EATON COUNTY, Mich. — Warning: Video contained in this story is graphic and contains distressing content.
Body cam video and surveillance video have both been released by authorities, which show a Michigan deputy shooting a suspect who was accused of stabbing a man over a dispute about wearing a mask.
Police responded to a report of a stabbing at a Quality Dairy in Eaton County around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday. They said the preliminary investigation determined two customers got into an argument about one customer not wearing a mask in the store. In Michigan, masks are required in public indoor spaces.
Police said Sean Ernest Ruis, 43 from Grand Ledge, was refused service by the store because he was not wearing a mask. During the argument, Ruis pulled out a knife, stabbed a 77-year-old man from Lansing and fled in a car, police said.
An Eaton County Sheriff's deputy caught up with Ruis and stopped his vehicle around 7:15 a.m. The video released by Michigan State Police shows Ruis get out of his car while the deputy yells, "drop it, drop the weapon," repeatedly. Ruis repeats these calls, also saying "drop it" as he approaches the deputy.
Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said Ruis was armed with a knife and screwdrivers during an afternoon press briefing. "The deputy was backing up and the assailant kept on approaching her very quickly at the end there," said Reich.
In the surveillance video, the deputy is standing behind view on the opposite side of the cruiser. As Ruis approaches, he picks up his pace and appears to charge the deputy who backs up and starts shooting. The Eaton County Sheriff's Office also released body cam footage of the shooting, which shows Ruis charging the deputy with weapons in both hands.
The deputy, a 22-year veteran with the sheriff's office, fires multiple times. Ruis gets close enough the deputy to knock her hand holding the gun down. The body cam video shows Ruis drop one of the weapons in his hand and bend down to pick it up. The deputy continues to fire, and Ruis is struck as he stands back up.
Ruis was taken to a local hospital and died during surgery, Michigan State Police said. The deputy was not injured but has been placed on administrative leave, following protocol of an officer-involved shooting.
"It's very unfortunate she had to use her weapon, but she saved her life. I mean that's the most important thing right here. She had to use deadly force, and she did it properly," said Reich.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer mandated that masks are required in indoor public spaces and on Monday, businesses were required to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Wearing a mask is being mandated in cities and states across the county, but it is a controversial issue for some Americans. This is the second mask-related death in Michigan; a security guard in Flint was shot and killed in May when he asked a customer to wear a mask.
Reich said this is the first confrontation over a mask he's heard about in Eaton County, "especially going to this extreme." He noted the complexity of this case, from the masks, to Ruis stabbing a man and fleeing, to the officer-involved shooting.
"Obviously, there's some other issues here that we're not aware of regarding the assailant. What was his mental status at the time? I don't know. I don't have that answer for you," said Reich.
Michigan's mask mandate could result in a $500 fine for violators, and the governor's office said it's up to police to enforce it. Some sheriff's offices have said they will not put resources toward issuing citations, and will instead focus on education. Reich, however, encouraged people to wear masks.
"The goal here is to be safe. I mean that's all the governor's doing on this executive order. Stop the spread of this COVID-19. Wear your mask. I wear my mask, my deputies wear masks. We all have to be safe," said Reich.
The stabbing victim was brought to a hospital and is in stable condition. The incident remains under investigation.
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