Teen girls witnessed police shooting
UPDATED JANUARY 2, 2005... Two
teenage girls riding with Pendergrass police officers were apparently
witnesses to the shoot-out Wednesday night that left officer
Chris Ruse dead.
Pendergrass officials say the girls, one age 16 and one 17-years-old,
were part of an apprentice program at the city's police department.
Pendergrass police chief Rob Russell said Sunday afternoon that
both girls were wearing bullet proof vests at the time of the
shooting. And he defended the program, saying that he hoped to
expand it in the future.
Russell said the girls and their parents want the teenagers going
on patrol again with the Pendergrass Police Department, but that
won't happen anytime soon, he added.
Although some sources have told The Herald that one of the girls
was not officially part of the apprentice program, Russell said
Sunday that both were members of the department's youth program
and that both he and the girls' parents were angered by earlier
reports that one of the girls wasn't an official member of the
Both girls who witnessed Ruse's murder have been enrolled in
the police department's youth program, but were not friends,
as previously reported, Russell said. They both were assigned
small, administrative tasks for the police department before
they began riding in patrol vehicles, he said.
He said the 16-year-old girl who witnessed Ruse's murder is a
student enrolled in a local high school's youth apprenticeship
program. She works four to five days a week at the police department
for about two hours a day. Her duties have included administrative
work for the police department, and she started going on patrol
with various Pendergrass officers last year, he said. She has
been in patrol vehicles mostly during the weekends or holidays.
While the 17-year-old girl wasn't formally enrolled in a youth
apprenticeship program through a high school, she plans to do
so next school year, Russell said. He said she had been involved
in the police department's "R U OK?" program, which
checks on local senior citizens.
He added that both girls hope to become police officers after
graduation and that their parents approved their involvement
in Pendergrass' youth program. Russell, along with Pendergrass
officer Becky Davis, interviewed the girls before they were accepted
in the program, he added.
One girl was in the vehicle with Ruse and the other in a second
Pendergrass police car driven by officer Richard Jewell. Jewell's
car, along with a Jackson County Sheriff's deputy, was also involved
in the chase and arrived at the scene of the shooting within
moments of the event, say officials familiar with the case.
Ruse was shot after attempting to stop a truck driven by Richard
A. Whitaker, 26, of Flowery Branch and Nolan L. Chauvin IV, 18,
of Dacula. When the truck didn't stop, a chase ensued which led
to the truck wrecking along Hwy. 129 near Talmo.
As Ruse approached the wrecked vehicle, a shoot-out took place
with Ruse being hit in the chest and head. He apparently got
off at least one shot, however, hitting Whitaker, the suspected
gunman, in the leg.
Russell said in a fax statement Friday that neither of the girls
left the patrol vehicle's during the shooting.
"The apprentices were immediately removed from the shooting
scene and debriefed," Russell said. "Both are in good
spirits but saddened by the events. Please respect the privacy
of these young police apprentices. They are witnesses to this
Russell said both Pendergrass officers "satisfied our criteria
concerning keeping apprentices out of harm's way."
"At no time did our patrol vehicles engage in excessive
speeds," he said. "While this traffic stop ended in
tragedy, the harm presented to our officers was not apparent
to these officers until the final moments of this event."
Russell added that appropriate counseling had been arranged for
the teenagers. The police chief has also spent "a lot of
time" with the girls since the shooting.
"We are proud of our youth apprentice program," the
chief said. "Officer Ruse devoted a large part of his career
to working with children and was particularly devoted to this
program. These high school-aged police apprentices were out of
school on Christmas break and were accompanying the officers
on an approved ride-a-long."
Russell added that his department would not be releasing the
names of the teenagers.
"We will fiercely guard their privacy," he said.
Sources familiar with the case said that the girl in Ruse's vehicle
apparently saw the shoot-out and may have even adjusted the car's
dashboard camera to help record the event.
While the Boy Scouts of America has an Explorer's program that
sometimes puts teenagers with police departments as a learning
experience, the program in Pendergrass was not officially connected
to that BSA program. Russell said that the department was too
small for the BSA-based program.
Ruse funeral to be held Tuesday
The funeral for Pendergrass police
officer Christopher Ruse will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan.
4 at the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints in Winder. Interment
will follow at Rose Hill Cemetery in Winder.
Visitation will be Monday from 2-4 pm and 6-9 pm at Smith Funeral
A large procession of police officers from around the Southeast
will honor Ruse by leaving Pendergrass Tuesday morning and driving
Ruse was born in Panama City, Fla. and is the son of Mr. &
Mrs. Charles Ruse of Riverside, Cal.
He is survived by his wife, Janeen Ruse of Winder and four children:
son Mikey Ruse, daughters Courtney Ruse and Katie Ann Ruse, all
of Winder and Chrystal Elaine Franklin of San Antonio, Tex.
Mr. Ruse was an Eagle Scout, served in the U.S. Marines and was
a Scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America.
He had worked at law enforcement agencies in California, Winder,
Arcade and Pendergrass.
A former boss of Ruse remembers him as a man who loved to work
Ruse was a former member of the Winder Police Department where
he was a bicycle officer and D.A.R.E. officer.
Winder Police chief Stanley Rodgers remembers him as being a
man who had a love for his community and serving people.
"He was a great man," Rodgers said. "He thought
the world of his kids and the kids in our community. He loved
his family, church, his community, the Marine Corps, the law
enforcement profession and helping other people.
Rodgers said Ruse was a former Marine and the father of four
"He was kind of a legend in some ways. He was just one of
those people who if he was called for help, he didn't care if
he had a car or not, he would run eight blocks in his cowboy
boots. He got attacked in one of our areas in town and, he survived
Rodgers said Ruse was very involved in Boy Scouts and was so
dedicated that he took a group on a planned camping trip even
though it snowed.
"He loved talking about his Boy Scouts," he said. "He
was big in to that. I know from just seeing him and hearing him
that he believed in what Scouts teach the kids."
After leaving Winder, Ruse worked at the Arcade Police Department
before going to work in Pendergrass five months ago.
After leaving Winder, Ruse worked at the Arcade Police Department
for one year.
"He was always jovial," Lt. Don Eckert of the Arcade
Police Department said. "He liked jokes and he loved people.
He would pull cartoons off the Internet and put people's names
in the department over them. He liked working with kids."
The slaying of Ruse was the fourth time Jackson County saw a
local lawman killed while on duty.
One previous officer was shot and killed while on duty. Sheriff
C. D. Barber was gunned down in 1919 while serving a warrant.
Floyd Hoard, a Jackson County solicitor (district attorney) was
killed in 1967 when his car was blown up by bootleggers he was
prosecuting in court.
And Jackson County Sheriff's deputy Eddie Rowe Evans was killed
at a traffic stop on I-85 several years ago when he was struck
by a passing car.
Nolan Lee Chauvin
IV (left) and
Richard Alexander Whitaker (right)
UPDATED JANUARY 2, 2005... The probe into
the shooting of Pendergrass officer Chris Ruse continues this
week with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as the lead agency
in the investigation. A news release from the GBI stated the
agency had nine agents assigned to the case.
The incident occurred following a chase last Wednesday night
by Ruse of a white 1998 GMC Sierra pickup truck. Officials have
not said where the chase began or how fast the truck was going
when Ruse attempted to stop it for speeding. However, the chase
reportedly left Hwy. 129 at some point and went south on Sosbee
Road to Pond Fork Church Road. When the truck attempted to re-enter
Hwy. 129, it wrecked and flipped onto its roof near the intersection.
Officials said Ruse then approached the back of the vehicle,
which was laying perpendicular to the road, and was shot in the
head and chest by one of the suspects as he went around the truck.
He died a short time later at Northeast Georgia Medical Center
A deputy from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office had responded
to the chase as backup and witnessed the shooting as he approached
the scene. Another Pendergrass officer involved in the pursuit
was also close by when the shooting occurred.
Ruse apparently got off one shot, striking Whitaker in the leg.
Whitaker fled the scene, running up an open hill on part of the
Talmo Ranch property.
A large manhunt ensued, with police helicopters and dogs in pursuit.
Whitaker was captured in a nearby field after the incident and
taken by ambulance to an area hospital for treatment. He was
later released into the custody of JCSO officers.
Officials said Whitaker faced outstanding warrants in Barrow
and Gwinnett counties. Gwinnett County court records show that
a drug case against Whitaker was disposed of Dec. 14. He had
been indicted in June on those charges.
Some officials also indicated that Whitaker was out on bond from
charges in Hall County at the time of the incident.
bond in Pendergrass shooting
The two suspects in the shooting death of
a Pendergrass police officer made their first court appearance
Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the crime had been
Judge Billy Chandler presided at the hearing at the new Jackson
County courthouse, and said bond is denied for both suspects,
Nolan Lee Chauvin IV, 18, Dacula, and Richard Alexander Whitaker,
26, Flowery Branch.
Chauvin and Whitaker were brought in separately, wearing white
and black striped prison uniforms and in shackles, before Judge
Chandler. The judge asked each suspect a series of questions,
including whether they had been read their rights and whether
they want a court attorney. Both men said they had their own
attorneys and don't want a court-appointed lawyer.
Chauvin, 18, Dacula, at hearing.
Whitaker, 26, Flowery Branch,
Chandler also read the charges against the
men, felony murder and aggravated assault, and asked if they
understood them. Both men replied that they did. Chandler also
asked their level of education and whether they can read and
write. Chauvin said he has a 10th grade education and Whitaker
said he has two years of college.
Chandler said the suspects have the right to a preliminary hearing
with their attorney. He added that an arraignment hearing would
also be held in Superior Court.
Both men were given an opportunity to ask the judge any questions.
Whitaker didn't have any questions. Chauvin asked how he would
be able to contact his attorney. Judge Chandler said a jailer
would allow him to make the call.
The preliminary hearing lasted only five minutes. Twelve law
enforcement officers, all from the Jackson County Sheriff's office
attended the hearing, along with Sheriff Stan Evans.
Pendergrass police chief Rob Russell nor any Pendergrass officers
or representatives attended the hearing.
There were also 10 media representatives at the hearing, including
five television crews.