Born and raised on the south side of Billings, Richard Ramirez spent a lot of time in South Park.
It was partly for that reason the family — along with friends and other members of the community, around 50 total — gathered there Friday to remember him.
"He walked through this park his whole life," said his brother, J.J. Ramirez.
Richard Ramirez was shot and killed by a Billings Police Department officer Monday night.
As picnic tables were moved and food was laid out, blue skies made way for dark clouds from the north. The warm sun was replaced by a cool breeze.
The group bowed their heads to pray before eating:
“Father, we stand on behalf of Richard who can no longer stand for himself … We ask that you would be with (the Ramirez family) during their time of bereavement, their time of darkness,” the Rev. Tracy Star, of Wayman Chapel, said, his hand raised toward the dark skies.
Family members sobbed and held each other as Star spoke.
As it started to rain, Crystal Jones, 19, a friend of the family, looked up.
“You can tell he’s with us today. Whenever it rains, it makes me think of him,” she said.
Star nodded his head in agreement. He's definitely with us, he said.
Star said he met the family only a few days ago after he was asked to visit their home by a mutual friend. “I’ve been there ever since,” he said.
Star said it’s not getting any easier for the family. He said finances have caused an extra burden.
“It’s challenging because Richard didn’t have insurance,” he said.
Richard’s sister Lori Ramirez, fighting tears, said the community has been supportive. People have been coming by the house, offering to write the family checks, she said.
She said the family has raised $2,000 so far, but that still doesn’t cover all the expenses. Richard’s brother J.J. said the casket alone cost $3,500. They picked it up before coming to the park, he said.
The family had a box for donations set up on one of the picnic tables.
There is also a memorial fund at U.S. Bank, Star said.
For Richard’s mother, Betty Ramirez, seeing everyone come together for her son and for her family helped to remind her that people care.
Richard’s father, Julio Ramirez, agreed.
“It makes me feel a lot better to see all of my friends," said Julio Ramirez. “But I’m going to miss him — I miss him already."
Once darkness came, the family said they planned to head to the spot where Richard was killed for a candlelight vigil, something Star said he helped organize.
Richard Ramirez’s funeral will be held at Smith Funeral Chapels at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Lori Ramirez said. The community is welcome.