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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Culmore community comes together to remember slain immigrant



A candlelight vigil for Filaberto Filipe Paz Ramirez.

About 200 people came to a candlelight vigil Sept. 5 to remember Filaberto Filipe Paz Ramirez, the young man murdered last week, and to promote peace and healing in the Culmore community.

Paz, age 26, left behind a wife and child in Guatemala. He had only been in the United States for about seven months. He worked as a day laborer and volunteered at the mobile food pantry that serves the Culmore area. “He was very well regarded,” says Claudia Quevedo, a community organizer with the Seven Corners-based Legal Aid Justice Center.

At the vigil, there were prayers from a Catholic priest, songs, and statements from family and friends of Paz and community leaders. He has a sister and uncle who live in Northern Virginia. A funeral service is scheduled for Sept. 11.

“It was really nice to see the community come together,” Quevedo says. “There is a lot of fear” in the area about gangs and immigration authorities, as most of the community is Hispanic. Many people come from countries where the police are not trusted, and some Culmore residents don’t understand the difference between police and immigration agents.

Paz’s body was discovered on the grounds of Olde Salem Village just after 2 a.m. on Sept. 1. According to a police statement, there was trauma to the upper body. 

Fairfax County Police have not made any arrests in the murder nor issued a statement about the possible motive. Many in the community think it might be gang related, however, Quevedo says. Crime Solvers will pay $1,000 for information leading to an arrest and indictment.

More than a dozen people spoke at the vigil, and “it was amazing to the large number of people who came out,” she says. One resident spoke about the need to fight crime and urged residents to not be afraid to speak up if they see anything suspicious.

“We came here for better conditions, primarily for our kids; let’s do it for them,” one resident said, according to Quevedo. Another person spoke about how he changed his life since coming here because of the support from the community.

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