Eaton Co. deputy won't be charged in shooting after mask dispute stabbing

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
A still image from an Eaton County Sheriff deputy's body camera appears to show Sean Ruis holding a screwdriver in his left hand and two knives in his right hand moments before the deputy shot him during an altercation Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

Prosecutors will not charge an Eaton County sheriff's deputy who shot a man during a traffic stop on suspicion that he was involved in a stabbing after a dispute with a store clerk over masks.

Deputy Theresa Vandorpe was legally justified in using deadly force July 14 in Grand Ledge when Sean Ruis, 43, advanced at the deputy and lunged at her with two screwdrivers and a knife in his hands, according to Eaton County Prosecutor Doug Lloyd.

Lloyd's office came to the determination after reviewing an investigation by the Michigan State Police that included interviews and surveillance film from four nearby homes and Vandorpe's own dashboard and body cameras.

"I have a firm belief that no officer starts their shift with a desire to use deadly force, but an individual who had already stabbed John Duncan placed Deputy Vandorpe in grave danger of death or serious injury," Lloyd said in a statement. 

Vandorpe had pulled Ruis over in Grand Ledge after he was reported to have stabbed a man at a Quality Dairy in Windsor Township. 

Officials believe Ruis was on his way to work at the Michigan Department of Transportation when he attacked a 77-year-old Lansing man, a bystander at the store, after Ruis was asked by staff to wear a mask inside the business. 

The 77-year-old Lansing man, John Duncan III, died Aug. 8 after spending nearly a month in the hospital.

When Michigan State Police arrived at the Quality Dairy, they determined Ruis was a suspect in the stabbing and broadcast his license plate over the police radio. Vandorpe stopped Ruis near his home on Jerryson Drive in Delta Township, where Ruis exited his car with two screwdrivers and knife. 

Vandorpe told Ruis to show his hands and drop his weapons, but Ruis in turn told Vandorpe to drop her weapon as he continued advancing toward her, Lloyd's statement said. 

Ruis lunged at Vandorpe and attempted to slash her with a screw driver, at which point the deputy fired her weapon five times while backpedaling, according to Lloyd's statement. Ruis made contact with Vandorpe's weapon, jamming it and forcing Vandorpe to clear the weapon. 

Ruis bent to the ground to retrieve his knife, which he had dropped along with the screwdrivers, and Vandorpe fired another five times, according to the statement. 

Ruis fell to the ground. Michigan State Police troopers arrived about a minute later as paramedics rushed to the scene. 

A medical examiner later determined Ruis had eight gunshot wounds in his body. 

Ruis, an MDOT employee since 2008, had been disciplined three times in two years by the agency. He had been reprimanded, ordered to do training and suspended because of the incidents, according to his personnel records.