Wed, Nov 01, 2006 - Page 5 News List

US man kills himself in Cambodian police custody


Cambodian police said yesterday a US police officer accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl killed himself while in custody in Cambodia's capital.

Local and US authorities said the death was under investigation.

Donald Ramirez of San Francisco "committed suicide by firing two bullets into his mouth," said Keo Thea, chief of anti-human trafficking police in Phnom Penh.

Reporters were not allowed into the police station to verify the official account, and it was unclear how he could have fired twice.

Police planned a news conference to discuss the incident later yesterday.

Keo Thea said a police guard left his handgun unattended while he went to a bathroom at about 6am yesterday.

The US man used a broomstick to pull the gun from under a woven mat on which the police guard had been sleeping and used the gun to shoot himself, Thea told reporters.

Pol Phithey, a deputy police commissioner in Phnom Penh, said a special committee comprised of court and police officials was being set up to investigate the death.

A US Embassy spokesman identified the dead man as Ramirez, but declined to comment on his death.

"We are aware of reports that an American citizen has killed himself while in police custody and we are investigating the matter. We have no details that we can release at this time," Jeff Daigle said.

Thea's unit arrested Ramirez, 50, last Thursday and accused him of having sex with a 14-year-old ethnic Vietnamese girl.

On Sunday, a prosecutor formally charged Ramirez with debauchery, a Cambodian legal term for sexual offenses against minors.

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