January 09, 2013 - A domestic violence case took a lethal turn, Jan. 6, when a deputy shot an Independence Township man after he threatened to stab her and another officer.
"Domestic disputes are one of the most dangerous situations for deputies – they're very unpredictable," said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. "Thankfully we're able to bring most to a peaceful solution but unfortunately sometimes we're not left with a lot of options."
According to police reports, Jeremy Rucinski, 38, threatened his girlfriend, a 35-year-old Independence Township woman, with a switchblade knife , 2:54 p.m., Jan. 6. He demanded his cigarettes, which she had hidden from him. She called police after barricading herself in a bathroom in their home in the 6900 block of Rattalee Lake Road.
Deputies arrived and found the woman in the house – she told them Rucinski was in the attached garage. Two deputies were inside the home with the woman and two were just outside the garage when Rucinski opened the overhead garage door, pulled out the switchblade, threatened the deputies, and then moved toward them with knife in hand.
Deputies repeatedly ordered Rucinski to drop the knife. One of the deputies shot him with a Taser but he didn't stop. The other deputy shot Rucinski once with her service pistol to protect herself and the other deputy, Bouchard said.
The deputy who fired the lethal shot was placed on administrative leave as Special Investigations Unit checks it out, as is standard procedure in cases where lethal force is used, Bouchard said.
"It's still early, but initially this looks straightforward," he said.
According to the "21 foot rule," a person with a knife is a threat within 21 feet – a person can close that distance and attack in less than 2 seconds.
"He was 6-10 feet away," Bouchard said.
The sheriff declined to identify the deputy, but said she has been with the Sheriff's Office for 8 ½ years.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of all involved," Bouchard said. "We support the deputy – even if there's no choice, it's a struggle whenever you use deadly force."
Rucinski was treated at the scene by deputies and Independence Township paramedics, and taken to Genesys Hospital where he was pronounced dead. His girlfriend told deputies he was very agitated for the last several days and on medication.
Domestic violence as well as suicide cases are definitely up over the last couple of years, Bouchard said.
"Maybe it's the economy, the anxiety of the times," he said.
Recent domestic violence cases in Independence Township include Tyler Douglas Colby, 19, of Independence Township, who is in Oakland County Jail charged with breaking his father's skull with a hammer.
Colby allegedly attacked his father in his sleep at their home in the 5200 block of N. Ridge Trail, 3:35 a.m., Dec. 28.
Colby was arrested at the scene. The father, who was conscious when deputies arrived, suffered a skull fracture and broken bones in his arm and hand, and was operated on at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. The suspect was taken to McLaren Oakland for treatment of a drug overdose.
Colby was arraigned in 52-2 District Court, Dec. 29, for Assault with Intent to Murder, a felony punishable with up to life in prison. He remains in jail on "No Bond / No Contact with immediate family."
A 41-year-old Independence Township man was arrested for domestic violence and two outstanding felony warrants after a 15-year-old girl called police for help, 7:37 p.m., Dec. 28.
The girl called police while hiding in a closet as her mother, a 41-year-old Independence Township resident, argued with the suspect, her boyfriend.
She and her mother then fled their home and met with deputies. Giving the officers a key and permission to search, deputies found the suspect hiding in a closet in the master bedroom. A warrant request for domestic violence was reviewed but denied.
Deputies shot with a Taser a combative 33-year-old Independence Township man, 2:15 a.m., Dec. 29. Officers had responded to a domestic violence report in the 5000 block of N. Marshbank. Deputies separated the couple, and the male left the residence. A short time later, deputies were sent back because he had returned and was threatening the female. When deputies attempted to enter the home, the suspect opened the door and became combative with deputies and they Tasered him. He was jailed for resisting and obstruction of justice.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.