‘All I want to know is why’: Mother of Joshua Ruffin speaks after SLED concludes investigation

Updated: Jun. 3, 2020 at 11:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As protests continued at the State House for the fifth day on Wednesday, many protesters chanted “Justice for Joshua.”

On April 8, 2020, an officer with the Columbia Police Department shot 17-year-old Joshua Ruffin in the Eau Claire neighborhood. The teen later died.

Brittany Ruffin, Joshua Ruffin’s mother, was out at the State House on Saturday, peacefully protesting and said on Tuesday that she wants answers for her son’s death.

“As I went up there and I spoke, I felt my son standing next to me as I spoke and I just knew that his presence was there,” Brittany Ruffin said.

She said the big question that she has for the Columbia Police Department is why police stopped him while he was walking down the street on April 8 -- and why he was shot.

“All I want to know is why,” Brittany Ruffin said. “Why did you stop him? Why did you shoot him? Why haven’t I gotten answers? Why do I have to go on the news? Why does it take a march? Why does it take people to protest to get answers?”

She added: “Everybody wants justice, even people who don’t know Joshua want justice, we want answers, but we can’t get the answers.”

At the time of the shooting, Chief Skip Holbrook said the officer was patrolling the area in response to a report of car break-ins.

Joshua Ruffin was walking down the street when an officer saw him and pulled over to stop him.

Holbrook said as his officer approached, Ruffin ran away. At some point during a brief foot chase that police say lasted less than 30 seconds, the officer said Ruffin pulled a gun, causing the officer to open fire.

Ruffin was shot one time in the “front upper body,” Holbrook said. The chief said that is an indication that Ruffin was facing the officer when the shot was fired.

Brittany Ruffin said she has questions about where her son was shot, and she has asked for the autopsy findings but hasn’t been given the autopsy results.

“I just want answers, that’s all,” Brittany Ruffin said. “I don’t want it to be released, posted on social media. I just want answers and the way I want them is coming to me personally, or calling me or telling me, hey Ms. Ruffin come down to the station. Just give me, it’s never going to be closure because that’s my child. I’m never going to have closure but give me something so that I can sleep at night.”

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) was called in to investigate the shooting at the time.

No body camera footage has been released, though the chief said it does exist.

The officer involved in the shooting has not been identified. A spokeswoman for the department said Wednesday he is on “administrative duty” at this time.

On June 3, CPD announced SLED has finished its investigation of the officer-involved shooting.

A file has been turned over to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, ran by Byron E. Gipson.

Gipson said he was reviewing the file, “which includes incident reports, body-worn cameras, videos, and witness statements.”

When his review is completed, Gipson said he would share information with the public.

Brittany Ruffin said it was upsetting watching her son’s full name be released, saying that he’s still a minor. She said it was also upsetting that they did not release the name of the officer involved.

CPD did respond, saying in a statement that it was the Richland County Coroner’s Office who initially released Joshua Ruffin’s name.

Brittany Ruffin also said CPD never reached out to her about her son’s death, and the lack of communication has been difficult.

To that, officials responded in a statement: “CPD had an initial conversation with Ms. Ruffin at the scene. In an effort to preserve the integrity of an independent investigation being conducted by SLED, the department has refrained from any subsequent contact. However, the department has every intention of having a meaningful discussion with Ms. Ruffin at the conclusion of the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s review of the case.”

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