Muncaster Mill manslaughter trial begins

Muncaster Mill manslaughter trial begins

Gaithersburg man assaulted and left in road, then run over

by Meghan Tierney | Staff Writer
Gazette July 8, 2009

A former high school football player accused of attacking a man and leaving him in the middle of Muncaster Mill Road felt threatened and was acting in self-defense, his attorney said.

Opening arguments began Monday in the trial of Anthony Alexander Dzikowski, 19, who was indicted for manslaughter, reckless endangerment and conspiracy to commit assault in March in connection with the death of Manuel Antonio Ramirez-Gavarete of Gaithersburg.

Dzikowski was driving to a party with friends shortly before 1 a.m. Jan. 6, 2008, when they saw Ramirez-Gavarete walking home from a bar along a dark, hilly and heavily forested section of Muncaster Mill Road in Gaithersburg, Assistant State’s Attorney George Simms said. Dzikowski and a friend got out of the car to confront Ramirez-Gavarete, knocked him to the ground and left, Simms said, and within minutes he was run over by two high school students returning from a date who didn’t see him in time to stop.

“This was senseless violence, needless for a man to lose his life,” Simms said. “…Mr. Ramirez-Gavarete was no threat to [Dzikowski], they didn’t even know him. He was a 38-year-old man. He was a father. He was a working person. He never made it home because [Dzikowski and his friend] wanted to mess with someone that night.”

Dzikowski, of the 16900 block of Freedom Way in Rockville, drove past Ramirez-Gavarete, made a U-turn and got out of the vehicle to “bully” him, Simms said. Dzikowski’s attorney Louis Leibowitz said they turned around because another passenger had forgotten something at home and stepped outside because Ramirez-Gavarete was walking in the middle of the road and they were wondering what was wrong, Leibowitz said.

A “mean-looking” and “aggressive” Ramirez-Gavarete “advanced” on Dzikowski, Leibowitz said, and Dzikowski shoved him. The friend punched him and knocked him to the ground after Ramirez-Gavarete “advanced” on him too, Leibowitz said.

Dzikowski, who was on DeMatha Catholic High School’s football team and considered playing in college, is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 315 pounds. Ramirez-Gavarete was 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 120 pounds, Simms said, and had a blood alcohol content of 0.3, nearly four times the legal limit of 0.08.

Ramirez-Gavarete was lying in the road when they left, though the prosecution and defense disagree over whether he was conscious. Leibowitz said the defense would present evidence that Ramirez-Gavarete was able to stand but was hit by another car before he was run over.

“Tony never even had a chance to help him. They just decided, ‘Let’s get inside the vehicle and get out of here — we’ve had enough of that guy,'” Leibowitz said. “…Whatever Mr. Dzikowski did that night, he didn’t break the law. The events of that night were tragic, but it wasn’t a crime.”

The friend, Joshua Jones, 19, of Gaithersburg, who was 17 at the time, pleaded involved to reckless endangerment in November as a juvenile and was sentenced to community service.

The group was on its way to a party when they swerved to avoid hitting Ramirez-Gavarete, Jones testified. He and Dzikowski got out of the sport utility vehicle and Dzikowski shoved Ramirez-Gavarete because he was trying to hug him. Brenda Klueber testified that Ramirez-Gavarete was nearly shoved into her family’s car as they drove past the scene. She said she saw Ramirez-Gavarete and a “big” man trading punches, though none of their hits were successful.

Jones, who described himself as 5 feet 6 inches tall, pushed Ramirez-Gavarete away with an open hand to the face because Ramirez-Gavarete was approaching him with his hands in his pockets and he was scared he had weapon, he said.

Jones said he wanted to call 9-1-1 but was told not to by Dzikowski and another passenger because they didn’t do anything wrong and they didn’t want the police involved. He called his father and asked him to pick him up.

“I knew after I smushed dude he fell. He didn’t get up on his feet, but he was moving,” Jones said. “…We left him on a dark street. At that point I knew I was in the wrong.”