News from Jackson County...

JANUARY 2, 2005





Pendergrass Policeman Slain


This was the scene in Pendergrass Wednesday night where the shooting occured.


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 youth program.
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 tragic event."
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 Home, Winder.
A large procession of police officers from around the Southeast will honor Ruse by leaving Pendergrass Tuesday morning and driving to Winder.
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 with people.
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 young children.
"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 that."
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)

Investigation continues

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 in Gainesville.
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.


No 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 committed.
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, at hearing


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.



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