Night Stalker: Police remember the day ‘pure evil’ was captured — and how they saved his life

On one particularly hot Saturday morning in August 1985, the evil apparition known as the Night Stalker became nothing more than a man, a beaten and bloody man who needed the cops to save his life.

A new movie, “The Night Stalker” starring Lou Diamond Phillips, will premiere at the Frida Cinema in Santa Ana on Friday, June 10 at 7:30 p.m. with some of the cast, crew and those involved in the arrest of Richard Ramirez expected to attend. The film is a fictional account of an attorney’s attempt to get the serial killer to confess to crimes he may have committed in Texas before his murder spree in California in the mid-1980s.

One of the flashback scenes in the film shows Ramirez, then 25, in his last moments of sadistic freedom when he was confronted by an angry mob in East Los Angeles.

The cops who arrested him will never forget their encounter. In interviews with the Orange County Register over the past month, they described being in the presence of “pure evil” and compared him to one of the scariest movies of all time.


Before that morning, the Night Stalker was a nameless, mythical figure, whose nickname had been upgraded from the “Walk-in Killer” and then the “Valley Intruder,” terrorizing California from San Francisco to Orange County. He swooped into homes through open doors and windows in the middle of the night to commit his heinous acts. He made some of his victims pray to Satan. He eventually was convicted of 13 murder counts among many other felonies.

In a summer of record-breaking heat, many residents statewide slept lightly in fear with their doors and windows locked.

Ramirez died of lymphoma three years ago this week in prison. He was 53. He had been on death row awaiting execution for more than two decades.


The Night Stalker: The attack that never happened

After 3 bullets in the head, he still can’t escape the ‘Night Stalker’

On Aug. 31, 1985, newspapers reported for the first time the infamous suspect had a name and a face. Ramirez was free for only a couple of hours after his name was released.

Without knowing that his name had hit the front pages, Ramirez took a bus to visit his brother in Tucson, Ariz., on Aug. 30. His brother wasn’t home. So Ramirez, wearing a black, Jack Daniel’s T-shirt, boarded another bus and headed back to Los Angeles. The move confused police, who were looking for someone who was fleeing L.A.

When he got to L.A.’s Greyhound bus depot about 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 31, Ramirez walked past LAPD task force members who were monitoring outbound buses. Ramirez stopped at a liquor store and saw his picture on the cover of La Opinion with a headline calling him “Invasor Nocturno” (Night Invader). A woman in the store called out: “El maton” – the killer. He had been recognized.


That’s when he started running. He cut across I-5, dodging cars as he headed toward Boyle Heights.

Ramirez jumped into the driver’s seat of an unlocked Mustang and tried to get it started, but he was pulled out by an angry resident named Faustino Pinon. Then Ramirez ran across the street and tried to take car keys from a woman named Angelina De La Torre. He threatened her, saying he had a gun.

That woman’s husband, Manuel De La Torre, grabbed a pipe that was used to hold his chain link gate and beat the would-be car thief over the head. A mob formed and chased the man in the Jack Daniel’s T-shirt down the street.

“My brother and my dad and about 10 other guys were chasing him down Hubbard,” said Julio Burgoin, who lived on the block.

The mob caught him and forced him to the ground.

“He tried to get up but me and my brother pushed him down again,” Burgoin said. “He kept saying, “Hey, let me go.’ He came to the wrong place to steal a car.”


It was just after 8 a.m. when L.A. County sheriff’s Deputy Andy Ramirez, alone in his patrol car, stopped to get a cup of coffee on Whittier Boulevard. He sipped coffee in his car, unit 24, when his radio squawked.

“East Los Angeles unit 22.” The call was not for Andy Ramirez. But unit 22 didn’t answer. The call was a 415 (disturbance), with few details. “Men fighting, possible gun or knife in the 3700 block of Hubbard Street.”

He was only “30 seconds away” from the disturbance, so he became the primary responder. Andy Ramirez arrived on Hubbard Street and drove slowly in the morning sun. He saw four or five men waving for him to stop.

One man on the sidewalk was holding a 3-foot metal pipe dripping blood.

Julio Burgoin displays the type of metal rod that was used to hit Richard Ramirez on the head during the Night Stalker’s capture in a Boyle Heights neighborhood on Aug. 31, 1985. BILL ALKOFER, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The focus of the attention on the block was a man sitting on the sidewalk with a gash in his head. Ramirez had no idea how close to a serial killer he was about to be. (When it was all over, Andy Ramirez called his parents to ask if there was any way they were related to Richard Ramirez. He was told no.)

The 25-year-old fourth-year deputy called for a paramedic to address the bleeding man on the sidewalk.

First, it was Andy Ramirez’s job to jot down notes about what had happened, and it was clear the man on the sidewalk had aroused the ire of the people on the street. Andy Ramirez patted down the man and found him unarmed.

“He was bleeding,” Andy Ramirez said. “He was drenched in sweat. He was taking deep breaths.”

That’s when Andy Ramirez handcuffed the suspect and asked him his name.

“Ricardo,” he said.

“Ricardo what?”

“Ricardo Ramirez,” he said.

Still, Andy Ramirez didn’t think “Night Stalker.”

A paramedic wrapped a bandage around Richard Ramirez’s head and under his chin. Andy Ramirez guided him to the back seat of his patrol car.

As he watched a larger crowd forming on Hubbard Street, Andy Ramirez could see he was about to have a major problem. The crowd wanted blood.


Bystanders approached Andy Ramirez and asked, “Did you get him?”

A unit from the LAPD arrived on the scene, including officer Jim Kaiser, who said he had been chasing reports of the Night Stalker in this neighborhood.

That’s when Andy Ramirez realized the gravity of his situation.

“The tone of the crowd changed,” he said. “You could see the anger. They were getting closer and closer to where Richard Ramirez was seated. I thought, if I lose control of this crowd, they’re going to take him from this car. Richard Ramirez’s safety was in jeopardy.”

Kaiser heard someone in the crowd shout: “Get him. Shoot him.”

Kaiser took Richard Ramirez out of Andy Ramirez’s car, and transported him to the Hollenbeck police station. The move was controversial because the arrest had taken place in the Sheriff’s Department jurisdiction. But Andy Ramirez said he felt he needed to stay on Hubbard Street to secure the crime scene and deal with the unruly crowd, which had grown to several hundred people.

Kaiser drove Ramirez away from the mob that wanted to kill him.

“All the fight was out of him,” Kaiser said.

Ramirez started talking in the backseat. “I’m going to be blamed for all the murders,” he said.

Over the radio, Kaiser said, “Bingo, we got him.”


When Kaiser stopped at the Hollenbeck station. He opened the patrol car door, and Ramirez threw up in the parking lot.

“It was green, like ‘The Exorcist,’” Kaiser said, referencing the 1973 movie where the devil spews pea soupish vomit. “This guy is really evil.”

Kaiser tightened Ramirez’s handcuffs over and over again.

“I didn’t know what he was capable of,” Kaiser said. “I looked straight in the eye of absolute evil. He had cold, black eyes. He was the ultimate manifestation of absolute evil.”

Ramirez asked Kaiser for a favor. “Put a bullet in my head,” Ramirez pleaded. “Let’s end it.”


Gil Carrillo, the lead sheriff’s homicide detective who had been on the Night Stalker’s trail for months, walked into the LAPD building just before 10 a.m. He was joined by his partner, Frank Salerno. It was a party-like atmosphere. The two detectives stopped the party immediately.

Gil Carrillo was one of the lead Sheriff’s detectives assigned to the Night Stalker case in 1985. BILL ALKOFER, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Ramirez, who had been reading about himself in the newspapers, knew the names of both detectives without being introduced. Carrillo sat across from Ramirez in a second-floor interview room.

“Uncuff him,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo called him “Rich.” Rich was calm and called himself the Night Stalker.

He asked Carrillo a question: “Why do you think I did what I did?” Carrillo thought for a second. “Rich, if I had the answer, I would be a doctor making a lot of money.”

“He was the most vicious and vile person I had ever come in contact with,” Carrillo said.

During the interview, Carrillo noticed Ramirez was tracing circles and lines on the table with his finger.

“He was drawing pentagrams,” Carrillo said.

Register Staff Photographer Bill Alkofer contributed to this article.

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