Family questions Phoenix police’s actions after son’s death — (FOX12)

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FOX12 Oregon

Posted:  Aug 20, 2013 12:07 AM EDT

By Lindsey Reiser

PHOENIX (CBS5) –

A family is looking for answers after their adult son died following a run-in with police. The video is hard to watch. It shows the man on the roof of his apartment complex, and after he jumps down, he is swarmed by police, repeatedly Tazed and dragged down some stairs.

Michael Angel Ruiz’s family tells us while he had a history with drugs, and even a run-in with the law, he was trying to lead an honest life.

It is unknown why Ruiz was on the roof of his apartment complex late last month, but he ended up in critical condition at the hospital and ultimately died.

On July 28 at an apartment complex near 23rd Avenue and Indian School, several Phoenix police officers were trying to get 44-year-old Ruiz to come down from the roof.

When he did, he was placed in a chokehold, Tazed several times and told to stop resisting. According to witness video, Ruiz was in that position for at least three minutes. Finally his hands and feet were handcuffed, and he was dragged down the stairs with his head unsupported.

“We were both sort of in shock so we went down there the next morning, and he was on life support,” said Ruiz’s father, Richard Erickson, a retired LAPD detective. He said doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital told him his son was brain-dead.

He saw an EMS report, stating his son had been tased five times and had to be resuscitated at the scene. He took his son off life support on Aug. 2.

“I miss him a lot. He was a good man,” Erickson said.

“It could’ve turned [out] differently, but a bad day, a sad day for us all,” said Gary Carthen, who lives at the complex and said he saw the whole thing. He said after the ordeal, police confiscated their cell phones, and returned them later that day.

“I think the video speaks for itself,” said attorney Jocquese Blackwell, who is working with the family to get to the bottom of what happened. “They believe the officers involved in this particular case went too far. They went outside their authority.”

The family is not seeking legal action yet.

CBS 5 requested an interview with the Phoenix Police Department as well as an opportunity to show them the video.

They sent a statement saying:

We will have to decline your request for an interview at this time. There is currently an ongoing administrative investigation into this matter. As you know, state law precludes us from commenting on administrative investigations. We will wait until the entire investigative process has been completed.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

UPDATE

Autopsy released for man who died after police altercation

Updated:  Jan 23, 2014 10:49 PM EST

By Lindsey Reiser

Posted by Breann Bierman

BULLHEAD CITY, AZ (CBS5) –

The autopsy has been released for a man who died last July after an encounter with the Phoenix Police Department.
Michael Angel Ruiz, 44, died after being detained by Phoenix police officers, who were trying to get the 44-year-old to come down from a roof at an apartment complex near 23rd Avenue and Indian School Road on July 28, 2013.
The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office said the autopsy showed methamphetamine, amphetamine, citalopram, valproic acid and laudanosine in his system.
The cause of death was ruled an “anoxic brain injury in the setting of methamphetamine intoxication and altercation with police.”
The manner of Ruiz’s death was undetermined.

“The decedent’s anoxic brain injury, while being the final cause of death, resulted from an episode of resuscitated cardiac arrest that can, itself, be the result of many factors. Methamphetamine use can produce cardiac arrhythmias and subsequent anoxic brain injury without other intervening factors; therefore, its role in the decedent’s death cannot be excluded. Conversely, the roles of various actions and injuries, which occurred during the altercation with police (including, but not limited to, attempted carotid hold placement and conducted electrical weapon deployment) can potentially contribute to anoxic brain injury or exacerbate underlying conditions that could result in anoxic brain injury, so they cannot be excluded in being contributory to the decedent’s death. As none of these factors can be included or excluded with certainty as contributing to the decedent’s death, the manner of death is categorized as ‘undetermined’.”

The attorney for Ruiz’s family said he didn’t have to die that day.

“Officers aren’t being trained on how to address these situations properly,” said attorney Jocquese Blackwell. “If they were, Michael would still be alive.”

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office said they try and complete death investigations within 90 days, but they only have nine medical examiners to review 385 cases each this year.
CBS 5 News spoke with Ruiz’s family after his death.
“I want justice for my son and I don’t want any other parent or any other person to go through this,” Ruiz’s mother Yolanda Erickson said.
And though she knew Ruiz battled addiction, she never expected to get the call that her son was in the hospital.
“At 12 o’clock I took my son off life support and he died in my arms 20 minutes later,” Erickson said.
On July 28, when police arrived to get Ruiz down from the roof of his apartment, they deployed their stun guns several times.
Video from witnesses at the scene shows police using the choke-hold technique and carrying Ruiz down a flight of stairs without supporting his head.
According to police reports, Ruiz had to be resuscitated at the scene.
“I was shocked, I had never seen anything like it,” said Richard Erickson, Ruiz’s stepfather. He served on the Los Angeles Police Department as a detective and said he believes Phoenix police need to review their policies.
“They tased him and he’s right on the edge of the roof and he could’ve hurt himself bad,” Richard Erickson said.
“We believe the chokehold should not be used at all, and we believe an individual should not be tased on the roof,” Blackwell said.
“His nickname for me was ‘bugaloo,’ so that’s how he would make me laugh even when I was mad,” said Yolanda Erickson. She said she wishes she could again hear the voice of her son.
“I miss his phone calls, he used to call me all the time,” Yolanda Erickson said.
The Phoenix Police Department said they are precluded from commenting at this time.

The family has sent the city a notice of claim.