The parents of Elias Angel Ruiz have hired a Portland law firm specializing in excessive-force cases to probe the death of their son, who was shot by Medford police during a domestic disturbance call Jan. 22.
The firm of Kafoury & McDougal has begun an investigation and is building a case, according to attorney Mark McDougal. "So far, based on interviews of witnesses, I think the police were way out of line," McDougal said. "They knew this kid was emotionally distraught."
Police responded to the Ruiz home in the 800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue to investigate a domestic dispute involving Ruiz, 18, and his family, after separate 9-1-1 calls came from Ruiz and his mother.
When police arrived, Ruiz came out on the front porch with a long knife and advanced toward them. Police said a Taser failed to stop Ruiz, who later was found to be wearing a bulletproof vest. Officers then fired on Ruiz, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The family has called the shooting "unjustified."
McDougal said that while the firm was hired to investigate Ruiz's death, it may file a lawsuit, try to settle out of court or drop the case completely, depending on what the evidence reveals.
"Sometimes I investigate and don't file a lawsuit," McDougal said. "Who knows what the investigation could turn up?"
"The basic story is that the police came to the door, and it's the briefest period of time, and before they could comprehend anything, he was shot," said McDougal.
McDougal said that numerous eyewitness accounts from neighbors should work in favor of the Ruiz family, but he declined to specify how many witnesses there were.
Kafoury & McDougal has worked previously on several excessive-force and police-brutality cases. In 2009, the firm won a case against the city of Portland, two years after Portland police officers assaulted and falsely arrested three African-American men after approaching them in a parking garage.
One of the three men handed the officers a concealed weapon permit and said he had a handgun, prompting officers to draw their guns, pull the three men out of their car, arrest and detain them.
Two eyewitnesses testified before a jury, and the men ultimately won $175,000 in court for what was determined to be excessive force used by the officers.
Ruiz's mother, Alejandra Ruiz, did not immediately return calls for this story, but Kafoury & McDougal issued a statement on the family's behalf.
"Elias himself had called for help, yet when the police came to the door, they shot him to death almost immediately," the statement said. "Eyewitness accounts will confirm that Elias' death was unjustified."
Ruiz's death is being investigated by the Jackson County Major Assault/Death Investigation Unit, and the findings will be submitted to a grand jury, likely in the second or third week of February, according to Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau.
Budreau said that Medford police were aware that Ruiz's family had hired an attorney and were pursuing their own investigation.
A wake was held Saturday for Ruiz, and a memorial service will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Kids Unlimited in Medford.
Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.