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Man gets 15 years for fatal mugging of female impersonator
San Antonio Express-News, December 19, 2012
It was a rookie police officer who accidentally shot mugging victim James Lee Whitehead, killing him, during a confrontation with an armed assailant in August 2009. But even though Michael Martinez — one of the three robbery suspects — appeared not to have a gun that morning, he, too, is responsible for the death, prosecutors alleged Tuesday as he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Man gets 40 years in drag performer's death
San Antonio Express-News, November 1, 2011
A San Antonio man convicted last week of causing what amounted to an officer-assisted murder of a well-known local female impersonator was sentenced Monday to 40 years in prison. It took jurors less than 30 minutes to find Jesse Ramon, 22, guilty of murder Friday in the August 2009 shooting death of James Lee Whitehead.

Assailant goes on trial in death of drag performer
QSanAntonio.com, October 27, 2011

The trial of one of three men accused in the 2009 death of drag performer James Lee Whitehead (a.k.a. Niki Hunter) began on Tuesday with testimony from SAPD Officer William Kaman who accidentally killed Whitehead in an attempt to shoot at one of the assailants. (See related story below.)

Officer Karman testified that he came upon the defendant, Jesse Ramon, pistol whipping Whitehead who had been knocked to the ground in the assault which took place at around 3 a.m. August 30, 2009, at the corner of Ogden and East Park.

As the policeman approached the scene, two other assailants, Michael Martinez and Fernando Rodriguez, jumped into a white SUV and fled. Karman yelled at Ramon to drop his gun but the assailant stood up and walked toward the officer pointing the weapon at him.

In the end, Karman fired five shots at the assailant. Four hit Ramon but one stray bullet hit Whitehead who died later at a hospital.

"This is absolutely, totally a clear case of justification of a police officer's actions," District Attorney Susan Reed said at the time of the incident. Police Chief William McManus called Whitehead’s death an "unfortunate" accident.

Police say there was no evidence to suggest that Whitehead's sexual orientation made him a target before Officer Karman accidentally shot and killed him and did not classify the death as a hate crime.

Martinez and Rodriguez were arrested later and will also stand trial in Whitehead's death. The three men are being charged under a state law that says anyone committing a felony which results in the death of an individual is responsible and can be charged with murder.

Also testifying on Tuesday was Cynthia Kopecki, a Family Assistance Crisis Team volunteer who was riding with Officer Karman and witnessed the incident from inside the squad car.

The prosecutor in the case is Miguel Najera. Ramon's defense attorney is Richard Langlois.

Murder conviction for man who prompted cop to shoot
San Antonio Express-News, October 29, 2011
Jesse Ramon didn't fatally shoot well-known female impersonator James Lee Whitehead when he mugged him in 2009 — a police officer accidentally did that. But it took jurors less than 30 minutes Friday to find Ramon guilty of murder for causing the chain of events that led to Whitehead's death.

Man accidentally shot dead by S.A. policeman was drag performer
QSanAntonio.com, Updated 6:54 p.m., September 2, 2009

In the early morning hours of Sunday, August 30, James Lee Whitehead (a.k.a. Niki Hunter) had just left the Saint and was walking along Ogden street to his apartment down the street. At the corner of East Park he encountered three armed assailants who knocked him to the ground and began beating him. (See links to related stories below.)

The three assailants were identified by police as Jesse Ramon, 22; Michael Martinez, 21; and Fernando Rodriguez, 21.

Officer William Karman, a one-and-half-year veteran of the San Antonio Police Department, responded to the 911 call from witnesses who saw Whitehead being beaten. As the policeman approached the scene, Martinez and Rodriguez jumped into a white SUV and fled.

Officer Karman saw Ramon on top of Whitehead, pistol whipping him with a handgun. The officer ordered Ramon to drop the weapon. However, Ramon got up and approached the officer with his gun raised.

The officer fired two shots towards Ramon. When those did not stop him, Karman fired three more shots. The second round of shots stopped Ramon but one of Karmen’s five bullets had struck Whitehead in the chest and he died at the Brooke Army Medical Center a few hours later.

Ramon was also taken to the hospital where he was charged by proxy with murder and Aggravated Assault on a Public Servant. Police later apprehended and booked Martinez and Rodriguez as well.

At first, SAPD investigators were unsure which bullet killed Whitehead. Ballistics tests conducted on Monday, September 1 showed the bullet that killed Whitehead had been fired from Officer Karman's gun.

"This is absolutely, totally a clear case of justification of a police officer's actions," District Attorney Susan Reed said at a press conference on Tuesday. Police Chief William McManus called Whitehead’s death an "unfortunate" accident.

A new start in a new apartment

Whitehead had just moved back to San Antonio from Austin in July. He moved into a new apartment near the corner of Ogden and Evergreen with Joseph Johnson (a.k.a. Krista Nicols), his friend of over 15 years.

In an interview with QSanAntonio, Johnson said he did not learn of Whitehead’s death until Tuesday afternoon, just 30 minutes before the SAPD’s press conference where it was revealed that Officer Karman accidentally shot Whitehead.

Johnson says he began to worry on Sunday morning when Whitehead did not come home. He called friends and others in an effort to locate him. On Monday, Johnson called Jim’s Coffeehouse on Blanco where Whitehead worked as a waiter and was told that his roommate had not shown up for work.

On Tuesday afternoon officials from the SAPD contacted Johnson after finding his phone number on Whitehead’s cell phone. Prior to that time, police had not been able to locate any other next of kin.

Johnson said he had trouble tracking down Whitehead’s family -- he is preceded in death by his parents and sister, and is survived only by a niece and nephew.

Johnson located Whitehead’s niece in Marble Falls, Texas, and called her with the tragic news. She will be coming to San Antonio to make arrangements for the funeral. No details about services are available as yet.

Whitehead was both a performer and a promoter. He was the owner of the Miss Gay Universe Pageant.

Johnson says Whitehead returned to San Antonio after finding that he was just not happy in Austin. The new apartment signified a new start for Whitehead who was preparing to participate in a local pageant in the coming weeks.

"It’s very sad," says Johnson. "He was only three blocks from home when he was assaulted."

Donations in the name of James Lee Whitehead can be made to WeAreAlive.org.

No hate crime suspected in robbery
San Antonio Express-News, September 3, 2009
Some in the gay community think James Lee Whitehead was intentionally targeted for his sexual orientation, but police spokesman Sgt. Gabe Trevino said detectives found no evidence of a hate crime, because no witnesses reported hearing derogatory slurs during the incident.

Officer kills man he meant to protect
San Antonio Express-News, September 2, 2009
A San Antonio police officer accidentally shot and killed a man who was being robbed and beaten this weekend, but authorities said Tuesday the rookie officer likely will would not face charges.

SAPD: Officer's Bullet Killed Victim
KSAT.com, September 2, 2009
Calling it an "extremely unfortunate" situation for everyone involved, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said ballistics tests prove that a robbery victim was fatally shot by a police officer during a shooting early Sunday morning.

SAPD: Officer kills man he was trying to help
WOAI.com, September 2, 2009
A San Antonio police officer who accidentally shot a robbery victim over the weekend while aiming for a suspect was cleared of wrongdoing on Tuesday.