By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
"The internal investigation uncovered a history of abuse," the demotion letter read, saying Ruettimann ought to have been charged with felony strangulation and stalking. "Even though you were not charged for these crimes your actions are grounds for demotion."
When Ruettimann walked out of the meeting, Fletcher was outside.
"I just want you to have a wonderful holiday weekend," Fletcher said, according to Ruettimann's recollection of the incident to friends. (Fletcher did not return numerous requests for comment.)
The law enforcement union challenged the demotion immediately, and a few days later, Fletcher was ushered out of office. The new regime decided that Ruettimann's case would be one of three to be considered for re-investigation by an outside jurisdiction.
The shot at redemption gave Ruettimann hope—until someone leaked the confidential details of his investigation to Fox 9.
For weeks after he returned to Minnesota, Ruettimann refused to go anywhere in public. He fretted to Deters: "People will see me."
ON APRIL 1, 2011, Ruettimann arrived at the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center with his union lawyer, ready to go on the offensive. His Internal Affairs case was being reviewed by the Minneapolis Police Deparment, and Ruettimann had come armed with two years' worth of evidence. He hoped it would put everything back as it was before the election.
"You are being questioned as part of an official Ramsey County Sheriff's Department Administrative investigation," the Minneapolis investigator rattled off. "Do you understand that?"
"Yes, I do," Ruettimann answered.
In January, after Sheriff Bostrom took office, officers speculated that he would make sweeping changes in the ranks. Those who had campaigned for him would be rescued from their abysmal reassignments and whisked into more favorable positions.
But after several weeks, it became painfully clear that this wasn't going to happen.
Even so, Ruettimann thought he could fix the situation himself now that it was in his hands.
Ruettimann printed out all the incident reports he could find of Fletcher supporters involved in offenses similar or worse than his who were never subjected to Internal Affairs.
One deputy had rolled his car over on the highway and responding officers had to extract his service weapon as the vehicle burned. At the hospital, the officer tested at twice the legal limit for alcohol.
Another deputy had racked up several offenses, including a drunk-driving arrest and a domestic assault in which the wife told St. Paul police her husband had strangled her. The similarity to Ruettimann's case was not lost on him.
At one point, Ruettimann pushed the reports across the table to the Minneapolis investigator.
"The IA process in my estimation for the last several years has been corrupt and crooked," Ruettimann pronounced. "There's some pretty interesting charges here on some of these folks."
Ruettimann laid out the whole story—from his divorce, to his support of Bostrom, to the backlash from the other deputies, to the Fox 9 leak—crisscrossing from family dynamics to issues within the department.
"For 28 years, I have never been so humiliated in my life in terms of the actions that have been done," he told the investigator. "I just want to be able to see my kids. I want to be able to return back to my patrol position and move on."
Afterward, Ruettimann went back to jail duty to await what he hoped would be a better outcome.
ON AUGUST 1, 2011, Ruettimann got his answer.
"Notice of intent to suspend," the letter read.
It was very much like the letter Fletcher's administration had written. While all mention of the Polaroids of his ex-wife were scrubbed, as was the implication that Ruettimann committed any felonies, the result was no less crushing. His punishment would be a 30-day suspension. He also learned he would not be allowed back on patrol duty. The demotion was halted, but he'd have to work in the courts. It'd be years before he could get back his old job.
At the time, he told friends he was fine.
"I'm going to take my punishment," Ruettimann said. "I'm going to earn my wings."
IN THE MONTHS AFTER the decision, Ruettimann's demeanor began to change.
He started spending an exorbitant amount of time on the phone. He called his best friend in Arizona, the friends he'd made in DARRT-PAC, his pastor, his sister—sometimes he called each of them multiple times in one day.
If he was talking to an acquaintance, Ruettimann pretended he was satisfied with the reassignment to the Ramsey County Courthouse. He'd have nights and weekends free to see his kids, and he'd be back on patrol in no time.
But closer friends knew Ruettimann had found out something new. Multiple local media outlets were requesting his Internal Affairs file. Once the investigation was finally closed, the outcome—along with the justification for punishment—would be available to the press.
"It's going to make me out to be a wife abuser and a liar," Ruettimann told his best friend Hilger. "My reputation is destroyed."
"It's not as bad as you think," Hilger responded.
Ruettimann would agree, but a few hours later he'd call back with the same worries.