Suicide Files: Sheriff Fletcher supporters who weren't investigated by Internal Affairs
In this week's feature, we told the story of Ramsey County Sheriff's Deputy Dan Ruettimann, who committed suicide in early October. Shortly before his death, he asked a friend to pass a package of paperwork to this City Pages reporter.
Included in the package was a detailed account of an Internal Affairs investigation on Ruettimann. The deputy was certain his case was opened because he was supporting then-sheriff Bob Fletcher's opponent in the 2010 campaign.
To prove his point, Ruettimann pulled police reports from all over the state on several other members of the department who were accused of similar or worse offenses, but were never subjected to an Internal Affairs investigation. Ruettimann believed it was because they were Fletcher supporters.
The reports that Ruettimann pulled on other officers -- four in total -- cover a variety of offenses, from drunk driving to domestic assault. City Pages determined from a Data Practices request that Ruettimann was correct -- none of the officers were investigated by Internal Affairs for the crimes described in any of the reports. For this reason, City Pages is withholding their names.
- One deputy rolled his car over on the highway in 2005. To prevent his service weapon from exploding, responding officers had to go into the burning car to retrieve it. The handle was partially melted. At the hospital, the deputy had a blood alcohol level of 0.19.
No investigation has ever been opened on this officer.
- In 2001, a lieutenant careened his snowmobile off a snow bank, going airborne before crashing onto a skating rink. He was badly injured, and at the hospital his blood alcohol level read 0.25.
An Internal Affairs investigation found the officer at fault in a 1995 excessive force charge, but nothing was opened in the snowmobiling incident.
One deputy had two incident reports in Ruettimann's file:Yet another Internal Affairs investigation for "improper procedure" is currently open on the same deputy.
- In 2008, he sped through a stop sign and was pulled over by a Washington County Sheriff's deputy. He took a breathalyzer which came back 0.12 and was arrested.
While no investigation was opened on either incident, the officer has had numerous trips to Internal Affairs. In 2000, he was found culpable in an excessive force charge. In 2002, he was faulted for driving conduct. In 2006, he was suspended for four days for Conduct Unbecoming an Officer. The punishment stemmed from an incident when the deputy rolled through a red light and was hit by another car. An arrestee he was taking to booking was injured in the accident and had to go to the hospital. When asked for an explanation, the deputy reportedly said, "Honest to god truth is, it was around 4 o'clock I was being impatient."
- In 2005, officers responded to a domestic assault call to the same deputy's home. His wife told police they'd fought over who left the toilet seat up, and that he started to choke her. She said he hit her in the face twice, physically threw her out the front door, then "kicked and punched her" when she was able to get back in. Her brother told the cops he'd seen the deputy slap his wife twice and throw her out of the house. The responding officers noted the deputy's wife had visible injuries. A domestic assault case against the deputy was eventually dismissed.
- A deputy was reported for threatening to kill another man in an incident report from 2006. The deputy was found passed out in an alley by two women and they guided him to their house in an attempt to help him. When the deputy woke up still intoxicated, he began threatening to kill the home's owner. The homeowner ran out the door in fear and called 911 from a gas station.
The deputy was not arrested, and though he has been the subject of three unrelated Internal Affairs investigations, none were found substantive.
Ruettimann said that he believed that the Internal Affairs process under Fletcher had been "corrupt and crooked." However, after new Sheriff Matt Bostrom took office, Ruettimann requested some Internal Affairs investigations of his own.
In a letter to the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office of Internal Affairs, Ruettimann requested three investigations for Conduct Unbecoming an Officer that related to his own troubles.
One was a sergeant whom Ruettimann claimed was talking derogatorily about him to other officers, saying among other things, "Dan is probably going to get fired." Ruettimann wrote he had two fellow deputies and a sergeant who could back up his claims.
Another was a clerk, who was gossiping about the contents of Ruettimann's confidential Internal Affairs investigation around the office. A second clerk sent Ruettimann an email describing what she'd heard.
"She said . . . 'he hit his wife,'" the second clerk wrote to Ruettimann. "'So he will never get his gun back and that he will stay in the jail.'"
The last request regarded the Ramsey County Internal Affairs investigator who handled Ruettimann's case under Fletcher. Ruettimann pointed out that the investigator had contributed numerous times to Fletcher's re-election campaigns and that she also worked for Fletcher's wife's real estate business.
"Total conflict of interest," Ruettimann told the Minneapolis investigator who re-opened his case.
There are currently Internal Affairs investigations open on all three individuals that Ruettimann named -- the sergeant, the clerk and the investigator -- for Conduct Unbecoming an Officer.
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