Kenneth Ruggieri hit with road-rage attempted murder charge -- but did victim invite trouble?
Kenneth Ruggieri, the 22 year old seen here, has been arrested on suspicion of hitting and running, DUI and attempted murder.
Yet a rep for the police department in Lakewood, where the incident took place, reserves much of his harshest criticism not for Ruggieri, but for the man at whom he may have fired a shot -- because he allegedly escalated an extremely minor matter that could have ended not only with his death, but that of his wife and child. Photos, video and details below.
Lakewood Police Department spokesman Steve Davis tells the tale, which involves a confrontation between Ruggieri and Paul Jones that got underway at the intersection of Wadsworth and West Girton Avenue, an area captured in the interactive graphic below. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map."
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"At about 6:30 on Monday night, two vehicles stop at the stoplight," Davis says, "and the vehicle in the rear slightly bumps the rear end of the vehicle in front of it -- so slightly that there's really no damage apparent."
Nonetheless, Jones, in the forward car with his wife and ten-year-old son, "gets out, takes a look, and tells the other guy [Ruggieri], 'Let's pull over by the side of the road and see if we need to call police.' And the guy behind takes off."
According to Jones, who told his story to 9News, Ruggieri also smelled of alcohol, used profanity and threatened his life -- details Davis doesn't mention. But there's no dispute about what happened next.
Jones "took off and started following this guy, even though his wife and child were in the car with him, and followed him to an apartment where the suspect apparently lived, on the 7300 block of West Hampden."
Ruggieri wasn't alone, either. He was joined by a thus-far-unidentified passenger, and after Jones pulled up, it was this second man, not Ruggieri, who engaged him -- something not entirely clear in the 9News report below, but correctly detailed in text that accompanied it
"The passenger and the victim [Jones] got into a scuffle as the suspect [Ruggieri] took off running to the apartment," Davis continues. "Then, the suspect came out with a handgun and fired one round."
In his 9News interview, Jones quotes Ruggieri as saying, "I told you I was going to f-ing kill you;" he censored himself for broadcast. But according to Davis, it's currently unclear whether the shot was "an attempt to scare him [Jones] or hit him. We may never know."
At that point, Davis continues, Jones "ran back to his car and told his wife, 'We have to get out of here,' and they left while she was on the phone with our dispatch center. Then they saw an officer and waved him down, and we had quite a few other units come in. They contacted the suspect [Ruggieri] and the passenger and took them into custody."
The passenger was subsequently "booked and released pending charges," notes Davis, who thinks an accusation against him might consist of "harassment, if anything." Meanwhile, Ruggieri was booked on DUI, hit and run and attempted murder, with Davis referring to the latter as "something we'd customarily put in there -- but whether the DA goes with that, we don't know. It all depends on if the weapon was fired with some kind of intent."
As for Jones, Davis doesn't pull any punches when discussing his actions.
Jones's car, seen in the foreground, doesn't look much worse for the wear.
"I think it was a very poor decision" to follow Ruggieri, Davis allows, "and it was probably even magnified more so because he had his wife and child in the car with him."
Jones, identified as a former combat veteran, doesn't agree: He defended his actions to 9News, saying that he was just trying to protect his family. But Davis isn't buying it.
To say Jones did anything criminal "would be a stretch," he acknowledges. "But following someone and taking something like that into his own hands was a very poor decision. It could have been much worse than it ended up. He could have been very seriously injured, if not killed -- and to have something like that happen over such a minor traffic- or road-rage type of incident was completely unnecessary. I would welcome anyone to try to convince us that it's worth that kind of risk over something so minor."
Not that Davis believes Ruggieri's behavior was in any way justified. As he puts it, "the crimes were committed once they got to the parking lot." But he thinks some bad choices preceded the trip.
Here's a larger look at Ruggieri's mug shot, followed by the 9News report.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa September 2012: "James Ernst cited in case prompted by bike-rage video that went viral."