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.

"I'm very comfortable with the police department," says Conway, who grew up in the neighborhood and lives three blocks north of Shenandoah. "As long as (Min) was within his procedures and felt it was necessary for his own safety and the safety of others, it was bona fide. I will await the final report before I come to any conclusion that the police did everything properly."

Others say they doubt Ruffin deserved to die.

"When I speak to white people about it, they say this was a really bad guy and he needed to get shot," Turner says. "But black people think another one of our young people has been shot needlessly. I think that."

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."

So does the property manager, a white man who lives in Frontenac, one of the most affluent areas in the metropolitan area.

"There's no doubt in my mind — I'd bet my house on it — that if that cop had been black, that guy wouldn't have been shot," the manager says. "Or, if that guy hadn't been black, he wouldn't have been shot. There's just no way. For the crime of drinking in the street, you don't shoot people."

The property manager has given a sworn affidavit to Ron Rothman, a lawyer who represents Ruffin's children. Rothman provided a copy to The Riverfront Times.

Rothman says the property manager's account raises serious questions about Min's explanation of the shooting.

Min told detectives he never drew his gun. Rather, he says, Ruffin turned on him in the gangway and tried to grab his holstered pistol. A struggle began and the gun fell to the ground, Min says. With both men trying for the gun, Min says, he kicked Ruffin away while grabbing the weapon. When Ruffin lunged at him, Min says he fired. Then Ruffin turned around, made his way out of the gangway and collapsed.

Min's most serious injuries were cuts on the knuckles of both hands.

The property manager, who saw the first part of the chase, swears Min had his gun out long before he reached the gangway. "When I looked past him (Ruffin) back to the street and saw the cop running faster with a gun in his hand, that's when I took note of the whole situation," the property manager says. "When he had the gun in his hand, that's what made me take note."

Four other civilian witnesses also told police investigators that Min had his gun drawn as he chased Ruffin. Bader and Howard, who watched the chase go by from a second-story balcony, are the only witnesses who told homicide detectives that the gun was in a holster.

Time estimates by the property manager also are at odds with the officer's account. After the gunshot, the manager says neither Ruffin nor Min immediately came out of the gangway. "There was a few seconds, meaning 10 or 20 or 30 seconds, between the shot and the time Mr. Ruffin came out," the property manager says. "And then again, there was that same lapse in time before the officer came out."

The property manager, who had a chance to watch Min for several minutes after the shooting, says the officer didn't look like he'd been in a fight. He said Min's clothes weren't rumpled, and his shirt was tucked in. "He was visibly shaken," the property manager said. "If you've ever seen a little kid who's been in a car wreck, that's what this guy looked like. I don't believe he knew all of a sudden what he was in."

Given the condition of Min's clothing and the length of time it took him to emerge from the gangway after the shot, Charles Staples, Oats' attorney, says he thinks the officer fired from the gangway after Ruffin had already left it. He plans a civil lawsuit. Blood droplets found in the gangway seem to place Ruffin between houses when he was shot, but Staples dismisses the blood evidence.

"The presence of blood drops only proves that blood was deposited by some mechanism at that location," Staples says.

Rothman, who also is planning a lawsuit on behalf of Ruffin's four children, disagrees and says Ruffin was in the gangway. He believes Min hadn't yet entered the gangway when he fired. He thinks Min's hands were injured when he fell down during the chase.

"He got up, got pissed, yelled at him and shot him," Rothman says. "That's my hypothesis. The physical evidence will have to speak for itself."

So far, Rothman hasn't found any eyewitnesses to prove him right. Detectives never found a shell casing, which might have helped pinpoint Min's position when his gun discharged. They also didn't find the beer bottle. Police said they did find two chunks of what they suspected to be crack under Ruffin's body.

Then there is the lack of stippling.

Stippling occurs when gunpowder from a close-range shot embeds itself in the skin. Forensics experts expect stippling when a gun barrel is 18-24 inches from the target. Ruffin had none, even though Min says he shot Ruffin while Ruffin was lunging at him during a struggle for the gun.

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