BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — This would be the definition of terror: Confronted by an armed killer who had just murdered his own family. What do you do? What do you say? The young widow who survived Sunday’s mass shooting in Wasco was forced to do that very thing.
48 hours after the most terrifying day of her life, Sarai Ramirez, the newly widowed daughter-in-law of a mass murderer is still trying to put things back together.
Today that task seems almost unfathomable.
And it started so unremarkably at the little yellow house on First Street in Wasco.
25-year-old Sarai Ramirez spent Sunday afternoon as she spent all her Sunday afternoons — in the studio apartment she shared with Jose Ramirez the Third, her 24-year-old husband of two years.
Relaxing, doing laundry and enjoying her 7- and 9-year-old nieces, who were delighting in the family cat’s new litter of kittens, delivered just that morning.
“It was just like a normal Sunday,” she told KGET in an exclusive interview Tuesday.
But then they heard arguing from the main house in front, the one occupied by her in-laws, Jose and Viviana Ramirez — loud arguing that seemed more intense than the arguing they’d heard from the main house so many times before.
They had never intervened before — but this time Jose decided to see what he could do to ease the situation.
“I was with his little sisters and tried to calm them down because I’ve never seen them scared and they don’t cry when their parents argue,” Sarai said. “So I knew it was going to be something really bad.”
Sarai and the girls waited in silence — but a few minutes later they heard the pop-pop-pop of gunfire. Sarai immediately called 911 — and waited.
“I kept waiting for Jose to come back and it was just quiet,” she said. “I told the operator on the phone I was going in the house. I knew it was risky but I just have to run inside. And when I walk in the house I notice that Jose was on the floor. with the back of his head open. He was bleeding out and at the moment I knew there was nothing I could do anymore.”
The main house — where the arguing and the shooting had been — was silent for what seemed like a long time.
Sarai became convinced that everyone had fled. Cautiously she entered. At first she saw no one.
But then, there on the floor was her husband, bleeding from the back of his head. She knelt beside him, the phone still in her hand, the 911 dispatcher still on the line. She tried to soothe him, keep him conscious. But his wound was too grievous.
“I stayed with him and I told him you’re going to be OK,” she said. “Help is on the way, I’m on the phone with them. Just stay with me. And I kept telling him, Don’t close your eyes, Just stay with me, talk with me. I didn’t want to lose him. And I know I was preparing myself if he doesn’t make it. To be strong for him. And the last thing he said to me was, ‘I love you.'”
Moments later her father-in-law approached her from another room. He had an assault rifle in his hands and it was only then that she realized that the shooter hadn’t been some intruder.
The shooter was Jose Manuel Ramirez Jr. — her husband’s father. She would learn later that he had also killed his wife Viviana and his younger son, 17-year-old Angel.
“His dad was just telling me, ‘Leave him alone, he’s going to heaven. Don’t touch him, just leave him there,'” she said.
“When he kept telling me to leave Jose alone,” she said, “he was pointing the gun at me, like this, like, ‘Leave him alone, don’t touch him.’ And I just thought, If I stay here, he’s going to shoot me and the first person I thought of was my mom. And I thought, I don’t want her to come into the house and see me like this. Because I know my mom needs me every day.”
The father was remarkably calm, she said, remarkably composed.
“He takes away the phone from me and he goes into the room,” she said. “So as soon as his dad went into the room, I quietly walked toward the door and then when I had the chance to open the door, I ran out.”
She learned later that Angel’s 17-year-old girlfriend had also escaped, as had the little girls. The girlfriend said off-camera Tuesday that she believes the father had allowed her to escape.
Sarai’s husband Jose owned an automotive smog business in Delano and was a reliable, loving husband — who, she learned later from the deluge of text messages to his phone, didn’t just have many friends.
“Most of the messages say Jose was their best friend,” she said. “Jose was everybody’s best friend.”
Why was Sarai Ramirez so forthcoming with these traumatic details? Because, she said, her husband Jose would have wanted her to be brave, composed and dignified.
And that she was.
KGET spoke off-camera with a woman at the family home in Wasco who said she was the sister of the shooter. She said he had been struggling with drugs and possibly mental illness — issues she would at some point like to talk about.