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A group of LARPER (Live Action Role Player) friends get together for a party. Drugs are passed around. One of the party hosts retreats into his room after taking LSD and comes out shooting. Police respond and try to save as many of the partygoers as they can.

Special Guest: Detective David
When retired Detective David started out in law enforcement in 2002, his agency was so small they doubled as both police officers and firefighters, carrying their dual-purpose gear in the trunk of their patrol cars. After three years of doing double duty, David was promoted to detective. He has also served as a Patrol Sergeant and was elected Under Sheriff of his county in 2011. In 2013, David transferred back to detectives and finished out his career as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, until he retired in 2018.

Read Transcript

George: [00:00:04] When they got inside, they came across two or three people inside the apartment, they were engaged in a struggle. When the officers entered, they weren’t able to tell who was a bystander who was the victim, who’s the suspect. People are pointing, “That’s the guy. That’s the one who had the gun.” This guy was out of his mind.

[Small Town Dicks intro]

Yeardley [00:00:24] When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. So, I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country and have the men and women who investigated them, tell us how it happened.

Dan [00:00:49] I’m Dan.

Dave [00:00:50] And I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.

Dan [00:00:54] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.

Dave [00:01:00] Dan investigated violent crimes. He’s now retired. Together, we have more than two decades’ experience and have worked hundreds of cases. We’ve altered names, places, relationships, and certain details in these cases to maintain the privacy of the victims and their families.

Dan [00:01:15] So, we ask you to join us in protecting their true identities, as well as the locations of these crimes out of respect for everyone involved. Thank you.


Yeardley: [00:01:34] Today, on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. The band is all together. We have Detective Dave.

Dave: [00:01:43] Good afternoon.

Yeardley: [00:01:44] Good afternoon, almost.

Dan: [00:01:47] Swing and a miss.

Yeardley: [00:01:48] [giggles]

Dan: [00:01:49] It’s 11:30.

Yeardley: [00:01:50] And we have Detective Dan.

Dan: [00:01:53] Happy to be here once again.

Yeardley: [00:01:54] Happy to have you. And we are so pleased to welcome back one of our all-time favorite guests, Sergeant George.

George: [00:02:03] I’m happy to be here.

Yeardley: [00:02:05] We are so thrilled to have you. George, you always bring us the most interesting cases. Please tell us how this case came to you.

George: [00:02:13] This is a tragic case. This is a very different case than what I’ve ever worked before. Didn’t include the typical historical bad guy. This is an incident that happened about 6:30 at night during the winter. I get called at home, like usual. Nothing ever happens when I’m working, when it’s convenient.

Yeardley: [00:02:29] It never happens at 2:00 in the afternoon when you’re at your desk.

George: [00:02:32] Very rarely I get those calls. This is your early evening, I get a phone call that there’d been a shooting taking place in an apartment complex in town. The initial call for service was that it was an active shooter. Active shooter is a term that’s really thrown around a lot now. Really, it’s encompasses a lot of different situations. All it means is this isn’t a shooting that took place and the suspect left. This is the suspect is still there shooting people. In our small town, we have maybe five people working, responding to this apartment complex. We got multiple callers saying, “I’m hearing gunshots. People are running around screaming. Something bad happening.” Other agencies in our nearby area have on their radios and the ability to scan our frequency as well. They hear this call for service come in and other neighboring agencies, the local sheriff’s office and the state police. We have a college nearby. The college campus police came running over. The nearby city next to us. Everybody came because it’s a large apartment complex. And it’s really hard to contain a scene like that, not knowing where the shooter is exactly.

[00:03:33] Initially, two officers and a sergeant respond to the scene. It’s a two-story apartment building, multiple buildings in the complex. They are able to pin down where the shots are coming from. They get to the base of the stairs, and I believe at the base of the stairs are initially three people. One person has a gunshot wound to his neck. Another person, I believe, had a gunshot wound to his chest and abdominal area, and one person that had a gunshot wound to his arm.

Yeardley: [00:03:59] Are they dead?

George: [00:03:59] None of these people are dead at this time. They’re in pain, they’re asking for help. One of the victims, actually, I believe used a belt as a tourniquet on one of the other victims to stop the bleeding on the arm. The other person that had the more severe injury to the upper torso area was down and wasn’t able to really do much, and officers began to care for him. Medics initially in a scene like that, they’re not going to roll up right away, and get in the middle of everything until it’s somewhat controlled. They’re not armed. They’re not wearing any kind of ballistic protection. So, until the scene is secured, they’re not going to intervene and get hurt themselves.

[00:04:35] I believe at least one officer, two stayed downstairs with the victims until another officer got there. Three of them went upstairs to the apartment and announced “police” and then forced entry into the apartment. When they got inside, they came across two or three people inside the apartment that were engaged in a struggle. When the officers entered, they weren’t able to tell who was a bystander, who was a victim, who’s a suspect. So, everybody got ordered to the ground and they start handcuffing who they see and trying to evaluate what’s going on. And then, they’re asking, “Where’s the shooter? Where’s the shooter? Who has the gun?” One of the people from downstairs had taken the gun from the shooter, and when they left the apartment, they threw it in the bushes right out in front of the apartment.

Yeardley: [00:05:15] One of the people who got shot had taken the gun?

Dave: [00:05:18] Our three victims who have been struck with gunfire have made their way out of the apartment down the stairs to safety. There’s two others who are present at this gathering, who are now actively fighting with the suspect.

Yeardley: [00:05:31] Trying to contain him.

Dave: [00:05:32] Trying to contain him.

George: [00:05:33] As you can imagine, it’s pretty chaotic and confusing initially. I’m not there, but there’s other officers who are describing to me in person later, as well as in the reports, how chaotic it is. But the common thought is if a person has one gun, they may have access to another. So, they’re going into department thinking this guy may still have another gun, we need to still need to find who he is. As we’re trying to detain people and handcuff people, they end up identifying who the shooter was, the people are pointing, “That’s the guy. That’s the one who had the gun.” Speaking with the officers who initially responded, this guy was out of his mind. He was fighting yelling, screaming, and one of the officers responded to the scene with his patrol rifle, which is an AR-15-style rifle that all police cars have. When police respond to a call like this, one person may have a shotgun, one may have a rifle, and the other officers have their pistols.

[00:06:20] While it’s not necessarily designated who carries what. It’s good to have at least one person with a long rifle. Having that rifle can be helpful, you can shoot accurate from a distance.

Yeardley: [00:06:29] And you distinguish between a shotgun and a rifle?

George: [00:06:32] Completely different style. They both have long barrels, that’s the only thing they really have in common. They shoot different type of ammunition. Shotguns shoot shotgun shells, which have multiple pellets inside, that from a short distance, stay contained but from a further distance spread out more. Where a rifle shoots from a long barrel, a smaller projectile at a higher velocity. It’s more controlled, much more accurate.

Yeardley: [00:06:55] Is that more SWAT style, the rifle?

George: [00:06:57] I think it used to be SWAT style, but given the current climate we live in, it’s typical police carry in every police car now.

Dan: [00:07:04] Really since the North Hollywood shootout.

George: [00:07:06] That’s probably exactly when it became a big deal. Police realized we need to be able to shoot back at these people that are heavily armed from further away. By further away, I mean behind cover and concealment. Shooting a pistol a long distance, you’re not accurate. The barrel of the pistol is very short. The bullet is different, it travels different. You’re not accurate with it. With a rifle, you can maintain cover and concealment, have safety, and also have the penetration to get through a wall and get through an object, a car fender or whatever it is you’re shooting at.

Yeardley: [00:07:34] I see. When you talk about the North Hollywood shootout, you’re talking about that bank robbery, right?

Dan: [00:07:38] Yeah. The two guys with the automatic rifles and body armor.

Dave: [00:07:42] The police, in that instance had to actually go to a gun shop and get weapons that could rival what these bank robbers had.

Dan: [00:07:50] They were completely outgunned.

Dave: [00:07:52] So now, we put rifles in police cars so we don’t have to do that.

Yeardley: [00:07:56] I see.

George: [00:07:56] Any particular call, somebody could have a rifle there. In this incident, one of the officers that enter the apartment had his rifle with him and he has a pistol and a taser and all the other gear on his side. While he goes to confront the suspect, the suspect grabs one hand on the taser and one hand on his gun, which are both holstered. Well, this officer is holding rifle on his hands, so he’s having difficulty controlling the suspect. He’s trying to sling his rifle, push back one hand, that already has the hood of the taser pulled back and the other hand is trying to grab the pistol out of the officer’s holster.

Yeardley: [00:08:27] This suspect is trying to grab the pistol off of the police officer?

George: [00:08:30] Correct. The holstered pistol, because he’s holding the rifle in his hands. The other officers see this. They’re able to knock the suspect to the ground and they start figuring out how to contain this guy, how to control this guy, and he’s not responding to the typical– the police terminology is focused blows, essentially punches. When you say a focused blow, it’s not just a random punch. You’re trying to go to areas of the body where you can cause some pain, get some compliance, but not cause a long-term injury. In this case, focused blows weren’t working. One of the officers use what’s called a “lateral vascular neck restraint.” Some people call it a “chokehold.” Some people call it a “carotid restraint.” A lot of different terms for it, but he was able to apply that successfully, which cut off the blood flow circulation, knocked him out. They’re able to put him to sleep essentially, briefly to handcuff him getting detained. And then, the suspect was able to wake up pretty quickly after that.

Dan: [00:09:20] If you apply that hold effectively and correctly, the person goes out for just a few seconds and then they regain consciousness, but in the meantime, you’re able to handcuff them.

Dave: [00:09:30] They’re really effective, it’s kind of a last resort type thing.

George: [00:09:33] It’s becoming more commonplace to use it now. It used to be right below deadly force. But now, it’s at the same level as taser and punching somebody in use of force view when applied correctly. I respond to the scene. It’s controlled by the time I get there. That’s really, I guess, the only advantage of getting called in. Afterwards, it’s not chaotic as much as it was 15 minutes before. Detective Dave, one or two other detectives and our sergeant, we meet up, and like usual, split up what our roles are. We have two hospitals in town. One detective went to one hospital. I think Dave was first to get to the other hospital. And then, me and another guy went to the same one, because they have multiple victims. Another detective was in charge of processing the scene, securing the scene, photographing, collecting evidence.

Dave: [00:10:19] At this point, we didn’t get the names out of the way. Man in custody is-

George: [00:10:26] Ruben.

Dave: [00:10:27] -Ruben. We’ve got one victim with a gunshot wound to his chest.

George: [00:10:32] And that would be Andre.

Dave: [00:10:34] Okay. And then, we’ve got one with a gunshot wound to the neck or the throat area.

George: [00:10:38] That’d be Alex.

Dave: [00:10:40] And then, one with a gunshot wound to the arm.

George: [00:10:43] That’d be Jeremy.

Yeardley: [00:10:43] What do you do with Ruben, the suspect? Do you take him down to the station and put them in a room to get him to cool off?

George: [00:10:50] Patrol did exactly that. There’s a couple of different options. Sometimes, you can just put them in the back of the car, maybe talk to them briefly, get Miranda out of the way, establish a little bit of a rapport, a little bit of a relationship. He’s freaking out so much, they don’t even want him in the back of the car. They’re bringing him down to one of jail holding cells and say he’s there for right now, he’s monitored, their staff able to watch him, there’s a camera that can keep an eye on him and make sure he’s not going to hurt himself. Let him–

Dave: [00:11:13] Sober up.

George: [00:11:14] Yeah, sober up is what it ended up being.

Yeardley: [00:11:16] Oh, so he was drunk?

George: [00:11:17] Drunk and high.

Yeardley: [00:11:19] Drunk and high.

Dave: [00:11:20] And what was he high on George?

George: [00:11:22] Alcohol, marijuana, and LSD.

Yeardley: [00:11:25] Oh.

George: [00:11:26] While individually taking any number of those may not have a negative effect. When you combine those three in any quantity, you can have a really negative effect on a person’s brain and how their behavior is. Sometimes, LSD itself is bad. When you throw marijuana and alcohol on top of it, and it made for literally a lethal cocktail for multiple people.

Yeardley: [00:11:46] Wow.

George: [00:11:47] All three victims of the shooting were transported to the hospital. Dave initially went to contact Andre. Andre got brought into surgery. He died a couple hours later. Our call for service was at 6:46 PM, and I wasn’t notified of Andre’s death till 1:30 in the morning.

Yeardley: [00:12:05] Oh. Did Andre take the chest wound?

George: [00:12:09] He did.

Yeardley: [00:12:09] Okay. I would have thought the neck wound would also be fatal.

Dave: [00:12:14] He was really lucky.

George: [00:12:16] Extremely lucky. Yeah.

Yeardley: [00:12:17] That’s Alex.

George: [00:12:18] Yes. So, I talked to Alex. Another detective talked to Jeremy at the other hospital.

Yeardley: [00:12:22] Okay.

George: [00:12:23] Alex described a scene that basically– this is a group of friends hanging out, a group of friends that have known each other for years, they go in the park, do these roleplay with foam swords and have these pretend battles.

Dan: [00:12:37] Live action roleplay.

George: [00:12:38] That’s exactly what’s called, LARPing. I didn’t know this term before this case.

Yeardley: [00:12:41] I’d never heard that acronym. So, they’re LARPers?

George: [00:12:44] They are, and generally speaking, go out and have fun, don’t cause any harm to anybody. Just a goofy group of friends that just go out and enjoy each other’s time and do some different stuff.

Yeardley: [00:12:54] I’m assuming the two people that Ruben, the suspect, was fighting within the apartment as well when police arrived are part of the LARPing group?

George: [00:13:02] They are. When I spoke with Alex, he basically said they’d been LARPing earlier in the day, came back, and they were going to have a party that night. Like any other party, everybody was responsible for bringing something. One person brought some LSD, somebody brought some marijuana, somebody brought some alcohol.

Yeardley: [00:13:18] It’s different than chips and dip.

George: [00:13:19] It is. I like to bring chips to parties, for the record, if anybody invites me. I will bring chips.

Yeardley: [00:13:24] [chuckles]

George: [00:13:25] These guys are just wanting to hang out and party and they’re all friends. They’re all getting along. They all come from different various backgrounds. They go to the apartment and they’re hanging out, and they’re drinking and everybody starts smoking some marijuana. That’s in itself, not a huge deal. Marijuana and alcohol mix, not the best, mixing two depressants, and then they start doing LSD. That triggers different reactions on different people. You never know what you’re going to get from LSD.

[00:13:52] Alex said at one point, Ruben started getting kind of weird. Ruben started running around the house, yelling things like, “Are you with me or are you against me?” And they had Nerf guns in the house and they were shooting Nerf guns at each other having some fun with that. But Alex said he noticed a change in Ruben’s behavior. It startled him a little bit and he didn’t know why he was acting the way he was. He kept on asking everybody to go for a walk with him. Everybody seemed uncomfortable with Ruben at that point saying, “No, no. We don’t want to go on a walk. We’re cool here. Thanks.” Ruben disappeared for a minute. He went back towards the bedroom.

Yeardley: [00:14:23] And does Ruben lives in this apartment?

George: [00:14:25] He does. He retreated to his room. About a minute or so later, he emerged from the room and he had a 9-millimeter pistol in his hand.

Yeardley: [00:14:33] An actual gun.

George: [00:14:34] An actual pistol, 9-millimeter handgun.

Yeardley: [00:14:37] Oh, God.

George: [00:14:39] Reuben began pointing that gun at people and challenging people in the room. No longer Nerf gun fighting, no longer kidding around, and he started yelling at people and just started shooting.

Dan: [00:14:48] A real gun.

George: [00:14:49] A real gun. I found out later, he had purchased a gun at a local sporting goods store and he’d gone on shooting it maybe a couple weeks before. He had a semiautomatic pistol.

Yeardley: [00:15:00] That he’s now gone into the bedroom and retrieved and he comes out and start shooting in the apartment?

Dave: [00:15:06] Yeah, that’s exactly what he did. High on LSD with a pistol in their hand.

Yeardley: [00:15:11] Oh, no.

George: [00:15:26] I think Jeremy may have been the first person to see Ruben come out of the room with the gun. He’s like, “Dude, what are you doing? Put that away. You don’t need that.” Ruben punched the guy, Jeremy, and shoots him and ends up hitting Jeremy in the arm. Aims for upper torso area, hits his arm. Everybody else starts reacting to this. Alex was there with his girlfriend. I don’t recall her name. He did a pretty noble thing, I think, in my mind. He tried to protect his girlfriend. People are getting shot at. At one point, Ruben shoots Andre in the chest twice. He’s not even yelling at this point. After he’s yelled something along the lines of, “Are you with me or are you not?” and then, if people didn’t respond, he would start shooting at them. People were confused by what he’s yelling initially, then it’s just gunfire.

[00:16:08] Alex runs over to his girlfriend who’s on the other side of one of the couches, and literally blankets her with his body trying to protect her. Ruben is shooting somewhat blindly. In the process, Alex gets hit in the neck and has a through-and-through wound on the left side of his neck.

Yeardley: [00:16:25] Oh, my God!

George: [00:16:26] It’s unbelievably lucky where he got shot that he wasn’t killed with all the veins and arteries and blood supply it goes to and from the brain and heart there, not to mention–

Dave: [00:16:35] Spinal cord.

George: [00:16:36] Spinal cord, trachea, any number of things. Extremely lucky. I’m speaking with Alex in a hospital room and he is breaking down crying, upset. This is his friend, and he articulates as much, “This is my friend. I don’t know what’s going on. I love him. I don’t know why this is happening.” I finish my interview with him. We collect our evidence, pictures and clothing. Another officer was on the way to the hospital, see what’s going on with Andre.

[00:17:00] I go out to the scene, view the scene, try to piece together with what’s going on with what Alex told me. I wrote a search warrant for the house, and other detectives processed the scene, collecting evidence, taking photographs. We recovered the gun from the bushes. I talked to Detective Dave, talked to two other detectives who spoke to the victims and then we’re like, “Okay, now we have a good picture of what happened.” Everybody has the same story. Stories are very similar. There’s no inconsistency here.

[00:17:24] After all that’s done, I decided to take a shot at interviewing Ruben. I walk over to the jail cell he’s in, he’s calmed down at that point. He’s still stationed in a holding cell. I walk him over to an interview room and sit down and talk with him. He looks confused and bewildered, not knowing what’s going on. He really has a look on his face of, “I have no idea why I’m here.” He wants to ask as many questions as I have of him.

[eerie music]

Ruben: [00:17:56] I asked a couple of times, I don’t think I fully know what happened.

George: [00:18:00] Okay. Well, that’s I want to talk to you about. Tell me why do you think you’re here?

Ruben: [00:18:05] Well, what I can remember in my friends, I was taking a bunch of drugs with my friends.

George: [00:18:12] What kind of drugs did you take?

Ruben: [00:18:13] I took LSD.

George: [00:18:15] How did you take that?

Ruben: [00:18:16] I took it in a gel tablet. It was new to me. [unintelligible] I took them to get out with my friends. And the last thing I remember is feeling– I was about to go on a walk with a bunch of my friends and then somewhere around there, I don’t remember a lot until I was being held down and screaming with somebody. And then–

George: [00:18:37] Who’s that somebody now?

Ruben: [00:18:39] I think it was my buddy, [beep]. Okay. And then, I got brought here at some point, that I kind of remember.

George: [00:18:47] Right. Let’s go back to earlier in the day then. Before you took the drugs. Where were you hanging out at?

Ruben: [00:18:56] Just at my house.

George: [00:18:57] Okay, what’s your address?

I don’t want to give him too much information about what I do know, because I need to hear from him those details. I can maybe fill in some blanks with him later. So, my interview was a lot of, “Tell me what you remember.”

Dave: [00:19:09] George’s being cautious with this because he’s got a couple of hurdles that a defense attorney might bring up. One is this intoxication, what Ruben’s under the influence of. Suspect’s in an altered state of mind, and later on, a defense attorney could bring that up that this person, they’re not in that capacity mentally to really appreciate the circumstances they’re in.

Dan: [00:19:31] Or give you a credible statement.

Dave: [00:19:33] Right. And then, the other issue, and you see it fairly often in highly publicized cases, is some suggestion that the detective is feeding this person info or they’re leading the witness or leading the suspect and providing them with information that they otherwise would have no idea about. So, George’s trying to corroborate the facts of the night, not introduce or make Ruben feel like, “Hey, I’m giving you this, now give me the rest of the story.” We don’t want any of that to happen. We want it from him.

Yeardley: [00:20:03] Right.

George: [00:20:04] Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, for all the reasons Detective Dave mentioned. The intoxication is the interesting part. It’s important that Reuben tells me that he voluntarily smoked marijuana, used LSD and drank alcohol, because if he says, “Hey, I just had some beer. And I don’t know what happened. Somebody spiked my drink. Somebody put LSD in my drink,” whatever, that’s a lot tougher hurdle to overcome later to show intent. When somebody voluntarily intoxicates and they end up doing something, that’s on them. I didn’t spike your drink and cause you to go out there and shoot people. I did it on my own. I knew what I was doing. So, we talked a lot about drug use, alcohol use and the dangers of that before we get into the incident that happened. I didn’t get into the gun part for quite a while. I think if you use the word murder, kill, shoot, gun, that scares people. Especially if he genuinely is having trouble remembering what happened, I throw those words out, they’re going to shut them down. I play soft initially just to get his perspective of what happened.

George: [00:21:01] So, you remember hanging out, [unintelligible] partying, did you have drinks tonight?

Ruben: [00:21:08] Yeah, I had a shot right before my dose of acid, otherwise it’s just–

George: [00:21:15] One shot of vodka?

Ruben: [00:21:17] [crosstalk] -spiced rum.

George: [00:21:18] Okay. That’s why I ask. So, one shot of spiced rum and then took a gel tab of the acid. Is it LSD, do you call it– it doesn’t matter what it is, or just call it acid?

Ruben: [00:21:31] I don’t know, maybe–[crosstalk]

George: [00:21:32] [crosstalk]

Ruben: [00:21:33] A set of four doses is what they told me anyway.

George: [00:21:38] Okay, so these are the four doses at four dabs?

Ruben: [00:21:41] I think so.

George: [00:21:42] Okay. You remember taking about four tabs after the shot of spiced rum. What do you remember after that?

Ruben: [00:21:47] So, the party continued, and it was just a slow digest where I demanded we put all the Nerf guns away.

George: [00:21:58] You guys had been playing Nerf guns earlier in the day?

Ruben: [00:22:00] Yeah. [crosstalk]

George: [00:22:01] Where did you do that at?

Ruben: [00:22:02] At my house.

George: [00:22:03] Okay, so you’re playing around with Nerf guns shooting each other. Is that kind of a hiding and shooting thing? Or what’s the premise of that game?

Ruben: [00:22:11] Just live action roleplay thing.

George: [00:22:15] Okay. So, you’ve been playing Nerf guns earlier in the day, you get some drinks, do some acid and then you say what about the Nerf guns?

Ruben: [00:22:27] Well, that’s where my mind kind of gets hazy. I knew I was getting kind of messed up. So, I was like, “Let’s put the guns down, all relax,” and sitting and talking. But I remember getting up thinking, I was going to go on a walk and wanted a dab of weed, and I went to do those two things. That’s about I remember taking a dab, and then after that my memory kind of goes out for a while.

George: [00:22:53] And you’re taking a dab, you’re talking about– well, how are you taking a dab?

Ruben: [00:22:56] A dab, it’s made of dab oil for weed.

George: [00:23:01] Okay, describe for me what that is when you’re dab–[crosstalk]

Ruben: [00:23:04] I use a device with like a little needle or something, a nail to pick up on the dab. And then, you put it into the hot bowl piece.

George: [00:23:13] Okay, and you’re smoking that?

Ruben: [00:23:14] Hmm.

George: [00:23:14] Okay. So, you smoked the dab.

Ruben: [00:23:17] Yeah.

George: [00:23:17] And it’s like a glass pipe or something?

Ruben: [00:23:20] It’s just normal purple plastic piece, you know?

George: [00:23:25] Okay. Where is that? Where are you smoking that?

Ruben: [00:23:29] This is my front room.

George: [00:23:30] Okay, in the house.

Ruben: [00:23:31] In my house.

George: [00:23:31] Okay. Did you leave the house at any point you remember?

Ruben: [00:23:33] Not that I remember. I don’t actually know how I got to here.

George: [00:23:36] The police brought you here. At some point, they came into the house and got you.

Ruben: [00:23:41] I do remember, I think, a piece of that.

George: [00:23:43] What do you remember about that?

Ruben: [00:23:44] I remember feeling restrained at one point, and I wasn’t sure what it was. I remember really trying to fight back out of it, like really hard.

Yeardley: [00:23:56] How many hours have passed since his initial arrest and now you’re questioning him? Like, is he sobered up?

George: [00:24:02] He is on his way to sobering up. Yeah, he’s not sober. This is probably about three hours into it.

Yeardley: [00:24:07] Okay.

Ruben: [00:24:08] Can I ask one of my questions?

George: [00:24:10] Yes, go ahead.

Ruben: [00:24:10] Did somebody get hurt?

George: [00:24:12] Yes, some people got hurt tonight. Things got kind of crazy at the party.

Ruben: [00:24:16] Did people get shot?

George: [00:24:18] Yeah, people got shot.

Ruben: [00:24:19] I shot people.

George: [00:24:20] Mm-hmm.

Ruben: [00:24:21] Oh, God.

George: [00:24:22] Do you own a gun?

Ruben: [00:24:23] I do.

George: [00:24:24] Okay, what kind of gun do you own?

Ruben: [00:24:25] Nine-millimeter.

George: [00:24:27] Okay. And you’re okay to own a gun, right? You’re not a felon or anything like that? Where did you buy the gun from?

Ruben: [00:24:34] Bought it from [beep] a few years back. Did I really hurt somebody?

George: [00:24:41] Well, there’s some people got shot tonight. That’s why I want to try to get to what you remember about what happened leading up to it. And I’m hoping you can help fill in some blanks for me with your best memory. Because a lot of times people get in a situation, they’re drinking and using drugs, people do those things. I understand that. I’m not judging or something like that. But sometimes things get out of control at some point. I don’t know if you’re the type of guy who just wants to go hurt everybody. Or, you’re just the guy who probably had too much alcohol, too much drugs tonight and things got out of control.

Ruben: [00:25:17] I don’t know what I was doing.

George: [00:25:18] I’m not sure either. That’s why I’m hoping, as we sit here and talk, you’re able to kind of go through your mind about what you remember. Sometimes, it’s just bits and pieces. You may not remember everything clearly. But if we can remember bits and pieces, fill in some blanks.

[eerie music]

George: [00:25:37] We talked a lot about drug use, alcohol use, and the dangers of that before we get into the incident that happened. “Hey, you know what happens when you drink alcohol?” “Yeah.” “What happens?” And he tells me. “What happens when you do LSD?” “Well, it’s really weird, it’s real. I’m out of my mind.” “Okay. Is it a good idea to take all those at one time?” “Well, no, it’s a really bad idea.” It’s good to lay that foundation to show he knows right from wrong. He knows what happens when he takes these things and it wasn’t just his buddies slipping them something in his drink.

Yeardley: [00:26:04] And he had taken LSD before, so he was familiar with that.

George: [00:26:07] Yes. This is the first time he had taken all three at the same time.

Yeardley: [00:26:10] Oh, bad idea.

George: [00:26:12] Really bad, and he said as much. He goes, “That’s bad idea. I shouldn’t have done that,” before we even talked about the consequences of what happened. I spent a lot of time establishing that and make sure he understood, we talked about everything from work, to TV, to movies to show that he’s coherent, that he’s not just drunk and answering my questions with whatever I want to hear. They do a good job of training us to how to do that and point out the right and wrong ways of interviewing people. I don’t want to add memories to his own memory. I want him to just give me what he has himself first. I think Ruben’s being very honest with me about everything he doesn’t remember, because I do know what use of those substances will do to your brain. I don’t feel he’s being deceitful to me. I don’t think he’s trying to hide anything from me. He’s struggling to remember what happened.

George: [00:27:07] We finally get an order of events of what happened, and he’s pretty exhausted by end of this conversation. I said, “Hey, let’s just take a break. You go get some sleep and we’ll talk some more about this later.” We just sent Ruben back to a holding cell to get some sleep. The holding cell is a very hard room. There’s a toilet, a bench, and a mirror, and nothing there.

Yeardley: [00:27:27] A mirror?

Dave: [00:27:28] It’s a polished stainless-steel mirror. It’s not a true mirror. You can see a reflection but–

Yeardley: [00:27:34] You can’t break it and use it as a weapon to cut your wrists or anything.

George: [00:27:38] Most importantly, yeah.

Dave: [00:27:39] Right.

George: [00:27:39] At this point, Andre isn’t dead yet. He’s in surgery, and they’re working on him. He has gunshot wounds to his lungs and his liver. He’s not dead. And we’re investigating the shooting itself, but it’s looking bad. We’re being told by the doctors it looks bad.

Dave: [00:27:51] George, the following morning when you reinterview Ruben, now Andre has since died?

George: [00:27:57] Yes.

Dan: [00:27:57] Now that Ruben’s had some sleep, is his memory better?

George: [00:28:01] Yeah.

[eerie music]

George: [00:28:06] How are you feeling physically?

Ruben: [00:28:08] Beat up.

George: [00:28:09] Beat up. Does your throat hurt?

Ruben: [00:28:11] [crosstalk]

George: [00:28:14] Okay.How else are you doing other than that? Not sure? All right. Do you remember some more about what happened last night?

Ruben: [00:28:30] I’m just trying to think about it a lot.

George: [00:28:34] Okay.

Ruben: [00:28:36] I just think [unintelligible] my head [beep] like here.

George: [00:28:42] Yeah.

Ruben: [00:28:42] I remember hearing, I think, my buddy [beep] screaming in the background. I think I might have shot him.

George: [00:28:50] Do you think you might have shot him? Why do you think you might have shot [beep]?

Ruben: [00:28:54] He was screaming.

George: [00:28:55] Okay.

Ruben: [00:28:56] I remember hearing somebody say, “You just shot me,” at one point.

George: [00:29:01] We’ll go back to the beginning a little bit again. Kind of go back through how things progressed and how things went. I remember you telling me you had something to drink. You told me you had a drink.

Ruben: [00:29:12] Yeah. So, the night started or the day started with normal errands, because we went to go get some food.

George: [00:29:18] At the end, he’s able to articulate that he’s out of his mind, he’s having several recollections what happened that night.

Ruben: [00:29:24] And then, I started to get later, I don’t know what time, but I wanted to go on a walk. Someone suggested and I thought was a good idea. While we were doing that, I remember getting kind of emotional, talking about people being the best they can. And then, I took a dab and then I was supposed to go on a walk, but blacked out right after taking that extra dab.

George: [00:29:52] Okay. When you say blackout, what does that mean to you?

Ruben: [00:29:55] I feel my memory kind of go very hazy. I just fade into more like feelings or moments.

George: [00:30:07] Just a little bit ago, you said you remembered one of those moments.

Ruben: [00:30:10] WhatI remember coming to is, I can remember standing and talking to somebody, but they were like on me. I remember trying to pull them over me. I fade in again [beep] about here. And I was wrapped around him, and he’s talking to me and I’m screaming. I think I can hear [beep] screaming somewhere. And then later, I felt like I was getting really heavily restrained, or maybe kicked, I feel like I was getting kicked. I was on the ground, I remember seeing blood and hearing somebody say, “You just shot me,” or something like that.

George: [00:30:57] He keeps on referring to The Punisher. I have no idea what The Punisher is.

Ruben: [00:31:02] I went through a lot of weird thought between all the stuff that’s hazy that I thought– I was going to do a job kind of thing. I kept thinking like I was Frank Castle from The Punisher. I remember thinking that they were going to kill me, I remember saying, “You better kill me. Or let me go or something, you better kill me.” And in my head, I remember thinking that I was supposed to be tough like Frank Castle. I don’t know why. I felt really–

George: [00:31:37] I don’t know what that means. So, I have to later google what Frank Castle and The Punisher is, and it’s a comic book character and his nickname’s The Punisher, Frank Castle is the character. And he’s a punisher, that’s what he goes around killing people.

Yeardley: [00:31:50] So, this is part of the LARPing.

George: [00:31:53] I don’t know if that was really part of LARPing or that’s just something he brought in as he’s a comic book reader, he watches this TV show with Frank Castle, The Punisher, and he envisioned himself as, “I’m this guy.” And he kept on saying it, “Because I kept on thinking, I’m Frank Castle, I’m The Punisher. I have a job to do.” He’d talk about, “I remember feeling like I had a gun. I don’t remember it. I remember reaching for my gun. And I remember people yelling, ‘You shot me.’” And I think it really is scrambled in his brain. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m a human lie detector and I can tell you when people are lying and deceitful all the time. But in my mind, I think he was being very honest with me about what he recalled. And you can tell by the way he was presenting it to me. He was really scattered and jumping all over the place. He would have emotional breakdowns, when he’s trying to recall things and he would start crying and thinking about, “Oh, my God, what did I do? Did I hurt somebody?” Finally, we got to the point where I told him, “Yeah. Here’s what happened.”

[in recording]

George: [00:32:44] Well, you shot three people last night.

Ruben: [00:32:46] No. [sobbing] What did I do?

George: [00:32:51] Do you remember shooting [beep]?

Ruben: [00:32:54] I remember I was shooting him, but he [unintelligible].

George: [00:32:57] And that’s because you heard him screaming?

Ruben: [00:32:59] Screaming.

George: [00:33:01] What if I told you, you shot [beep], you shot [beep], and you shot [beep].

Ruben: [00:33:06] What did I do? [sobbing]

George: [00:33:07] They got hit in multiple places on their bodies.

Ruben: [00:33:12] [unintelligible] [sobbing]

George: [00:33:13] Right now [beep] he is getting treated in the hospital. And he’s got, I think, at least one gunshot wound he’s getting treated for.

Ruben: [00:33:21] Where did he get shot?

George: [00:33:23] Well, [beep] he got hit in the upper body. He’s getting treated in the hospital. [beep] got shot, and he got shot in the throat.

Ruben: [00:33:30] [breathing heavily]

George: [00:33:31] And he’s getting treated in the hospital right now. Getting medical care or trying to get medical care.

Ruben: [00:33:39] What about [beep]?

George: [00:33:40] You killed him.

Ruben: [00:33:43] What? [beep], oh, no. [breathing heavily and sobbing] Where did I shoot him?

George: [00:33:54] Upper body.

Ruben: [00:33:58] [breathing heavily] Oh, my God.

[recording ends]

George: [00:34:06] By this point, Ruben’s family was aware of what was going on. Mom and Dad, they’re in the lobby of the police station and wanted to know what’s going on. So, we made the unconventional decision to allow Ruben to speak to his family.

Yeardley: [00:34:19] Why is that unconventional?

George: [00:34:21] It just typically doesn’t happen in that order necessarily while we have somebody at the police station. I feel we got as much of a confession as possible to this case. We weren’t going to gain anything more from Ruben. I didn’t see harm in letting his family talk to him. Sometimes, there’s a harm in introducing a family member, a loved one, that either will give the suspect good advice or bad advice, or there would be a negative effect of him talking to mom, and you never know what’s going to come of that.

Yeardley: [00:34:49] Is it twofold where defense attorney could say that relative influenced my client and/or for your case, that relative could say, “You should get a lawyer and clam up”?

George: [00:35:01] Sure. That’s exactly the risk, but I think at the point where we decided to let them speak, I wasn’t worried about that risk. I felt we got everything that Ruben genuinely remembered. If they told him to get a lawyer, then so be it. We’re done anyway. If they tell him, “You better talk more,” that may be litigated in court later. But I’ve had other cases before because the boyfriend or the girlfriend, and after they both get them talking, and we let the boyfriend the girlfriend talk, and maybe we get more information out of it. We tell everybody upfront, “Hey, by the way, these rooms are being video/audio recorded. So, anything you say, can be used as evidence later.” So, they’re careful enough not to do anything stupid.

Dan: [00:35:38] And it’s not a hidden camera in there either. It’s pretty prominent.

George: [00:35:40] They know what’s going on. We let them speak for probably about half hour, 35 minutes, and it was really emotional for everybody involved. I’m not trying to exploit the family in this, but they’re all very emotionally broke down, crying, they were upset. They love their son. They recognize he did something bad, but they’re trying to support him as best they could.

Yeardley: [00:35:58] Yeah. When we were listening to this recording earlier, he was just terribly, terribly sad. And at this point, we should tell our listeners that Ruben is pretty hoarse and whispery, so we’ll paraphrase.

[recording starts] [background noise]

Ruben: [00:36:30] I don’t remember a lot of last night.

Father: [00:36:34] Said you guys were on acid, huh?

Ruben: [00:36:37] I’m sorry.

Father: [00:36:38] How longyou’ve been doing that?

Ruben: [00:36:40] Not very long. It was a while now. This is the very first time in a long time. I just wanted to hang out with people.

Yeardley: [00:36:50] Ruben says to his dad, that he’s done acid a couple of times before, but not regularly. And at the end of the day, he just wanted to hang out with his friends.

Father: [00:37:00] Any idea what sets you off?

Ruben: [00:37:02] I have no idea. I don’t get angry on anybody like that. I never wanted to hurt somebody like that. They say I just walked out of my room and just started shooting people.

Father: [00:37:24] I still love you.

Ruben: [00:37:25] I love you too.

Yeardley: [00:37:26] Ruben’s dad asks him what set him off in the night of the shooting, and Ruben says he doesn’t know, that he never wanted to hurt anybody. And the dad says, “I still love you.”

[eerie music]

George: [00:37:43] It was one of the few cases I’ve had where it seems like it’s not a random act of violence. I think it’s a tragedy, is a best way to put it. These are people that made some bad decisions, and knew what they’re doing to a certain point. And maybe by the grace of God, not all of them got shot or somebody else didn’t do some stupid. Only one of them did.

Dave: [00:38:01] Sober, non-hallucinating Ruben is not the type of young man who would have grabbed a gun and started shooting his best friends.

George: [00:38:09] According to everyone, he was not a threat to anybody, and I truly believe that. Some people have that in them. You could tell that they’re a jerk anyway, they’re violent anyway. You give them a beer and they just turn into more of a jerk. This wasn’t the case with Ruben. This just brought out something else in him. That’s the dangers of mixing different types of drugs and alcohol. This affected the family’s lives a lot. We did the typical reach-out, asked the public anybody know anything, anybody have anything to offer. We learned there’s a community of people are just friends. They meet in the park, they play and they have a good time. And this affected a lot of people because a lot of people knew Ruben, or they knew Andre, they knew Jeremy. This isn’t a PSA for DARE or anything like that. If you’re going to do something, be cognizant of what the effects could be.

Dan: [00:39:08] I remember watching when the father was talking to Ruben. The father is basically telling the son, “You’re going to be accountable for this and you’re going to be a man about it.”

Father: [00:39:19] You’re just going to have to accept of the consequences.

Ruben: [00:39:22] I know.

Father: [00:39:22] So, you know. It’s just depending on how they charge you, whether it’s murder or manslaughter, or [unintelligible]

Ruben: [00:39:36] I’m going to go to jail.

Father: [00:39:37] You’re going to jail for a very long time. I don’t know where that is even at. It could be anywhere. It could be anywhere. It could be [unintelligible].

Ruben: [00:39:52] [breathing heavily]

Father: [00:39:55] Right now, you need to just calm down and make sure you [unintelligible]. Cooperate 100% for whatever they need you to do or say. Don’t hide anything because if it comes out in the long run, which makes it worse.

Ruben: [00:40:17] I agree.

Father: [00:40:19] And then, we’ll just see. It can be years before we get to hang out and do stuff.

Ruben: [00:40:29] I know.

[recording ends]

Yeardley: [00:40:33] It kills me when the dad says, “It’ll be years before we can hang out and do stuff together.” And then, Ruben just loses it.

Dan: [00:40:41] Yeah, that was pretty emotional for me to watch that because this father knows exactly what he’s saying to his son and what that means for their family. But it was the right thing to do.

George: [00:40:53] I think a lot of parents, fathers would tell them, “We’re going to fight this. We’re going to argue this. You don’t need to go to jail.” This father was the exception. He said, “There needs to be accountability.” Ruben said earlier to me before the father too, “I need to be held accountable. I should be arrested for murder.” He was raised that way. DA called and said he’s going to plead, so we went to court a couple days later, maybe even the next week, because there’s formalities and paperwork and stuff that has to get done. And Ruben came in and pled straight up to murder, and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, which is the standard in our state.

Yeardley: [00:41:25] Was that emotional for him?

George: [00:41:27] It was. It was emotional for everybody in the courtroom. Some of his friends were there that day, some of the victims were there. They were upset, but they also shared how much they cared for him and forgave him. They didn’t see Ruben as some horrible person who was just trying to victimize people. They saw it for what it was. But that being said, it’s still a murder. It’s still an intentional act to a certain point, when he made the choices he made to get to that point of intoxication and having a gun.

Yeardley: [00:41:55] George, I know that you have two kids.

George: [00:41:58] I had a conversation with my kids the next day. I don’t give them details, names, locations, nothing. But the world we live in now, it’s on the news that night, it’s on social media, it’s on their Twitter accounts. They have an idea what’s going on, they heard some stuff about what’s happening. I flat out told them, “I don’t expect you guys to be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes in life. You may smoke marijuana. You may drink alcohol, I don’t know. I’m going to raise the best way I can to not make bad decisions. But sometimes people do, but learn from this. Learn from somebody else’s mistakes or tragedies.” These were good kids. I told my kids, “Hey, you guys are good kids. All it takes is one bad mistake to get into it. And this is why over the years I say, “Hey, don’t do this, or don’t do that. Don’t smoke marijuana. Don’t drink alcohol. Your body doesn’t know what to do with it.” Especially at a young age with one of those substances, but if you start mixing three at a developing age, you’re really asking your brain to take on too much. And they understood and they’re receptive to it.

[00:42:52] I’m probably more strict with my kids than some of my friends who aren’t in my line of work. But I try not to be too overreaching with it. I try to give them the trust and tell them, “Hey, here’s what I expect of you.” And there’s a consequence if they mess up. But I tried to give them some leeway and some freedoms to make bad decisions. And they do. My kids aren’t perfect. They’ve made bad decisions. Nothing tragic. They’ve always learned from their bad decisions. It’s too late for Ruben to learn from his bad decision.

Yeardley: [00:43:18] And it’s too late for Andre.

George: [00:43:19] It’s too late for Andre. At least, Jeremy and Alex can move on. I hope my kids will never get in that situation where that type of tragic level of bad decision making happens. It scares you, as a parent. It’s tough. [chuckles]  

Yeardley: [00:43:30] I bet. Especially you say you’re stricter than maybe a lot of the other dads that you know, but you also see a lot more than the other dads.

George: [00:43:38] That’s my excuse for being strict, and they know it.

Yeardley: [00:43:41] I think it’s fair.

Dan: [00:43:42] Are you strict though, or there’s an expectation of behavior and the knowledge that there are consequences if you don’t meet those expectations?

George: [00:43:52] Yeah, I think it’s more of that.

Dan: [00:43:53] Because it’s not like you rule with an iron fist.

Yeardley: [00:43:56] It’s accountability.

George: [00:43:57] It’s about respect. I will respect your decision to do these things as long as you respect my decisions. And if I say this, understand it’s for a reason. It’s not me trying to be the biggest jerk in the world. But you need to see these things over the years, you try to see your kids’ interaction to at least try to avoid some of these things from happening. They’re in college now. I’m not naive enough to think that they’re not going to have a drink of beer sometime under the age of 21. I just hope that it doesn’t get to a point where they mix other things with it, or they have too much alcohol or do something else that gets them in trouble. I know people make mistakes and make bad decisions. But I see it as a respect thing. I want them to respect my decision and understand I’d be disappointed if they did something that I didn’t want them to do. You actually learn from cases like this, normal, nice people sometimes make one tragic decision that leads to a tragedy for a lot of people, how it affects a lot of people and their families.

Yeardley: [00:44:48] Are you still in touch with Ruben’s parents? Did they ever get in touch with you?

George: [00:44:53] I haven’t spoken with them since the day he pled guilty. Met them in court that day, just a really brief cordial interaction with them. And then, we went our separate ways. I haven’t seen anybody since this. Anybody in this case. It’s weird. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. This is one of those, I’ll make that one, that reminder, a whole lot, they don’t want to see me. Whether it’s a thank you or just run into them in the grocery store type thing, which is the risk of living in a small community. You do that sometimes.

Yeardley: [00:45:19] They stand behind you in line at Starbucks.

George: [00:45:21] You never know who you’re standing next to. I think Dan and Dave both will agree, but you could be waiting in line at the grocery store and somebody’d walk up to you, “Hey, you remember me?” Your first thing you think of, “Okay, where do you know me from? Is it good or bad? Did I arrest you? Were you a victim or you just somebody I dated 20 years ago?”

Yeardley: [00:45:21] [laughs] Wow, George, you’re right. That’s not your typical murder investigation. Thank you so much. We always love having you.

Dan: [00:45:47] Really appreciate it, George.

George: [00:45:48] Thank you for having me.


Yeardley: [00:45:58] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and co-produced by detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Logan Heftel, Gary Scott and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate produces are Erin Gaynor and The Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. And our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.

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