FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – Investigators have determined that a Fall River police officer was justified in fatally shooting a New Bedford man during a chaotic scene last November, the Bristol County district attorney’s office said Friday.
Following a months-long investigation, the DA’s office concluded that the use of deadly force by Officer Nicholas Hoar against Larry Ruiz-Barreto was a “justified homicide.”
“Our office and state police detectives assigned to our office have conducted a thorough, independent and extensive investigation into all the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident,” Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said Friday in a statement. “We concluded, after careful review of all the evidence, that the officer was justified in using deadly force in this case.”
Ruiz-Barreto, 19, died at Charlton Memorial Hospital after he was shot near the intersection of Riggenbach and Airport Roads on the night of Nov. 12.
According to the report, Hoar responded to the area following a report of gunshots and arrived to find cars scattering from the scene of some apparent drag racing. Hoar attempted to pull one over, and it was during that encounter that he opened fire on the vehicle driven by Ruiz-Barreto.
Hoar told investigators that he exited his cruiser and was trying to talk to Ruiz-Barreto, but the 19-year-old was pushing the vehicle into his legs, forcing the officer up onto the hood. Hoar said he told Ruiz-Barreto to stop, but he continued to hit the gas, prompting Hoar to pull out his service weapon and repeat his command.
After Ruiz-Barreto refused to stop, Hoar fired six shots into the windshield of the vehicle, according to the report. An autopsy later determined five of the bullets hit Ruiz-Barreto.
The report says Hoar “feared that he was going to fall off and get run over and that he had ‘no choice but to take the vehicle down.'”
A passenger in Ruiz-Barreto’s vehicle mostly corroborated Hoar’s version of events, acknowledging that Ruiz-Barreto hit the gas while the officer was “leaning” on the car. Ruiz-Barreto’s father, who was in back seat, denied that his son drove into the officer.
Another police officer also arrived on scene moments before the shooting, and corroborated Hoar’s story.
“The circumstances show that Mr. Ruiz-Barreto needlessly and repeatedly escalated the danger to the police officer by refusing to submit to a lawful stop,” the report says. “…it is our judgement that the use of force in this matter did not constitute criminal conduct.”
Several family members, including father Demix Ruiz-Barreto, were later arrested during a disturbance at Charlton Memorial Hospital. In court the next day, the crying father declared: “police are assassins,” through an interpreter. Five cases are still pending against those family members.
Officer Hoar remains on paid administrative leave as the Fall River Police Department continues to conduct an internal investigation into the shooting.