Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability

Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability title=
Krys Brandon Ruiz | Credit: Courtesy
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This story was originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.


By Tyler Hayden, The Independent

The family of Krys Brandon Ruiz ― a 26-year-old transgender man fatally shot by Lompoc police late last month ― is calling on the state Attorney General’s office to investigate the incident, arguing Santa Barbara County’s law enforcement system cannot be relied upon to fairly and objectively investigate its own officers.

Sheriff Bill Brown, whose department is currently leading the investigation, formerly served as Lompoc’s chief of police and maintains deep ties there, said the family’s attorney William L. Schmidt. That constitutes a clear conflict of interest, he declared. 

Moreover, Schmidt said, District Attorney Joyce Dudley has never in her tenure “criticized, let alone prosecuted” any law enforcement officer who has hurt or killed a civilian despite multiple instances of misconduct later uncovered in lawsuits.

At approximately 8 p.m. on March 28, Lompoc dispatchers received a 9-1-1 call of a person with a gun walking northbound on H Street. Ruiz was in the area and was approached by two officers. Some kind of altercation took place in an alley between H and G streets that ended with Ruiz being shot in the head and upper torso.

After three weeks of silence and intimations that Ruiz was armed with a gun when he was killed, Lompoc Police Chief Joseph Mariani announced for the first time this Tuesday that Ruiz was in fact carrying a knife and had “charged” at the officers. “The knife was recovered as evidence at the scene,” Mariani said. 

But Schmidt and Ruiz’s family have a hard time believing that account. Ruiz had no criminal record and no history of violence, Schmidt said. “It was not his nature to be confrontational. He was small ― 5’1”.” Earlier that evening, Schmidt went on, Ruiz had dinner with his family and hadn’t exhibited any signs of being agitated or depressed. “He was in a fine mood.” His mother had dropped him off at his apartment an hour before he was killed.

“We really don’t know what happened yet,” said Schmidt. “We don’t know who called 9-1-1. We don’t know why the officers opened fire.” Lompoc police are not equipped with body cameras, explained Schmidt, who fears the investigation will rely solely on the officers’ statements without any recorded evidence. 

“Whether the shooting was intentional or a mistake due to poor training by the department, is yet to be seen,” he said. A change.org petition was recently created to compel the Lompoc Police Department to start wearing body cameras. It has so far received 1,100 signatures. Supporters cited the controversial shooting of 27-year-old Lompoc resident Michael Giles in 2016. His family ultimately received a $300,000 payout from the City of Lompoc after filing a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court.

“My experience tells me that the details we get from law enforcement don’t tell the whole story,” Schmidt continued. He previously represented the family of 26-year-old Bryan Carreño, who was killed by Sheriff’s deputies in Santa Barbara in 2017. The family had filed their own lawsuit, and last summer accepted an $850,000 settlement from the county. Both Brown and Dudley had cleared the deputies involved of any wrongdoing, but Schmidt uncovered proof that the deputies had actually broken their own safety protocols during the incident, putting Carreño and themselves at greater risk.

Schmidt said he plans to file a wrongful death complaint in the Ruiz case as well. But it could be months to years before local authorities release the information he and the family are seeking. “The reality is that the police control all of the evidence and all of the information,” Schmidt said. In the meantime, he hopes the Attorney General’s office will consider his request to step in. “We just want an impartial investigation,” he said.

In his obituary, Ruiz was remembered for being “compassionate and kind.” A fourth-generation Lompoc native who loved music and dogs, he graduated from Delta High School and worked as an in-home care provider while attending Allan Hancock College.

A public “Celebration of Life” service was held April 16, where attendees wore Dodger blue. Ruiz was buried during a private ceremony on April 20.

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STARSB Apr 22, 2021 01:01 PM
Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability

All police should be wearing body cams for the safety of everyone.

Why hasn't this story been on the news? Does the police report say there was a gun or a knife?
How did the story change 3 weeks later?
I really hope the family doesn't give up and gets answers. It won't bring him back but at least the they will know the truth.

Roger Apr 22, 2021 08:02 AM
Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability

I heard part of this call on the scanner, "Shots heard fired in the area of H street" then nothing else I thought it odd but hear alot of shoots fired/firework calls. I did not think anything about it until I heard about this shooting. It was weird that I heard nothing else after hearing shots fired in the area of H street...

PitMix Apr 22, 2021 07:14 AM
Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability

In San Diego, after a number of killings like this, they investigated and found that the cops were being shown training videos of incidents where cops died in unusual ways, like being stabbed in the neck with a pen. This was making the cops very aggressive about using deadly force. Stopped showing the videos, and number of killings decreased, and number of cops killed did not increase. Win-win.

doulie Apr 22, 2021 11:17 AM
Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability

PIT - Are you saying police training videos made cops more aggressive and likely to use deadly force? When the videos stopped being shown what type of "killings decreased?" How was anyone relating the number of cops (not) being killed to the police training video?

lovesbalot Apr 21, 2021 12:59 PM
Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability

One more community member wondering why Lompoc police don't have body cams. This shooting was so unnecessary and tragic. Now they will just blame the victim again and without the footage it will just be the victim's loved one against the police.. and we know how that goes. a 1 in 2000 chance of getting a conviction if they are even held accountable. Another young life cut short tragically. Heartbreaking !

Alexblue Apr 21, 2021 02:48 PM
Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability

1:23 pm, unfortunately, there are many examples of specific populations, I.e., in this case certain police departments which have been proven to engage in far higher levels of corruption and violence than others. So, your claim that it’s “never” fair to generalize about behavioral patterns in specific groups is easily disproven.

RHS Apr 21, 2021 11:17 AM
Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability

Allegedly being attacked by a 5'1" person with a knife should not justify shootings like this. We pay police very well and provide them with excellent benefits so they can absorb and handle such confrontations without use of violent deadly force. Somehow it has become accepted that the lives of the cops are much more important than the lives of the people they deal with. This is a real failure of our value system.

doulie Apr 22, 2021 12:26 PM
Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability

RHS - Next time I see a cop I'm going to ask if their application for employment indicated they are going to be paid well so they can handle certain "confrontations without use of violent deadly force." Who has "accepted that the lives of cops are much more important than the lives of people they deal with?" I support cops 100% but I never think their lives are more important than anyone else. Your comment indicates you may have a "real failure" in your value system. You think we pay police "very well" now? Wait to see what we will likely have to pay for a police officer if their "qualified immunity" protection is removed. They will work as usual, but, my understanding is if they make a mistake, an error in judgment, etc., people will start suing them as individuals. I think the hiring standards have been lowered for too many PC reasons now. I have to wonder what type of person will be applying with all the BS occurring; and then knowing they could be further liable for their on-duty actions. Good luck hiring top quality applicants.

a-1619030482 Apr 21, 2021 11:41 AM
Family of Lompoc Resident Killed by Police Demands Answers, Accountability

Agreed. There is a reason police officers are highly paid with great benefits, that's the tradeoff for having a dangerous job in which you might get killed. Somehow over the years, that has translated to "do everything you can to protect yourself as a cop, first and foremost." It has become a trained mindset for police to first protect themselves, then protect those they were hired to serve. It's a sad state of affairs and propogated from the top down.

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