Deputy Dan Ruettiman's suicide rocks Ramsey County Sheriff's Department

Bob Fletcher foe left files detailing his struggle for justice

At some point, Ruettimann and Hereaux clasped one another brusquely around the shoulders. Ruettimann had to shout to be heard above the din: "We got the devil out!"

   

RUETTIMANN WAS ON A leisurely stroll for cigarettes along the picturesque coast of Manasota Beach, Florida, when the calls started.

Mark Andresen
Dan Ruettimann (left) on the campaign trail with Matt Bostrom.
David Puente
Dan Ruettimann (left) on the campaign trail with Matt Bostrom.

He was supposed to be relaxing with Deters now that the election was over, but the cell phone torpedoed any sense of tranquility. Ruettimann learned from frantic friends on the other end of the line that his face had been all over the evening news.

"Did Former Sheriff Bob Fletcher demote an officer because he was supporting his opponent?" asked Fox 9 reporter Tom Lyden in the teaser. "Or is the new Sheriff Matt Bostrom giving the deputy a second chance he doesn't deserve?"

The report included fuzzy Polaroids of Ruettimann's ex-wife's bruised neck and close-ups of Ruettimann from the campaign trail with Bostrom. And finally, a quote from now-former Sheriff Bob Fletcher: "A person with anger issues and a history of violence against women should never be allowed to carry a gun and badge."

The news report was just the latest in a string of incidents that convinced Ruettimann that Fletcher was targeting him for revenge.

In February 2010, Ruettimann was punished through an Internal Affairs investigation for failing to manually check a door at a Holiday Station that had been burglarized. The two-day suspension took place six months after the actual incident.

Then there was the domestic violence accusation.

On an early June evening, Ruettimann was watching the twins for his ex-wife at the home they had once shared in New Brighton. When she arrived home, the former couple began arguing. As he turned to leave, Ruettimann yelled something that would ultimately ruin his career.

"I'm going to fucking kill your father tonight," Ruettimann said, then made a throat-slitting motion before driving off, according to the police report.

Hours later, Ruettimann heard from his supervisor at work. His ex-wife had called the New Brighton police to report the threats. Now they were contacting her father, and Ruettimann's sister, to find out what happened.

A few days later, Ruettimann was served with a restraining order. His ex-wife claimed there had been an incident in 2006 when Ruettimann tried to strangle her. In the paperwork, she wrote that she'd never pressed charges because she was afraid for Ruettimann's job.

"I regret this decision," she wrote.

Later that month, Ruettimann, his attorney, and Deters arrived at the Ramsey County Courthouse. While Deters waited in the hallway, Ruettimann went into one room with his lawyer. His ex-wife was down the hallway in another room with her parents.

For over two hours, Ruettimann's lawyer ran messages between the two rooms, trying to negotiate a way to have the restraining order dismissed. Finally, Ruettimann's ex-wife agreed to drop it under a few conditions. She would have the order dismissed only if he agreed to drop "Ruettimann" from the hyphenated surname their children took after the divorce. He would also have to forfeit his parenting time.

Ruettimann reluctantly agreed, then called Deters into the room and fell to pieces.

"He was a mess," she recalls.

A month after that, two different jurisdictions declined to charge Ruettimann over the incident.

But while that may have been the end of the episode for the family, the wheels were just beginning to turn at the sheriff's department.

The day after the incident, Ruettimann received a letter from Chief Deputy Dave Metusalem, yanking him from patrol, confiscating his gun, and reassigning him to jail detail. A new Internal Affairs investigation was opened, this time for Conduct Unbecoming a Peace Officer.

Ruettimann's request that the investigation be handled by another department to avoid a conflict of interest was ignored. In his first interview with the Internal Affairs investigator, Ruettimann stumbled as he tried to recount what happened that night at his ex-wife's house. At one point, he told the investigator he'd yelled, "I wish your dad would drop dead." Later, he told the investigator he'd said, "I wish I could shoot your dad."

The investigator continued to push, asking him why he kept changing his story.

"I lied," Ruettimann blurted. "I lied."

The investigator also asked him about a 2006 incident when Ruettimann and his ex-wife were still married but heading for divorce. He threw her cell phone in the lake behind their house and police were notified.

But now the Internal Affairs investigator had something new to add: photos of his ex-wife's bruised neck. Strangulation had never been mentioned in the original police report, and Ruettimann was never charged with anything. But now these photos were part of the investigation.

"I have never seen these before," Ruettimann said.

Months rolled by without a decision. Ruettimann worked listlessly in the jails, and campaigned hard for Bostrom. Convinced his Internal Affairs woes were the result of retribution by the Fletcher administration, the election suddenly took on a whole new meaning.

"My only hope," he told his friends, "is that Fletcher is defeated."

   

ON DECEMBER 23, 2010, six months after the initial incident and just days before Fletcher was set to leave office, Ruettimann was called into a meeting to discuss the outcome of his Internal Affairs investigation. He was being demoted to correctional officer.

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