JoCo officers were justified in shooting suspect near Highlands Elementary, DA says

Johnson County man facing charges for shooting near elementary school

Dylan Christopher Ruffin made an appearance Monday before a Johnson County judge on video from the Johnson County Central Booking facility for the shooting Friday near Highlands Elementary School.
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Dylan Christopher Ruffin made an appearance Monday before a Johnson County judge on video from the Johnson County Central Booking facility for the shooting Friday near Highlands Elementary School.

Three Johnson County area police officers who wounded a suspect while exchanging gunfire outside a Fairway home near Highlands Elementary School will not face criminal charges, the Johnson County District Attorney announced Friday.

Dylan Christopher Ruffin, 26, was wounded on March 1 when he traded gunfire with officers outside his home, located in the 4600 block of W. 62nd Street.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said the officers who wounded Ruffin acted appropriately.

“Each officer who fired shots believed their life was in danger and fired their weapons to protect themselves and other individuals in the immediate area,” Howe said.

No officers were injured but Ruffin was wounded by the officers.

He was charged with criminal discharge of a firearm at the school, in addition to other charges.

The incident began after gunshots were heard outside the elementary school. A resource officer who was already at the school when shots were heard, inspected a second-floor classroom where a bullet had broken a window. No one was in the room when the window had been broken.

The District Attorney’s statement says the evidence of the shooting prompted the school to dismiss students early.

At about 2:45, a Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy told Mission police about an encounter with Ruffin that took place the previous day. The deputy said he was parked across the street from the elementary school and saw Ruffin allegedly shooting an airsoft pellet gun at a passing vehicle. The deputy also believed Ruffin fired a pellet at his undercover vehicle, according to District Attorney Howe.

The deputy claims Ruffin pointed the pellet gun at the police vehicle after he showed his badge to Ruffin. The deputy alerted Fairway police about the incident.

Later, a Fairway officer made contact with Ruffin, who allegedly told the officer he was shooting at squirrels and road signs with his airsoft “because he was bored.”

Ruffin denied intentionally shooting at or pointing his weapon at any law enforcement officer. He was ticketed for unlawful discharge of a pellet gun in city limits. Police confiscated the gun, according to Howe.

On the day of the shooting, as parents picked up their children from Highlands Elementary, officers received two “hang-up” 911 phone calls from Ruffin’s home which is located across the street from the school.

Arriving police officers from Fairway and Mission walked up to the residence and were met by Ruffin’s mother. She told police her son was inside and had a gun, but it was not loaded.

As they spoke on the porch, the door slammed shut behind Ruffin’s mother.

Howe’s statement says officers believed Ruffin had barricaded himself inside the residence. Ruffin’s mother was escorted across the street to safety.

After moving back to safer positions, officers ordered Ruffin to come outside with his hands up. Moments later, Ruffin stepped out of the front door and pointed a handgun with an extended magazine toward the officers.

Three officers, two from Mission and one from Fairway, then began shooting at Ruffin. He was hit and taken into custody.

“When Dylan Ruffin slammed the door and became a barricaded subject, officers had probable cause to believe that he was the one who fired a gun toward Highlands Elementary School — a felony crime,” Howe said.

At the time of the shooting, police tried to get Ruffin outside to arrest him. Howe said at this time police had more than enough probable cause to arrest him.

Ruffin had numerous encounters with police prior to this most recent arrest.

In 2011, he was charged with misdemeanor property damage.

In 2012, he was charged with one count of felony possession of Oxycodone, a prescription opioid painkiller, and misdemeanor counts of possessing marijuana, synthetic marijuana and another prescription drug. He pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana as part of a plea deal. He served 12 months of probation.

In 2014, he was charged with obstructing an officer and criminal damage to property, both misdemeanors. He pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge while the criminal damage charge was dropped as part of a plea deal that had him serving 12 months of probation.

District Attorney Howe said no criminal action will be taken against the three officers who fired at Ruffin in the March 1 event.

Joshua Eckrich of Fairway wandered the playground at Highlands Elementary School on Saturday looking for bullet holes. On Friday, his daughter and her teacher were on the playground when gunshots rang out from a nearby house.

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.