A 26-year-old transgender man killed in a March 28 officer-involved shooting in Lompoc was armed with a knife when he was shot, according to police.
Krys Brandon Ruiz, of Lompoc, sustained a fatal gunshot wound after charging at officers with a knife in the 100 block alley of North G and H streets shortly after 8 p.m., according to Lompoc Police Chief Joseph Mariani. The knife was recovered at the scene, Mariani said.
Mariani issued his statement after a published request from Fresno attorney Bill Schmidt, who represents Ruiz's family, called on a new law that requires the state attorney general to investigate incidents of unarmed people shot by police.
"The rationale for this request was based on misinformation that the suspect involved in this incident was unarmed," Mariani said, citing a preliminary investigation. "The investigation is currently ongoing and being conducted by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office."
An attorney is calling for the California attorney general to investigate the March 28 officer-involved shooting of a Lompoc transgender male because of officials' alleged conflicts of interest in a letter sent to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's office and the Lompoc Police Department.
An hour before the shooting, Ruiz was dropped off at his apartment by his mother after dinner blocks away from the shooting location, according to Schmidt, adding Ruiz wasn't intoxicated, agitated or depressed. Minutes before Ruiz was shot, police responded to an unrelated call of a man walking northbound on North H Street armed with a gun.
More than a week after the shooting, on April 7, Schmidt sent a letter to Lompoc Police, the county Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's Office and the Attorney General's Public Inquiry Unit, calling for a state investigation into Ruiz's shooting based on government code 12525.3.
The new statute went into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, and is based on AB 1506, a law signed by the governor on Sept. 30, 2020, that requires a state prosecutor to investigate when police use deadly force against unarmed people.
Mariani, however, said that law doesn't apply in this case because Ruiz was armed, adding all sheriffs, police chiefs and district attorneys across the state were informed on April 6 that the Attorney General's Office is awaiting funds appropriated by the state budget to implement the law, which should be available on July 1.
In addition, Mariani said the Lompoc Police Department is awaiting the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's review of the Sheriff's Office investigation once it's completed.
While the law, although not yet implemented, requires a referral to the Attorney General's Office, there's nothing that prevents the attorney general from taking over the investigation at any time, according to Schmidt on Tuesday. He cited several facts as the basis for state involvement, including Sheriff Bill Brown's 11-year tenure as Lompoc police chief and District Attorney Joyce Dudley's help in developing statewide use-of-force training in 2019.
"We believe it would be prudent and reasonable to have the California Attorney General’s Office investigate this case and hope they agree to do so," Schmidt said. In a previous interview, Schmidt said it wasn't in Ruiz's nature to be confrontational. "[Krys] was not a threat to anyone and they shot him after they asked him to show his hands," he said.