NEW YORK (PIX11) — Friends and members of the LGBTQ+ community gathered outside The Ritz Bar and Lounge on Restaurant Row Wednesday evening to hold a vigil in honor of 25-year-old Julio Ramirez.
The Brooklyn social worker was last seen around 3 a.m. on April 21. He got into a cab with three men outside the bar. A little over an hour later, he was found unresponsive in a cab on the Lower East Side. His body did not show any signs of trauma. More than $20,000 was also reportedly removed from his bank account. Ramirez’s cause of death remains unknown.
Wednesday night’s vigil called for people to remember Ramirez’ name, as well as take extra precautions during Pride Month. People marched with signs and candles down 46th Street to Times Square.
Ramirez’s best friend, Karinina Quimpo, described him as a friendly and social person who knew how to stay safe.
“He’s not new to going out,” said Quimpo. “And he was a social worker. He knew the dangers of most drugs on the street.”
Police sources tell PIX11 News that what happened to Ramirez may be part of a larger robbery ring, targeting people in Hell’s Kitchen who appear intoxicated. Our sources say one person in the group may pose as a taxi or Uber driver, who then coerces the victim to give up their bank account information.
Leaders of Wednesday’s vigil stressed the importance of safety and vigilance, particularly as Price Month continues.
“If anything can come from this, it’s to promote safety in this community,” said Quimpo.
City officials are also asking people to take extra precautions during Pride Month, including traveling with friends and leaving home with a fully-charged cell phone. If you use a ride-sharing service, officials say you should check the car’s license plate and ask the driver to say your name before getting inside.
“I think one of the most powerful words in the English language is ‘hello,’” said Chris Lebron, a community activist in Hell’s Kitchen. “So if you see somebody at risk, say hello. Introduce yourself. Ask them if they’re OK.”
The Department of Nightlife is also offering bars free Narcan kits and fentanyl test strips as an extra layer of safety.