Local News

Shooting outside Dunn hospital brings attention to domestic violence

Posted November 12, 2007 6:48 p.m. EST
Updated October 17, 2008 9:45 p.m. EDT

— The shooting of a young mother, allegedly by her estranged husband, has domestic violence awareness advocates asking why more can’t be done to protect women.

Joaquin Rangel Ramirez, 34, was supposed to drop off his two daughters, 1 and 2 years old, at Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital, where his wife worked, at around 8 p.m. Saturday.

Instead, he approached Azucena Diaz, 28, in an employee parking lot and shot her twice in the chest and once in the head, police said.

Diaz was airlifted to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where she was upgraded Monday from critical condition.

Last week, Diaz was issued an emergency protection order from Ramirez, according to Captain Eric Pope, with the Sampson County Sheriff's Office.

The order was scheduled to expire Tuesday. Sampson County domestic violence deputies planned to get it extended. The couple had been estranged for about three months.

“Initially, I think what we as a community could have done to help her more,” domestic violence awareness advocate Tonya Gray, with SAFE Harnett County, said.

Gray said leaving an abusive relationship is no less dangerous than staying in one.

“A victim can do everything right that doesn't guarantee that they'll be safe,” Gray said.

Police said Ramirez had been harassing Diaz.

It is not yet known if Ramirez had a criminal record. Police also won't know if he was in the country legally until they get fingerprints.

“Where he is now we have no idea,” Dunn Police Chief B.P. Jones said.

Ramirez fled the hospital parking lot in a Cadillac Escalade with the children, prompting authorities to issue an Amber Alert. 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.

The Escalade was found at about 4:45 p.m. Monday at 118 Rod St. in Fayetteville.

Police said they believe Ramirez could be headed for Mexico where he has family.

Officers are working with immigration officials and have requested that border patrol be notified about the search for Ramirez.

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