Law Enforcement Death Threats
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
A Palatka police officer has been threatened, and the department are taking it seriously. The threat is out there for all to see. The bad guys are doing it with spray paint. While police aren't taking it lightly, they aren't backing down.
Corporal Pete Ruiz is in charge of the Palatka police gang unit. But several weeks ago, he became the target. Although it takes some translating, there's no mixed message. The wall reads "187 on Ruiz". 187 is Los Angeles police code for homicide.
"Is it something that I need to fear?" asks Ruiz. "Of course. Anyone would, especially having a family."
The gang unit was formed almost six months ago, and within three months identified several dozen gang members and made six arrests. It was so successful, Ruiz was put back on patrol. But two weeks after the original threat, the same message was spray-painted a few blocks away. And so, Palatka police are cracking down again.
"Do I look over my shoulder?" asks Ruiz. "Sure I do. Have I been looking over my shoulder as a cop for five years? No. But now this is the first time that I have and I will continue to do so from now on."
Assistant Police Chief James Griffith has never seen something like this in 25 years on the force. By redoubling their efforts, he hopes all his officers can become more aware of who they need to be wary of.
"To make a threat and write it out, we take that very seriously." says Griffith. "It's more serious than some idle threat by an upset citizen that you are putting in jail."
Saturday, Ruiz is overseeing some youths who have been ordered by a judge to do community service. He says it will be nice to see his name painted over, perhaps by the person who painted it there in the first place.
"Oh it will be painted over tomorrow," assures Ruiz. "But I expect it to come right back up again."
Both Ruiz and Griffith hope by letting the community know about the problem, more people will be willing to come forward. They say although graffiti is a petty crime, if left unchecked, it will almost always deteriorate and bring in worse crime.
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