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Medal of Valor Ron Ruddy and Eric Dowell October 21, 1994

Swing shift units had cleared roll-call and arrived in their assigned beats. Dusk was approaching but radio traffic had yet to reach it’s usual Friday night peak. Officer Don Miskulin and his trainee Zach Watson were at a fast food joint at the southwest corner of Blaine and Iowa talking with recently retired officer Mike Kelley about a shootout he and Bill Threlkeld had been involved in with several Eastside gang members.

Officer Ron Ruddy and his partner Officer Eric Dowell were on Market Street in front of White Park assisting Motor Officer Frank Orta who was having mechanical troubles with his bike.

The call

A call of a 415-Family was broadcast at the 4000 block of Hale Street. “The RP’s son was going crazy inside the house. He was in a 415 with family members and he had a gun,” Ruddy recalled. The man’s two-year old twin daughters were also inside the house.

Hale Street residence (Google maps)

Officer’s arrive on scene

Officer Don Miskulin and his trainee Zach Zecca arrived first and spoke to a woman on the sidewalk who identified herself as the man’s wife. She said her husband had a gun and was inside the house with their 2-year-old twin daughters and her elderly father.

Officer Zecca went to the closed front door of the residence while Officer Miskulin entered the attached garage through the open overhead garage door. There was a car parked in the garage and a pickup truck parked in the driveway facing the street. Suddenly the door from the house into the garage flew open.

“All of the sudden, the door flies open and here’s this guy and he’s got a gun and he immediately puts it to his head,” Miskulin recalled.

Miskulin unholstered his Smith and Wesson 9mm semi-auto and pointed it at the armed suspect and began telling him to drop his weapon.

“I’m talking to the guy trying to get him to drop the gun and he takes a step back and closes the door.”

Officer Ron Ruddy and Officer Eric Dowell

About that time Officer Ruddy and Officer Dowell arrived and Miskulin told them what had just occurred. Ruddy took a position on one side of the car and Dowell took a position on the opposite side of the car. The door remained shut for a few moments then opened again. This time the suspect was holding his young daughter in his left arm and holding his handgun up under her chin.

“I was in the garage kind of front and center and Eric and Ron were in the wings and they were behind cover,” Miskulin said. “I was wide open with this guy and I’ve got my gun on his head and I remember him standing just beyond arms reach.”

“And he’s, you know, “F*** you. F*** the police,” Ruddy recalled.

“He was yelling at us to shoot him. He kept saying, ‘Do it hero! F***ing do it hero!’” Miskulin said.

The suspect again stepped back into the doorway and slammed the door shut. Moments later the door swung open again and the suspect was now carrying both of his twin daughters, one in each arm, and had his gun pointed at one child’s head.

“He’s got one kid on each arm and he’s got the gun pointed at, I believe it was the kid in his left arm and he says, ‘Hey, you guys ain’t going to do s*** to me,’ you know, walking around all that business,’” Ruddy said.

The suspect moved out of the doorway and walked into the garage still holding both of the girls. Sergeant Mike Wilson arrived at the location and took up a position just outside the garage.

Sergeant Mike Wilson

“The guy was standing there holding two babies with a handgun underneath the chin of one of them,” Wilson recalled.

Miskulin, standing directly in front of the suspect with his gun pointed at his head, continued attempting to get him to drop the gun and release the girls.

“I’m trying to negotiate with this guy and it was very, very intense. We we’re going back and forth and I’m telling him, ‘Put the girls down,’ just trying to talk him off the ledge,” Miskulin said.

Finally the suspect turned to Ruddy and said, “F*** you. If you want her, come and get her,” and he set one of the girls down on the ground and immediately placed his gun to the head of the other child.

“He was about 15’ from me and I turned to Miskulin and told him that if the suspect moved his gun toward me to shoot him,” Ruddy recalled.

"I holstered up and stepped forward and scooped up the kid and went down the driveway and down Hale Street to where the mom was and gave her the kid.”

“The guy’s standing there with one girl now and I keep talking to him and we’re going back and forth and he keeps challenging me, telling me to shoot him and then finally I got him to put the other girl down,” Miskulin remembered.

“Then as soon as he did and he went like this,” Miskulin said as he mimicked placing a gun into his mouth.

Officer Dowell moved up and grabbed the second little girl and took her to her mother.

The OIS

By this time Officer Ruddy had returned to where Officer Miskulin had the suspect at gunpoint. The suspect began to walk down the driveway ignoring Miskulin and Ruddy’s orders to stop and drop the gun. The suspect in garbled speech due to the fact he had the barrel of a gun in his mouth yelled that he was going to kill everyone and then himself.

When he turned onto the sidewalk and began to walk down Hale Street toward his wife and daughters both Ruddy and Miskulin realized they couldn’t let the suspect continue.

“I think Ron (Ruddy) said something like, ‘Screw this!,’ and we both fired, Miskulin said.

Both of Ruddy’s rounds struck the suspect in the lower back causing him to lose his gun and fall to the ground where he was handcuffed.

“I’m standing there in shock because I know I pulled my trigger but it didn’t fire,” Miskulin said. I just kind of froze and they’re dealing with him and I just kind of backed off and I went over and I’m leaning against the front of the truck and Mike (Wilson) came over and said, ‘Who shot? Who shot?’ Ron’s saying he did and Mike walks over to me and I said, ‘I shot too.’”

Realizing that he had pulled the trigger but that his gun hadn’t fired, Miskulin ejected the round to examine it.

“The primer had a dimple in it. The firing pin had struck it but it didn’t fire,” Miskulin said incredulously.

The investigation

The suspect was arrested and booked and the officers weapons were collected. When Rangemaster Hershel Howard examined Miskulin’s gun he found that an aluminum part in the trigger assembly was cracked and as a result the hammer hadn't been pulled back completely when it dropped. There wasn’t enough force applied to the primer to cause it to fire.

Medal of Valor award

Nearly 200 people attended the awards ceremony in the Music Room at the Mission Inn on August 15, 1995 in which Ron Ruddy and Eric Dowell received the Medal of Valor for their actions on October 21, 1994. Officers Don Miskulin and Zachary Zecca received the Police Medal for their roles in the same incident.

Chief Ken Fortier, Pete Esquivel, Don Miskulin, Zach Zecca, Ron Ruddy and Eric Dowell