Local News

Vehicle recovered; shooting suspect still on the run

Posted November 11, 2007 6:03 p.m. EST
Updated October 17, 2008 9:45 p.m. EDT

— Cumberland County sheriff's deputies said they have found the Cadillac Escalade driven by a shooting suspect.

Joaquin Rangel Ramirez, 34, is wanted in connection with the Saturday night shooting of his wife outside Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital. He fled the scene in a white pearl 2002 Cadillac Escalade. The vehicle was found at about 4:45 p.m. Monday at 118 Rod St. in Fayetteville. Ramirez has yet to be apprehended.

After the shooting, Azucena D. Diaz, 28, was airlifted to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. She was upgraded Monday from critical condition and officials said she seemed to be recovering.

When Ramirez left the hospital parking lot, he had his children with him, prompting authorities to issue an Amber Alert.

"The kids were with him at the time of the shooting. Apparently, they probably saw him shoot their mother," Dunn Police Chief B.P. Jones said. "He made innuendos that he was going to take his life, and, therefore, we became concerned of what would happen to the children."

Ramirez had previously threatened his wife, who had taken out a protective order against him last week, Jones said. The couple had been estranged for about three months.

The children were recovered at a relative's home in Fayetteville by 8:30 a.m. Sunday. They were unharmed and likely dropped off there by Ramirez, Jones said.

Jennifer Franklin, spokeswoman for Betsy Johnson, said hospital staff were shocked by the shooting. Diaz worked as a translator at the hospital.

"We are all very concerned. We are a close team here at Betsy Johnson Regional," Franklin said.

Administrators placed the hospital on a partial lockdown immediately after the shooting, according to protocol. They said tighter security measures will be in place until Ramirez is found.

"We did enhance security just to ensure the safety of our patients, their family members, our visitors, our physicians and our staff," Franklin said.

Jones warned that Ramirez was loose and considered to be armed and dangerous. He said police have no leads about his whereabouts and stressed that the public's help is needed to locate Ramirez.

Police described him as a Hispanic man, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 150 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. At the time of the shooting, he was wearing a blue and yellow jacket, police said.

Anyone with information on Ramirez whereabouts is urged to call the Dunn Police Department at 910-892-2399 or 910-892-2345.