MEDFORD, Ore. — The family of a man shot and killed by police during an altercation almost two years ago is now suing the city of Medford.
In January 2012, the mother of 18-year-old Elias Ruiz called police saying her son was threatening to kill himself. When officers arrived, Elias Ruiz charged out the door toward the officers, armed with a knife and wearing a bulletproof vest.
One officer fired his taser and the other fired his gun, killing Ruiz. A grand jury later cleared those officers of any wrongdoing. Now, the family is suing the city of Medford, saying it was the officer’s negligence that led to Ruiz’ death.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Ruiz’ mother, Alejandra, says officers did not put a safe distance between themselves and Ruiz, and were not adequately trained to handle someone suffering from a mental health episode. They’re seeking $2 million from the city.
Medford Police say its officers go through a thorough training how to handle mental health incidents, and about 60 officers throughout the county have taken that training over the past two years. They say one of their main focuses is on how to calm down a potentially violent situation.
“This saves individuals lives, this is training that officers have received that has helped in the field to deescalate situations,” said Medford Police Lt. Curtis Whipple.
The Medford city attorney did not return NewsWatch12 phone message asking for a comment.
The family’s attorney is based in Portland, and says he has spoken to witnesses and experts in the time since the incident. He disagrees with the police account of what happened that day, but would not comment on whether he thought the grand jury made the wrong decision in clearing the officers.