Taking the stand as a witness and testifying is a terrifying experience. It ranks somewhere between a root canal, and some horrible form of emotional torture. It has to be even worse when the person you are standing up to or testifying against is a member of law enforcement. That badge, that gun, and that power are intimidating. Therefore, when I have the opportunity to see someone do something that courageous, I can’t help but want to tell about it. Today I can’t help but want to tell you all about Ms. Erin Wood of Quinton Oklahoma.
Erin Wood was in a dating relationship, which she thought was exclusive with Larry Ruiz, then the Chief of the Quinton Police Department. On the 29th of July, Erin Wood filed a Petition for Protective Order against Larry Ruiz in the Pittsburg County District Court. Today that matter came on for hearing, and Erin Wood stood up proudly for herself, all women who deserve to be from stalking and harassment, and the town of Quinton.
A few months ago, we told you about the Town of Quinton and its (then) Police Chief Larry Ruiz. We told you how a court took the rare step of declaring that Mr. Ruiz was in fact NOT a witness that any court can rely on given his previous guilty pleas in felony and misdemeanor criminal complaints that involve dishonesty, and his nine previous filings for protective orders against him in Oklahoma alone.
We told you how those Petitions all had a similar pattern, filed by a person that had been or was in a relationship with Ruiz, they tried to get away or break up with him, he used tactics of intimidation, caused injuries to his victim, then the person did not show for court or had the matter dismissed before a final order of protection. One Petition described how he was angry when his ex-wife did not lie to the court about how she received her broken ribs. According to the Petition, he wanted her to claim she broke her ribs over a chair, rather than being punched numerous times as she had told police. Ms. Wood’s Petition for Protective Order was the tenth time Larry Ruiz has had one requested against him in Oklahoma.
Around the 16th of July, Erin Wood found out that her boyfriend of about eight months, Larry Ruiz, had recently gotten married. She texted him and immediately broke off their relationship. After she texted him, he messaged back inquiring what might be wrong, as if he were trying to mend the relationship with her. She ignored his messages, relying on her request to be left alone. However, being left alone by Larry Ruiz is apparently not something that happens to former wives and girlfriends, which becomes apparent when one starts reading the harrowing public record accounts of his prior victims.
Ruiz began driving by her house and her son’s daycare. Ruiz was the Chief of Quinton and did do patrols. He had also driven by Ms. Wood’s home many times before they had broken up, but these new “patrols” were different. He was no longer waiving out the window of his city-issued patrol vehicle as he zipped by. No, now he was driving by very slowly, instead of waving he was pointing, and instead of smiling, he was grimacing. Erin wasn’t the only person that saw it happen, her friends did too. Also, Larry wasn’t driving by just once or twice but multiple times a day, slowly, pointing, menacing.
She was afraid. She had tried to break up with him before and had been subjected to these intimidation tactics, and had gone back to him. However, this time she was determined that it should be different. She knew he could be frightening and scary. He made her uncomfortable when they were dating many times. He tried repeatedly through a text conversation to get her to agree to engage in a sexual act with his dog.
He even sent her pictures of himself grabbing his own dog’s penis and sending it to her during a conversation about animal sex. (Although lengthy text conversations preserved through screenshots exist of this conversation, we could not publish them. The language, links, and photographs Mr. Ruiz sent to Ms. Wood are far too graphic and difficult to view, we chose not to include those pictures with this story) She knew he had a dark side and that worried her to wonder what he was capable of, and these slow drive-by shows of power made her worry more.
Today she confronted the same bully that Margret Kendrick confronted in her own ordeal with the City of Quinton, Larry Ruiz. Wood testified that Ruiz made her feel threatened and intimidated. She talked about a feeling that is way too familiar for most women, that fear that comes over you when a man is trying to intimidate you. When a man is trying to make you feel afraid and small. When a man wants you to stop standing up to him and cower, and maybe even drop a protective order against him, which has happened at least nine other times in Oklahoma for Larry Ruiz. Erin Wood did not do that today.
When she was asked in cross-examination if Larry Ruiz was just simply doing his job and patrolling the town, he was chief in, she explained the difference. He wasn’t patrolling her street; he was stalking her. Counsel for Mr. Ruiz ended his cross-examination of Ms. Wood by asking several questions about Mr. Ruiz’s CLEET Certificate.
Mr. Ruiz cannot work in law enforcement in Oklahoma without his CLEET certification. If the court entered a final order of protection, he would likely lose his CLEET Certification and would have to find employment other than law enforcement. Currently, it is believed that Mr. Ruiz is on paid leave with the City of Quinton after the city determined in a closed meeting to suspend the Chief. Today he was in court obviously concerned about that CLEET license and his ability to get another job in law enforcement.
The Court did find that Larry Ruiz both harassed and stalked Erin Wood based upon the testimony she and another witness gave in regard to the behaviors of Larry Ruiz. The judge issues an “interim” order of three months. Because this was not a final order, Mr. Ruiz will most likely retain his CLEET Certification and make him eligible for another small town to hire.
We could not be prouder of Ms. Wood and to have represented her. She showed strength and resilience in the face of unimaginable circumstances, the same or similar circumstances that led to someone giving up or quitting nine other times. We are obviously concerned that people who do these things can still be officers of the peace – sworn to protect and serve. When do we finally say enough is enough?