COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Solicitor Byron E. Gipson announced Wednesday charges will not be filed against the Columbia Police officer, who shot and killed 17-year-old Joshua Ruffin in the Eau Claire neighborhood on April 8, after the officer saw Ruffin pull out a gun.
The city’s top prosecutor broke down the timeline of the incident and his reasoning for not pressing charges during a press conference Wednesday.
According to Solicitor Gipson, Officer Kevin Davis, who has been with the Columbia Police Department for four-and-a-half years, did not break the law when he attempted to stop Ruffin in his own neighborhood.
Gipson also showed body camera footage of the shooting for the first time. That footage shows a brief foot chase before you can see Ruffin pull a pistol out of a “laptop-style bag” near Eau Claire High School.
Gipson played the video several times in slow motion to show that Ruffin did pull out a gun, and as soon as that happened, Officer Davis fired shots, one of which strikes Ruffin in the forehead. Solicitor Gipson says because the fatal wound was to Ruffin’s forehead, it’s clear that Ruffin was facing the officer when he was shot.
Chief Skip Holbrook explained after the incident, that Officer Davis was patrolling the area in response to a report of car break-ins.
Wednesday, Solicitor Gipson explained that the president of the Seminary Ridge Neighborhood sent Officer Davis a text message at 6 p.m. on April 8, explaining that there were teenagers riding bikes and messing with cars in the neighborhood.
Gipson says once Officer Davis arrived in the neighborhood, Ruffin saw his marked police car and hid behind a house. According to Gipson, Ruffin came back from behind the house a few minutes later with a “laptop-style bag” that Officer Gipson says he didn’t have when he first encountered the teen.
When Officer Davis tried to approach Ruffin, the foot chase began. During the chase, Gipson says you can hear Officer Davis, explaining that Ruffin was reaching at his waistband, but you do not see a gun until Ruffin reaches the corner of Eau Claire High.
Solicitor Gipson explained two big questions that helped determine the outcome of his review. First, did Officer Davis have a reasonable suspicion that Ruffin was involved in illegal activity, and second, was the use of deadly force justified?
Gipson says the answer to both questions was “yes.” He state and city were under stay at home orders on April 8, and because Ruffin ran away, Gipson explained it was reasonable for Officer Davis to approach and follow Ruffin.
When it comes to the use of deadly force, Gipson says Ruffin was 27 feet away from Officer Davis when he pointed the pistol at the officer. According to the solicitor, that justified Davis shooting Ruffin.
Within one hour of the shooting on April 8, the State Law Enforcement Division was on the scene investigating.
Gipson says witnesses in the neighborhood who saw the encounter thought Ruffin fired shots at Officer Davis first, but further evidence showed Ruffin’s gun was never fired.
The solicitor explained although Ruffin was only 17-years-old, which is too young to legally own a gun, the gun is believed to be his since it was in his possession. The “laptop-style bag” also did not contain any stolen items, according to officials.
SLED conducted the investigation, before being turned over to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office for review.
Officer Kevin Davis is on administrative duties for now, and Chief Skip Holbrook says CPD will be looking through the solicitor’s office review in the coming days to see if Davis broke any department rules. He says then a decision will be made about his duties within the police department.