A Maryland State Police trooper fatally shot a man who police said dragged the trooper more than a third of a mile after being pulled over on Interstate 95 in Elkridge early Friday morning, officials said.
The man, identified by Maryland State Police as 36-year-old Julio Cesar Moran-Ruiz of Baltimore, was weaving in and out of lanes on the highway when the state trooper initiated a traffic stop shortly after 2 a.m. near Route 100 in Elkridge, police said. Moran-Ruiz pulled his vehicle over onto the right shoulder and the trooper called for backup to conduct a routine sobriety test, police said.
The troopers asked Moran-Ruiz, whom state police identified as an Hispanic male with no identification on him at the time, to step out of the car. He was showing “obvious signs of impairment,” the state police wrote in a news release, and refused to step out of the vehicle.
The trooper on the driver’s side attempted to reach through the car window and take the keys from the ignition but was not successful, state police said. The driver restarted the car and put it in drive with the trooper’s upper body still inside.
Dragged more than 2,000 feet down the interstate, the trooper shot the driver with his agency-issued pistol, state police said.
Moran-Ruiz was pronounced dead by emergency medical personnel on the scene, state police said, while the trooper was treated at Shock Trauma for his injuries. The second officer found him in the highway median, not far from where the car stopped moving, state police said.
The trooper, who was only identified as a three-year veteran, sustained injuries to his “lower extremities” and has already been released from Shock Trauma, said Woodrow W. “Jerry” Jones III, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, at a Friday morning news conference.
He and the other trooper who responded to the scene have been placed on administrative leave, Jones said. Such leave is standard whenever a trooper is involved in a shooting.
Esmeralda Méndez, 39, who said she was married to Moran-Ruiz for 16 years, told The Baltimore Sun that her husband was a good father.
”He was good. He loved his kids,” she said in a phone interview.
She said Moran-Ruiz, who worked in construction, had lived in Baltimore since 2002. She has lived here since 2004. The couple have three children, ages 11, 9 and 5.
Méndez said the police came to her home this morning to tell her that her husband was dead.
”They only told me that he had died and that he had been shot by police. They couldn’t give me more details because there is an investigation,” she said.
Devin Luqman, an attorney who represents Moran-Ruiz’s family, said his clients are “in a state of mourning.”
“They have already lost a family member last week due to natural causes,” he said. “And to have this happen right after, they’re definitely in shock.”
As for the circumstances of the shooting, Luqman said, “I think we are entitled to be arrested and go to court, and go to jail, and not die.
“And second, I don’t believe there is a policy that police officers can reach inside of a vehicle,” he said. “And that’s very concerning.”
Jones said no policy dictates whether or not troopers can reach into a car, but “we certainly don’t want that person back on the highway” if he was driving under the influence. He said such actions are left up to the trooper’s autonomy and discretion.
The incident comes as supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement highlight the disproportionate killing of Black people by the police and call for an end to structural racism. In the last week alone, protests have swelled around the country to raise awareness of the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, whom police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot in the back in front of his children during an arrest.
Franca Muller Paz, a community organizer running as a Green Party candidate for Baltimore City Council in the 12th District, called Friday’s incident unnecessarily tragic.
”What seems to have been an apparent DUI resulted in a death sentence, and now an officer has been severely injured,” Muller Paz said. “This is another sign that we need to find new strategies for public safety, one that can more effectively de-escalate situations both for the lives and well being of civilians and also a police officer.”
Jones said the trooper, while being dragged by the motorist, repeatedly asked him to stop the car and warned he would shoot. The driver continued to accelerate, Jones said, and the trooper fired. He did not say how many shots were fired.
Moran-Ruiz allegedly gave state troopers a false name upon being questioned, Jones said. The investigation into the incident is ongoing, state police said.
In an email, Maryland State Police spokeswoman Elena Russo said in-car camera footage captured the incident but will not be released at this time, as it is being reviewed as part of the investigation. She did not say when it was expected to be released.
As members of Baltimore’s Latino community learned of the incident, they sought to get more information before reacting to the shooting.
Felipe A. Filomeno, co-chair of Latino Racial Justice Circle, said that in general police and members of the Baltimore’s Latino community need to keep building better relationships.
It’s “ongoing trust-building work, because in the Latino community, people have a hard time making a difference, distinguishing federal immigration officers from local police,” Filomeno said. “You know, they’re all authorities. And so this is an ongoing public relations effort, on part of the Baltimore Police Department and also on the state level police force.”
Muller Paz said the Latino community faces some of the same issues with police that the Black community does.
”There are marches for Black Lives Matter … I think it’s really important for the Latino community to also see that that’s our struggle too,” she said.
Stephanie Garcia is a 2020-21 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project, a national service program that places emerging journalists in local newsrooms. She covers issues relevant to Latino communities.