Body cam shows prank gone wrong with former SBPD cop, brother of Chief
SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Exclusive video uncovered by ABC57 News shows a South Bend Police officer pulling a gun on a potential threat. It turns out, that threat was a former SBPD cop who is also the brother of the department's chief of police.
A spokesperson for the department called the incident, a prank gone wrong.
The incident took place around 2:20am, in the parking lot of St. Joseph High School, on July 3rd.
ABC57 obtained both dash cam and body cam video. In the dash cam footage, a car is seen pulling into the parking lot, squaring up to the squad car, then accelerating. The officer in the squad car puts his vehicle in reverse, turns on his lights and siren and maneuvers around the oncoming car.
The officer then gets out of his patrol car with his gun drawn, yelling at the man to get his hands up. He can be heard telling the suspect "Turn around," and "Get on your knees."
"Lift your shirt up. Put your hands on top of your head." The officer says.
"I thought you were Dave Johnson." The suspect replies, while complying with demands.
"Who are you dude?" The officer says.
"Rick Ruszkowski." The suspect says.
"Jesus Christ." The officer replies.
At that moment, the officer realizes the man on the other end of his gun is the brother of his boss. He then appears to pat Ruszkowski down and call for responding units to slow down.
"Well, you got the whole city coming." He is heard saying to Ruszkowski.
"Oh. Stop them all." Ruszkowski says.
"I already tried." The officer said.
Minutes later, a commanding officer arrives and the initial officer relays to him what happened.
“I’m sitting here typing the report and this car squares up with me and floors it, peels out and charges me head on. So, I didn’t know if the dude was going to try to run me because I’m sitting in a parking lot darked out and he's peeling tires at me. So, I flip around, I don’t know what he’s doing. Get out of the car and it’s Chief’s brother.” He said.
According to a spokesperson for police, he was not cited, ticketed, warned or arrested. Ruszkowski was allowed to drive away from the scene shortly after.
“Once he determined I wasn’t a threat, there’s no reason to handcuff me. And that would be the same with any other citizen.” Ruszkowski said to us during a sit down interview. “I put them in that position. But, there was no crime committed. It happened on private property and there was no crime committed.”
We asked if he had been drinking.
"No." He responded.
At the time of the interview, Ruszkowski claimed not to have seen any of the footage.
“It was July the 2nd. I was visiting with my parents, which turned into July the 3rd, after midnight.” He said.
Ruszkowski says he was showing his parents a new classic car he had just purchased. When he left, he saw who he thought was a cop friend in the parking lot of St. Joseph High School, Dave Johnson.
“I light the tires up a little bit. Total, wasn’t even as long as a vehicle.” He said. “I just want to show off this vehicle. As I’m approaching this car, lights and sirens come on.”
He says he didn't realize the joke had gone bad until the officer, who he didn't know, stepped out with his gun drawn.
"Would he (Dave Johnson) have know that car?" We asked.
"No." He responded.
"Dave wouldn't have known that car. So he would have just seen a car squealing tires and coming?" We responded.
"Yes." Ruszkowski said.
"So Dave may have reacted the same way?" We asked.
"Possibly. Again, I can't second guess it." He said.
"Do you think this situation was dealt with differently because you're the brother of the chief of police?" We asked.
"I think the aftermath was handled differently, with the news and the FOIA request with the video and that type of thing. I think if I would have been any John Q citizen, this would have been a no story and things would have been passed on and it would have never been an issue.” Ruszkowski said.
We also emailed the chief, Scott Ruszkowski, for comment.
“I’ve nothing to discuss about the interaction. I was in North Carolina on vacation, the interaction was viewed and reviewed by supervisors and command staff as with any other interaction or incident. I have not seen the footage nor do I intend to. If you’d like, you can submit your questions and we’ll review them.” Chief Scott Ruszkowski wrote.
A statement from a department spokesperson later said Ruszkowski was not impaired and was allowed to leave the scene.
“I’m not sorry for or apologetic or even embarrassed by what I did, because it wasn’t meant to be for this officer. There was no intentions on harming him or anything else. So, I’m not sorry for that. But I am sorry and I am embarrassed that my actions caused others to take action and thank God nobody got hurt responding to this.” Rick Ruszkowski said.
At the end of the body cam video, the initial officer is heard saying to another officer "Dude, I thought I was going to burn that dude down from my windshield man.”