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Md. state trooper being dragged down interstate fatally shoots driver, officials say

Maryland State Police Superintendent Woodrow “Jerry” Jones speaks to reporters from a lectern Friday.
Maryland State Police Superintendent Woodrow “Jerry” Jones speaks to reporters from a lectern Friday. (Dan Morse/The Washington Post)
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A Maryland state trooper being dragged down an interstate fatally shot a suspected drunk driver after a chaotic roadside stop early Friday morning, law enforcement officials said.

“The trooper yelled repeatedly at the driver, telling him to stop and warning him that he would shoot,” Col. Woodrow “Jerry” Jones, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, said at a news conference Friday.

Officials identified the driver as Julio Cesar Moran-Ruiz, 36, of Baltimore. He’d been alone inside the car and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The trooper, a three-year veteran of the Maryland force, had gotten his arms tangled in the opened driver’s side window before being yanked off his feet as the car sped off, officials said. He was dragged for more than 2,000 feet along Interstate 95.

“Fearing for his life while being dragged by the car, the trooper fired his department-issued pistol at the driver, striking him,” Jones said.

The trooper was thrown into the median, suffered leg injuries and was treated and released at a nearby hospital. Officials did not release his name Friday but indicated they would do so early next week. The trooper has been placed on administrative leave.

Jones’s agency is investigating the shooting. Their findings will be reviewed by prosecutors at the office of the Howard County state’s attorney, Jones said.

Part of the encounter was captured by a dashboard-mounted video camera that is standard equipment for Maryland State Police cruisers. The troopers do not wear cameras on their bodies, Jones said.

Efforts to reach family members and associates of Moran-Ruiz were not successful on Friday.

The encounter unfolded just after 2 a.m. as the trooper — in a marked car — was working drunken-driving enforcement in the northbound lanes of a busy north-south corridor.

“The trooper saw a red Ford Escape weaving across lanes of I-95 and exhibiting signs that the driver may be impaired,” Jones said. The trooper hit his emergency lights and pulled the Escape over on the right shoulder near Route 100. He called for backup, got out and approached the driver’s side of the car, Jones said.

The driver “was exhibiting signs of impairment,” Jones said, and the trooper “saw alcohol containers in the vehicle.”

After the backup arrived, the trooper asked Moran-Ruiz to step outside, according to Jones. But the driver refused, wouldn’t provide identification and offered a name that later turned out to be false, Jones said.

“The trooper then saw the driver put the vehicle in drive, and he reached inside to attempt to stop the driver from fleeing,” Jones said. “With the trooper leaning inside the vehicle, the driver accelerated away and drove down the interstate.”

The initial part of encounter was captured on the trooper’s dashboard-mounted camera, which also recorded audio from a microphone worn by the trooper, according to Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman.

Neither Jones nor Shipley would say how many shots were fired or how many bullets struck Moran-Ruiz.

Investigators found a machete under the driver’s seat of the Escape. But officials gave no indication that Moran-Ruiz had reached for it or tried to grab it after being pulled over.

Asked about the trooper’s decision to reach into Moran-Ruiz’s vehicle, Jones said the trooper had discretion to try to protect the public.

“The trooper suspected that there was impairment involved here,” Jones said. “We certainly don’t want that driver back out on the interstate.”

“It’s one of those fluid motions — there’s no policy that dictates that. It’s at the autonomy of the trooper’s discretion, based on the circumstances that they have at the scene at the time,” he added.

Shipley said that any traffic cameras along the interstate couldn’t be used because they are live feeds and do not record.

Asked why the department doesn’t have body cameras, Jones said that having troopers use dashboard-mounted cameras is consistent with their core duties — patrolling highways and interstates in their police cars.

“That’s where we spend a lot of our time,” Jones said. “That type of system was chosen as best suiting the needs of what the agency does.”