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MailTribune.com
  • Medford sued over Ruiz shooting death

    City of Medford sued for 2012 shooting death of Elias Ruiz
  • The family of an 18-year-old man who was shot and killed in 2012 after brandishing a knife at Medford police officers is suing the city of Medford for $2 million, according to a wrongful death complaint filed in Jackson County Circuit Court.
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  • The family of an 18-year-old man who was shot and killed in 2012 after brandishing a knife at Medford police officers is suing the city of Medford for $2 million, according to a wrongful death complaint filed in Jackson County Circuit Court.
    According to the complaint, Elias Ruiz "suffered an emotional breakdown," on Jan. 22, 2012, before he was killed on his front porch in west Medford while armed with a butcher knife and wearing a bullet-proof vest.
    The family is being represented by Portland-based law firm Kafoury & McDougal, which has worked on excessive-force and police-brutality cases.
    "We've been looking at this case for a while now," said Jason Kafoury, an attorney at the firm. "We reviewed it with experts, who agreed that this was an unnecessary tragedy. It didn't need to happen."
    The complaint was filed on behalf of Alejandra Ruiz, representing the estate of her dead son.
    City Attorney John Huttl declined to comment on the case. The city had yet to be served the complaint, according to court records on Tuesday.
    "I'm not really going to say anything about it," Huttl said. " I haven't seen it."
    According to police dispatchers at the time of the incident, Ruiz's brother, Hakim Ruiz, and mother, Alejandra Ruiz, separately called police to their home in the 800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue after a violent altercation erupted as the family was cooking dinner.
    In February 2012, a Jackson County grand jury ruled that police were justified in using deadly force when Elias Ruiz charged from his home waving the knife at two responding officers.
    The officers — Jason Antley, who had his gun drawn, and Brian Hall (name corrected from previous version), who held a stun gun at the ready — were standing near the front door and fell backward when Elias Ruiz swung the door open, they told the grand jury. Both fired at nearly the same time, according to testimony supplied to the grand jury. Five shots from Antley's gun and the prongs from Hall's Taser hit Ruiz.
    "The negligence of the City of Medford was a substantial contributing factor to Elias Ruiz' death in that the City of Medford failed to adequately train its police officers on how to deal with and interact with emotionally distraught individuals, including minors," the complaint states.
    Kafoury said in February 2012 that Ruiz sometimes wore the bulletproof vest in his home because he feared gang violence and the police. He said Tuesday that he was not surprised by the grand jury ruling.
    "Grand juries are one-party proceedings, and with police cases the results are completely predictable," he said.
    In the month following the shooting, Medford Police Chief Tim George said Antley had been with the MPD for nine years, was a defensive-tactics instructor and had been trained in suicide prevention. Hall was a 17-year officer, who had been a member of the SWAT team for 13 years and also had extensive training in suicide prevention.
    The complaint seeks $1 million in damages for the "conscious pain, fear and terror" Elias Ruiz suffered and another $1 million for "a loss of the society, companionship and services" his mother, father Ramiro Ruiz and brother suffered because of his death.
    "The young man was emotionally distraught, but no danger to anyone but perhaps himself," said Gregory Kafoury, lead attorney at the Portland-based firm. "Instead of stepping back and seeking to calm the situation, the police forced an unnecessary confrontation. The result was as predictable as it was tragic."
    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 in a parking garage.
    "It'll be interesting to see how it all proceeds, these kind of police cases involving wrongful death are really difficult, emotional cases, but we'll proceed. This is only step one," said Jason Kafoury.
    The case will likely take 12 to 18 months to resolve, he said.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwriter_swhlr.
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