MDOT employee killed by police after mask dispute at Lansing-area store

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Correction: Sean Ernest Ruis is the man identified as being shot by police. An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect middle name for him. 

A 77-year-old man was stabbed and his 43-year-old alleged assailant — a state employee — was shot by police and died Tuesday after a confrontation at a Lansing-area party store over masks, police said.

The incident began inside a Windsor Township Quality Dairy on Tuesday morning when the 77-year-old masked Lansing man and 43-year-old unmasked Grand Ledge man got into an argument regarding masks, according to the Michigan State Police.

The scene where a 77-year-old man was stabbed by a 43-year-old man Tuesday morning outside of a Quality Dairy on Lansing Road in Windsor Township.

During the argument, the Grand Ledge man — who had been refused service at the store because he wasn't wearing a mask — stabbed the Lansing man, police say, and fled the scene. Eaton County sheriff's deputies were called to the store shortly after 6:45 a.m. and stopped the man on Jerryson Drive in Delta Township shortly before 7:15 a.m.

Police say the man exited his vehicle and approached a deputy with a knife. A still image from the deputy's body cam appears to show the suspect holding a screwdriver in his left hand and two knives in his right hand. 

The deputy, a 22-year veteran of the Eaton County Sheriff's Department, backed up, then shot and injured the man. 

The man — identified by police as Sean Ernest Ruis — died at the hospital during surgery.

The Lansing man, meanwhile, remains hospitalized. His condition is unknown. 

A still image from an Eaton County Sheriff deputy's body camera appears to show Sean Ruis reaching for the deputy's gun hand while holding two knives in a threatening gesture as the deputy backpedals while bringing up her gun before shooting Ruis during an altercation Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

Michigan State Police later Tuesday released footage of the shooting from what appeared to be a nearby home security camera.

The footage shows Ruis exit his vehicle and walk toward the deputy. Near the deputy's patrol car, Ruis appears to pick up speed as the deputy backs away before firing her gun several times. Ruis appeared to have made contact with the deputy even after the initial rounds were fired. 

Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said Tuesday that Michigan State Police were the initial agency responding to the stabbing complaint and Eaton County responded as back up. The deputy stopped Ruis after authorities were given a description of his vehicle. 

Reich said the deputy has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation and was "in fear for her life" at the time of the shooting. The Michigan State Police are continuing to investigate both the stabbing and the shooting. 

"It's very unfortunate that she had to use her weapon but she saved her life; that's the most important thing right here," Reich said. "She had to use deadly force, and she did it properly and I’m glad she wasn’t harmed in any way.”

Ruis worked for the Michigan Department of Transportation since 2008, according to department spokesman Jeff Cranson. He was a transportation technician in mix design, which is responsible for pavement design procedures, investigation, training and testing, according to the MDOT website.

MDOT's Construction and Technology Building, where Ruis worked, is across Canal Road from the Michigan State Police Training Academy. Both are located near the Lansing Road Quality Dairy where the stabbing took place. 

Cranson said it was likely Ruis was on his way into work when the stabbing occurred.

It is at least the second incident in Michigan that has ended in someone's death over mask-wearing. In May, a security guard at a Flint dollar store was killed in a confrontation with customers.

This week, a clerk at a Meijer store in northern Michigan reported that a man pulled out a knife when she asked him to wear a mask as he shopped. Police are working to identify that customer.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered people last week to wear masks in stores to reduce the risk of the coronavirus.

Police at the scene of a deputy-involved shooting Tuesday, July 14, 2020 on Jerryson Drive near Dickson Drive in Grand Ledge, Mich.