Salinas police shooting reveals repeat offender suspected in earlier CHP collision
SALINAS – An incident from last Sunday involving a driver who caused a California Highway Patrol Officer to collide into his car, and then fall off of her patrol motorcycle and suffer injuries, has led to the identification of a man involved in at least two armed robberies, and was shot to death by police last Thursday.
In a press conference today, Highway Patrol Captain William Perlstein, Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin, and Commander Vince Maiorana explained to media representatives the series of events that investigators were able to piece together.
The initial reports of the CHP officer’s collision reported a gray Acura involved. The driver, while being pursued by officer Leann Gamble abruptly stopped in front of her, causing her to lose control and collide with the car, while she was ejected from her motorcycle. She saw the man in the car look at her before he sped away. CHP investigators, however, were able to identify the car, which turned out to be a Chevrolet Traverse registered to a woman in the U.S. Air Force and stationed in Germany. They contacted the woman’s father, Angel M. Ruiz, about the car. He told them the car wasn’t there, and that his daughter had loaned it to a friend last year. He didn’t know who that friend was.
CHP Captain Perlstein went on to say that neighbors of Ruiz told the investigators that the car had been at his home on Oyster Bay Court the day before the incident, and one witness claimed to have followed him home that day as well.
As reported by the Salinas Californian, Perlstein related other evidence connecting Ruiz to the suspect car and collision with the officer. Video surveillance was found showing Ruiz at a local gas station filling the car up, while he also purchased a bottle of vodka and several Red Bulls just an hour prior to the incident.
Earlier that same morning, at 10:15 am, an armed robbery occurred at the Burger King on Sanborn Road. While that investigation is still in progress, Commander Maiorana told reporters that Ruiz is now considered to be tied to that incident as well.
Once investigators positively identified Ruiz as their suspect, at least in the collision, they made an attempt to arrest him, but he was no longer available. Family member described his as distraught, and investigators became concerned that he may become a danger to himself and others. That turned out to be very true four days later.
On Thursday evening police were called to the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant at 975 North Main Street on reports of an armed robbery. The accounts of a man robbing employees and patrons were verified by video surveillance, which showed the man, who turned out to be Ruiz, using a black handgun in the robbery. Commander Maiorana said that “We noticed that Mr. Ruiz actually held the gun to some of the employees’ heads and actually inserted the gun into one of the employee’s mouth as he was trying to rob the Jack-in-the-Box.” That night the CHP and Salinas Police investigators were able to tie the events together as likely all involving the same suspect.
They didn’t have to wait long for the next step, as reports came in at 9:51 that night of an armed robbery in progress at the Wing Stop restaurant on Constitution Blvd. Police arrived and stationed themselves outside the building. When Ruiz came out, officers order him to stop, put his hands up, and lie on the ground. Maiorana reported that Ruiz did not comply, instead lifting his sweatshirt, which revealed a black handgun in his waistband. A police dog on the scene charged at him, and Ruiz pulled the weapon, first deflecting the dog, and then pointing it towards the officers. Three officers fired on him then, and Ruiz was pronounced dead at the scene.
As it turned out, the weapon Ruiz used in the robberies and pointed at officers was a replica Airsoft Pistol, and though virtually harmless to his victims, it turned out to be deadly for him as these weapons are often indistinguishable from the real thing, especially from a distance and at night. The officers, per protocol, we placed on paid administrative leave, though surveillance video was said to corroborate their account of the shooting.
Ruiz was said to have been charged in 10 criminal cases in the past twelve years, including an arrest in December of possession of a controlled substance and being under the influence.
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