On February 4, 2002 Nels “Dan” Niemi joined an ever growing number of individuals who pursue careers as young adults in an unrelated field, finally recognizing that their real interests and calling lies in public service, joining the ranks of law enforcement.
Police recruit “Dan” Niemi entered the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department Training Academy in February, 2002, graduated, and joined the San Leandro Police Department in August of that year. Niemi was thirty-nine years old and had been employed in the computer industry for a number of years before becoming a police officer.
On the evening of July 25 Officer “Dan” Niemi’s dreams of a long, productive career in law enforcement came crashing down, less than three years after joining the ranks of the San Leandro Police Department.
That evening, Officer Niemi had responded to a routine “disturbing the peace” call in a relatively quiet neighborhood. He was questioning three young males at the scene when he was approached by a Latino male, later identified as 23-year-old Irving A. “Gotti” Ramirez. Niemi asked Ramirez for his I.D. and was running a record and warrant check over the police radio, when, without warning or provocation, Ramirez produced an automatic pistol, firing seven rounds and mortally wounding the officer. Niemi was transported to the Eden Medical Center where he succumbed to his wounds shortly after his arrival.
Immediately following the shooting an all out “man hunt” was initiated to apprehend “Gotti” Ramirez, a known Meth user with an extensive arrest record, who was on probation and had the bad fortune to have left his drivers license at the scene of the shooting in the hand of Officer Niemi.
On July 26, the day following the shooting, Ramirez was taken into custody without incident, hiding in an apartment in Daly City.
“Gotti” Ramirez has been charged and arraigned for the crime of murder with special circumstances. If convicted, “Gotti” Ramirez would most likely receive the death penalty.
Nels “Dan” Niemi was born on the Island of Guam, where his father was stationed as a pilot for Pan American Airlines. “Dan”, early on exhibited a strong interest in law enforcement as a member of a Police Explorers Scout program while attending De La Salle High School in Concord. Later, as a young adult he continued that interest, teaching self defense and gun awareness classes, while still employed in the computer industry.
San Leandro Police Chief Joe Kitchen praised “Dan Niemi” as “a competent and caring officer who quietly went about his business with little fanfare. He was a quiet, all around nice guy”.
Supporting the notion that “Dan” Niemi died doing something he truly believed in, he once wrote in his personal journal “We can’t save the world. If, however, just once in awhile we can make someone a little safer, leave someone just a little better off than we found them, doesn’t that count for something?” “Dan” Niemi not only espoused that philosophy, he lived it, earning him the much deserved title “Renaissance Man”.
On the morning of Monday, August 1 the Neighborhood Church in Castro Valley was filled to over flowing with uniformed law enforcement officers representing multiple jurisdictions from California and each of the adjoining States, come to join the Niemi family, friends and co-workers in bidding farewell to another hero gone too soon. Interment was private.
Officer Niemi is survived by his wife Dionne, daughter Gabrielle (6) and step son Josh Hewitt (14)
A fund has been established in the name of the Niemi family, C/0 San Leandro Police Officers’ Association, 901 E. 14th Street, San Leandro, CA 94577.