Family of man killed with apartheid-era whip gets $1 million judgment

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by REBECCA LOPEZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 6:56 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 7 at 4:05 PM

CORSICANA — A Navarro County jury last month awarded a family more than $1 million in the death of Fernando Ramirez, who was killed at a Corsicana strip club with a horse whip similar to the type used to strike individuals in apartheid-era South Africa. 

News 8 obtained surveillance tapes that capture part of Ramirez’s death on October 1, 2008. 

In the video from Wispers Cabaret in Corsicana, Ramirez is seen being dragged from the club. Seconds later, another camera shows him being dragged into the parking lot and left to die.

“He is whipped at least a couple of times when he is on the ground, and then the other patrons drag him out by the ankles, through the bar, through the door, concrete floor, down the steps... his head bouncing the whole way,” said Paul Hornung, an attorney who is representing the Ramirez family.

Ramirez was killed after being beaten with a whip called a Sjambok. The South African implement is used on horses and cattle but — more troubling — was used against people during the apartheid era in that country. It is not available for sale in the United States.

"So, in essence, you have an apartheid-era horse whip that is being used in a club to restrain and control patrons,” Hornung said. 

The owner of Wispers Cabaret, Thomas Sinclair, is from South Africa, and brought the whip with him. In the surveillance video, Sinclair is seen grabbing the whip just before he beats Ramirez with it.

Ramirez had a dispute at the club with one of the dancers. Witnesses said he was leaving when Sinclair started whipping him. 

“The owner of the bar didn't take lightly to that, and went and got the whip and decided to mete out his own punishment,” Hornung said. 

After the beating, no one from the club called police or medics. Ramirez’ friends had to call after he failed to regain consciousness. 

Ramirez’ family sued and won more than $1 million. As for Sinclair, he was convicted of assault and his cabaret is reportedly still in business.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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