HELL’S KITCHEN, Manhattan (PIX11) — West 46th Street was bustling on Thursday night this week, even as members of New York City’s gay community were talking about the death of a young clubgoer who got into a taxi there — and didn’t exit alive.
“Everyone is aware of it, yes,” said Terrence Schroeder, who lives across the street from the club where Julio Ramirez, a social worker, took his last “selfie” in a bathroom, not long before taking his fateful taxi ride.
“I think it’s really unfortunate and I think you have to be really careful,” he added.
The family of Julio Ramirez, who earned a dual Master’s degree in Public Health and Social Work last year, said thousands of dollars were moved out of his bank account in the hours and days after he was found unresponsive in the back of a cab on the Lower East Side on April 21.
Surveillance footage obtained by police showed Ramirez getting into a taxi with three other men near the Ritz Bar and Lounge on West 46th Street. Ramirez had taken the selfie there at 2:26 a.m. in the early hours of that morning. The other men apparently were dropped off at different locations.
Police initially treated the death of the 25-year-old Brooklyn resident as a possible drug overdose, when he was found alone in the back of the cab near Ludlow and Stanton Streets on the Lower East Side. The driver called 911 about ninety minutes after the group was picked up near the Ritz Bar and Lounge.
“When I heard that it was a drug overdose, my instant thought is that somebody had drugged him,” said Karinina Quimpo, a close friend of Ramirez since their days at the University of Buffalo. “My initial instinct is that he was given something.”
PIX11 News decided to pay a visit to West 46th Street off Ninth Avenue Thursday night, to ask locals about comments on social media that some clubgoers were getting their drinks spiked in various bars — and then getting robbed or put in compromising positions.
“I’ve been a victim of spiking,” said one young man on Ninth Avenue who said he is a counselor. “And literally, I had one drink; I remember falling.” The man said he remembered getting up but not much else. “When I woke up the next morning, I was in someone’s bed, half-naked,” the man said.
Mark Marciniak, who was visiting New York from Detroit, had heard about the case. “It’s hard to believe that no one saw anything,” Marciniak said, “and maybe didn’t care enough to help.”
PIX11 News asked a manager outside the Ritz Bar about the surveillance footage. “The police have it,” the man said, as he stood with multiple burly bouncers outside the club. “You need to contact the police.”
The Office of Chief Medical Examiner told PIX11 News it still didn’t have an official cause of death. The family was told toxicology tests are being conducted.
On Thursday evening, PIX11 News’ Kiran Dhillon had visited the parents of Julio Ramirez at their Central Islip home. Ana and Julio Ramirez Sr. are immigrants from El Salvador. His mother held a framed photo of her son receiving his Master’s degree in 2021.
Ramirez’s father remembered a son who made his parents proud. “Since he was a little child, he was very polite,” Julio Ramirez Sr. said. “Very responsible with his studies.”