Jerome Ruffin's Last Run

At 22, Jerome Maurice Ruffin had four children and no job, and the police were after him — again. Then a cop shot and killed him in an alley. Witnesses, family and friends want to know why. The cops aren't talking.

An informant had told a detective that Ruffin had stolen goods — including a television, a telephone and a stereo — in the house. The informant also said Ruffin had traded drugs for guns. In an affidavit used to obtain the search warrant, Detective Darrell Holmes says he conducted surveillance at the flat and saw frequent visitors, which led him to conclude that Ruffin was selling drugs.

Police seized stereo equipment, a video-game system, two televisions, $275, marijuana, a scale and guns, including a 12-gauge shotgun and a .357 magnum handgun.

Police arrested Ruffin, who had told his girlfriend that he bought the electronic gear on the street. Felony criminal proceedings against Ruffin filed since January have been sealed. The case was a grand-jury matter and prosecutors had made a criminal complaint, but no indictment was filed. The case was pending when Ruffin died.

Of Jerome Ruffin, above, friend Marvis Joy says, "Anybody out here, he could beat their ass, but he chose not to.... He was a big dude, but he moved like he was little. He was a big, playful motherfucker."
Of Jerome Ruffin, above, friend Marvis Joy says, "Anybody out here, he could beat their ass, but he chose not to.... He was a big dude, but he moved like he was little. He was a big, playful motherfucker."

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Dee Joyce-Hayes says her office was preparing a drug case against Ruffin in connection with the raid.

Ruffin's girlfriend and grandmother say police tried to get Ruffin to talk about a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood. Ruffin's grandmother says she told him to keep quiet.

"The police said they knew he didn't take anything but he knew who did," Pampkin says. "If he told, all charges would be dropped. I told him it was not his job to give them information. It's their job to find it. I didn't think he should stick his neck out."

It's unclear whether Ruffin followed his grandma's advice. Regardless, Joy was charged last spring with second-degree burglary in connection with a Dec. 22 break-in in the neighborhood.

Police arrested Ruffin again in March after he ran when officers tried to arrest him for marijuana possession. He was charged with resisting arrest and possession, both misdemeanors.

Those close to Ruffin weren't surprised when he ran. He'd done it before.

Ruffin took off through a gangway in 1995 when police tried to stop him after interrupting a dice game on Shenandoah. The officer who arrested him didn't say how he stopped Ruffin but didn't note any problems in a police report. Ruffin was charged with marijuana possession — police said he had a joint tucked behind his ear.

"He told me, he told everyone: "If they try to arrest me, I'll run,'" Joy says. "He said, "If they try to beat my ass, I'll defend myself.'"

Police impounded Ruffin's car last March after he ran. His grandmother gave him a ride to the police station to get it back. On the way, they had a long talk, serious enough that they lingered in her car and finished after arriving at the Third District station.

"He was very depressed," Pampkin recalls. "He was saying he would be better off dead. I told him, no, he wasn't really for that. I was really praying he wouldn't commit suicide. He was having trouble with his car. He was having a lot of problems, and he was giving up on life. He said, "Most of us' — and I didn't ask him who "us' was — "think this is hell right here.' I said, "If you die without the Lord and go to hell, it will get much worse.'"

Pampkin, a religious woman, had always had trouble with Ruffin when it came to church. "He just had that atheist mentality," she recalls. "He told me once, "I don't believe anything I can't see.'"

On the way to the police station, Ruffin was different.

"This day, we had a talk about the Lord, and he accepted some of the things I was saying," Pampkin says. "It made me feel good after we talked."

Then they went inside, where police arrested Ruffin.

"One of the policemen said he belonged to a gang," Pampkin says. "He (Ruffin) said, "They're talking about when I was a teenager. I'm too old for that.'"

Ruffin didn't stay in jail for long. He was released on personal recognizance on March 9, three days after a judge issued an arrest warrant. Once Ruffin got out, he said he wouldn't go back. He thought the police had it in for him.

"He said, "Mom, I'm tired of them harassing me,'" Oats says. ""Before I go to jail, Mom, I would rather die. I'm tired of them messing with me.' I said, "Son, you have to move from over there, OK? You have to leave.' He said he wasn't going to let them run him off."

Pampkin sensed a change in her grandson after his last stint in jail.

"There was a quietness in his spirit that had not been there," she says. "I commented on it. He smiled. I thought that what we had talked about was beginning to sink in."

Ruffin promised to accompany his grandmother to church on Easter. He never made the trip.

No one except Officer Min knows what happened in that gangway two days before Easter. But there are plenty of opinions.

Ald. Stephen Conway (D-8th), who represents the area, says the shooting was a tragedy, but he's satisfied with the police explanations he's heard so far. He's withholding final judgment until the investigation is complete.

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