Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Teen faces manslaughter in January death of immigrant

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A Gaithersburg man initially believed to be the first pedestrian fatality of the year was actually beaten and left lying in the middle of Muncaster Mill Road before having his skull crushed by a passing motorist, according to police.

An 18-year-old from Rockville has been charged in connection with the January death of Manuel Antonio Ramirez-Gavarete, 38, an immigrant from Honduras who was only two blocks from his home when the incident happened.

Anthony Alexander Dzikowski, a former student at Col. Zadok Magruder High School, has been indicted for manslaughter, reckless endangerment and conspiracy to commit assault, according to online records for Montgomery County Circuit Court. His attorney, David Driscoll, did not return a call for comment.

According to the prosecutor who testified at Dzikowski’s bond hearing last month, he was driving with a group of friends just before 1 a.m. on Jan. 6 when he saw Ramirez-Gavarete, who was walking home alone from a bar.

Dzikowski, of the 16900 block of Freedom Way, pulled over, though it is unclear whether he stopped because Ramirez-Gavarete was in the road or because the group wanted ‘‘to mess” with the man, Assistant State’s Attorney Bryan Roslund said.

Dzikowski and one of his friends, a juvenile male, then got out of the car and confronted Ramirez-Gavarete, Roslund said. Dzikowski pushed Ramirez-Gavarete and the other male hit him before driving way, leaving the man lying in the middle of Muncaster Mill Road in the drizzling rain.

Within minutes, Ramirez-Gavarete was run over by another car, his skull crushed, Roslund said. The driver was traveling under the speed limit but did not realize there was a body in the road until it was too late, he said. The driver, who has not been charged, remained at the scene.

Ramirez-Gavarete was within a week of his 39th birthday, his younger brother, Jose Ramirez, said on Monday. Ramirez-Gavarete was one of three brothers who moved from Honduras to Gaithersburg over the years. Ramirez-Gavarete moved to the area nine years ago to support his two children back home — Nahum, 17, and Jennifer, 6. His body was sent back to Honduras to be buried with his family.

‘‘I was shocked. I didn’t know what to ask or what to do,” Jose Ramirez, 35, said. ‘‘...It’s been hard on my mom especially. She’s just missing her son.”

When he left Ramirez-Gavarete lying in the road, Dzikowski acknowledged knowing a car was approaching, Roslund said. There is disagreement about whether Ramirez-Gavarete was knocked out or whether he was still conscious when he was run over, Roslund said.

Ramirez-Gavarete did not have a car, his brother said.

‘‘The bottom line is this victim was standing and walking before they stopped, and when they left he was within a few minutes of his death,” Roslund said at the June 4 bond hearing. ‘‘...They assaulted him and left him in the middle of the road knowing there was a high likelihood of harm.”

Ramirez-Gavarete was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds, according to a police report. Dzikowski is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 315 pounds, according to online court records. He had just finished his senior year of high school but needed to complete more credits before he could graduate, Driscoll said at the hearing.

Dzikowski attended Magruder High in Rockville until withdrawing in 2006, according to Chris Cram, a school system spokesman.

On Jan. 11, Dzikowski was arrested on a drug charge, according to the court database. Police officers interviewing Dzikowski in connection with Ramirez-Gavarete’s death found a small amount of marijuana in his possession, according to Assistant State’s Attorney George Simms. He was charged and is participating in a diversion program in connection with that offense, Driscoll said at the hearing.

No one else has been charged in connection with Ramirez-Gavarete’s death, and the investigation is continuing, according to Seth Zucker, spokesman for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Jose Ramirez said even though having someone arrested in his brother’s death isn’t ‘‘going to bring him back ... hopefully [the case] will be resolved.”