brew & Vine when it was open. The space is now a sushi restaurant.

Multiple people close to Damian expressed similar bewilderment about the motive.

Vancho Tolomanosi, Damian’s business partner in MBV and the named principal on its liquor license, says, “He never indicated any kind of problem. Never came to me with any kind of situation. Never said he was worried about anything. I’m baffled. He had a family. He wasn’t a street criminal. And nothing I found out afterward showed me anything different. He was a hardworking guy.”

Kelly Garcia of Garcia Hardware across the street from MBV says he repeatedly watched the video, looking for clues. “It was a hit. I don’t know what happened, but it was personal…Damian was a good guy. He didn’t bother anybody, didn’t sell drugs, nothing. It’s terrible, man.”

Omar, a 40-year neighborhood resident, friend and occasional MBV helper, says he didn’t know of anyone who considered Damian an enemy, remembering him as upbeat, ambitious, optimistic. “He only told me good things.”

Omar says he was inside MBV when the shooting took place. At first, “we thought it was some kids throwing rocks at the glass or something.” But upon heading outside, Omar saw Damian on the ground. “His eyes were going back,” and Damian was unable to speak, or reveal any details about his killer.

“There ain’t no fucking justice, it’s just us,” an exasperated friend called Storm posted in an Instagram video. “My man got smoked in cold blood, right in front of his business, caught on tape! On camera! A pillar to the community, not a street nigga…an honest, hardworking man with a family, wife…why?”

Damian with son Nicholas, one of his five children

Tolomanosi says he is disappointed with the lack of progress in the case. “It’s pretty disturbing and pretty weird that the police with all their technology and resources haven’t made any headway despite how it happened on videotape and everything.”

It was MBV’s own security camera that recorded the crime. WSR counted at least 11 other cameras this week along the north side of 109th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam. As the gunman fled west on 109th, did any capture a better image of him?

No other pictures have emerged. Myriam says the NYPD told her that the “majority of cameras” on the block were not actually recording on the night of the incident. The NYPD would not comment on the case other than to say “The investigation is ongoing.”

While we don’t yet know who killed Damian Ramirez, we do know he knew a lot of people. He liked mixing with folks across cultures and scenes, including sports and entertainment.

Percy Crawford – who helps run the boxing website Fight Hype from his Louisiana home – never met Damian in person, but considered him a friend for over a decade. Damian had long been part of NYC’s boxing scene, serving as an advisor/PR consultant to fighters including former world champion Ronald “Winky” Wright, Muhammad Ali’s daughter Laila Ali, Luis “Cuba” Arias and Chris Algieri.

Following his death, many #RIPDamian tweets came from fellow boxing aficionados, like this video showing Damian and Winky Wright congratulating Arias after a fight.

“Damian wasn’t a manager per se,” Crawford told WSR. “But he’d contact me to raise the profiles of boxers he knew.”

Crawford remembers being amazed at how well-connected Damian was. “Damian did a lot to keep Winky’s name out there. Got him in some hip-hop videos, a Jay-Z video.”

He was also generous with those connections, Crawford says. “In 2012, Damian got me an interview with Damon Dash (the entrepreneur and co-founder with Jay-Z of Roc-A-Fella Records).” In that interview, Dash mentions his own purported new venture with Damian. “I’m about to do this Black N Blu TV with my man Damian, so we gonna do a network for boxing.”

Nothing seems to have come from that particular project, but no matter. Damian always had another enterprise or six underway.

“He was an active person,” says Myriam. “Hardly ever slept. He was always thinking of new ideas for businesses.

At MBV alone, he offered theme nights catering to different crowds: poetry open mics, comedy shows, book parties, “Wine & Wisdom” featuring life coaches and psychotherapists, Latin jazz brunches and singer/songwriter showcases alongside the mainstay DJs spinning hip-hop and R&B for regulars like singer/songwriter/producer Ne-Yo.

Vast as his network may have been, Myriam says it would’ve been near impossible for Damian to have kept secrets from her. The two had been together since 1988 when they met as teenagers living on Columbus Avenue near 104th Street. They eventually got a home in New Jersey, but maintained close ties to friends and family on the UWS.

From the time MBV opened in the summer of 2015, Damian was there all day, every day, she says. And when she wasn’t working nearby as a certified nurse’s assistant, Myriam was there, too. “We were together 99 percent of the time. We had dinner together every day. He would’ve told me if he was worried about something.”

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

NEWS | 3 comments | permalink
    1. Elisabeth Anderson says:

      Were cameras at nearby subway, stations and bus stops checked for his image? The murderer had to leave the area some way.

    2. AC says:

      Our neighbors in that area need to put pressure on each other to speak up. Someone saw something or might have heard something – all clues, big or small, would help the NYPD. That little stretch of land 106 through 110 is run by some tight neighbors. I remember when this happened and I’m ashamed that Upper West Siders in that area aren’t speaking up or making a greater effort to assist.

    3. David Olshefski says:

      The 24th precinct community meeting is 12/19 Wed night, 7pm at the precinct. Come and ask questions.