by Dave Waddell and Leslie Layton
Tyler Rushing, who died during a chaotic confrontation in close quarters with Chico police, most likely succumbed to an earlier “devastating gunshot” wound from a private security guard responding to a burglary.
That’s the conclusion of Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey in a 17-page report made available to ChicoSol and other news media prior to a press briefing by Ramsey this morning.
Ramsey also wrote that a medical examiner was taken aback after multiple toxicology reports turned up a “moderate” amount of marijuana in Rushing’s system but no other drugs.
“The doctor expressed great surprise (Rushing) was able to function as long and violently as he did after the security (guard’s) devastating gunshot,” says Ramsey’s report. “He opined the subject’s extraordinary stamina and strength (were) most likely drug induced.”
In his report, Ramsey ruled that neither the 23-year-old security guard, who was identified by body camera video as “Security guard Sanchez,” nor Chico police Sgt. Scott Ruppel, who shot Rushing twice at close range, committed a crime in the death of the 34-year-old Ventura resident. The report followed an investigation by the Butte County Officer Involved Shooting/Critical Incident Protocol Team, which Ramsey leads.
Scott Rushing, Tyler’s father, gave this comment to ChicoSol: “I will be studying that report line by line. I do initially have some concerns about it. I have my own little investigation going. I will have my own press conference at a later date, and I will have my own response.”
Rushing, described as “all about peace, love and positivity” by his mother, Paula Rushing, died July 23 in a restroom at Mid Valley Title and Escrow Co. at Sixth and Main streets. Indeed, Ramsey’s report, which calls Rushing “a gentle soul,” notes: “His favorite symbols which promoted PLP was a peace sign, heart and plus sign.”
The outline of a heart and a peace sign, apparently finger-painted with blood, were found on the side of a cabinet at Mid Valley Title and Escrow and are seen on the officers’ body camera video that Ramsey showed during today’s press briefing.
Writes Ramsey: “The personality known as Tyler ‘Tyger’ Rushing to family and friends was not in the Mid Valley Title Company the night of the shooting. Instead officers faced an unknown angry, dangerous and wounded subject who had broken into a business and viciously attacked a responding security sergeant, whose uniform mimicked their own; who had been shot and was bizarrely finger-painting in his own blood; who profanely told officers when they first entered the building that he had a gun; and who, despite his cries of pain from the bathroom, refused to come out for medical aid and flooded the bathroom.
“Officers showed patience and restraint in attempting to wait out the subject in the bathroom, but as his blood seeped out from under the door – evidence that he was most likely dying – their subsequent actions were driven by the circumstances rather than any desire to rapidly end their wait.”
Rushing, who worked at and enjoyed concerts, had his backpack with all of his belongings, including truck keys, cell phone, money and clothes, stolen about July 19 after the Northern Nights Music Festival in Piercy. Festival organizers told investigators that Rushing was asked to leave after he was seen going through others’ backpacks, and he hitchhiked to Chico.
The security guard’s body cam footage, shown today (Thursday), was rough, with audio that Ramsey described as “not particularly sophisticated.” But the video shows the guard’s gun pointed at Rushing, who had broken into Mid Valley Title and Escrow’s patio. The guard shot at Rushing after Ramsey said the guard “felt something come down on his left forearm.”
Ramsey describes in his report a “violent and unprovoked sneak attack” on the guard, who he said was stabbed in two places with the handle of a blown-glass flower pot, shaped like a woman’s purse. The wounds required a total of nine stitches.
Rushing fled into a Mid Valley restroom after getting shot by the guard in the chest.
Ramsey showed clearer video from the Chico police officers who wore personal body cameras. Ruppel can be heard trying to coax Rushing out of a restroom as water tinged with blood seeped from under the door. “Let us help you, OK?” shouts Ruppel toward the bathroom. “Come out nice and slow, buddy.”
Wails and moans can be heard coming from the bathroom and officers bring in a trained police dog that can be heard barking on the video. They plan a forced entry armed with both lethal and non-lethal weapons.
After a chaotic struggle, Ruppel fired twice at Rushing and the “concussive effect of the [second] shot does knock the man out immediately and he goes down,” Ramsey told the press.
Findings and conclusions in Ramsey’s report include:
- The item with which Rushing stabbed Sgt. Ruppel in the neck — previously described by Ramsey as an “undisclosed weapon” — turned out to be a ballpoint pen. Rushing struck another police officer, Cedric Schwyzer, in the head with what was believed to be a ceramic shard from a broken toilet.
- The gunshot wound from the security guard caused Rushing to bleed to death. “This wound through the ribs and lungs caused a condition … which would have been extraordinarily painful and debilitating as the chest cavity filled with blood and air, preventing effective air intake,” says the report. “The other two wounds associated with Sgt. Ruppel’s shots were not lethal and would have been survivable.”
- Bizarre behavior was exhibited by Rushing inside the title company office, including stacking various office supply and food items while leaving behind money and not fleeing despite an alarm that sounded for eight minutes.“Once inside the bathroom, he trashed it, throwing employee personal items around and, most bizarrely, carefully making five distinct bloody handprints in a display on the south wall.”
- Even though the toxicology reports found only marijuana in Rushing’s system, his “radically different” behavior from normal suggested to investigators some sort of drug use. Ramsey noted that some “designer drugs” are not detectable. “Of note, during an inventory of Mr. Rushing’s clothing a small plastic bag was found containing several unknown ‘seeds,’” says the report. “Some speculation ensued about the nature of these ‘seeds’ as possibly hallucinogenic. These seeds are currently being examined and tested by the FBI, Homeland Security and independent laboratories …”
- Rushing’s perplexing Chico odyssey, as told through the eyes of various people he came into contact with, exhibited both his positivity and some apparent mental impairment over his several days in the city. At one point, he was reported to be “overly exuberant in his worshipping” at Chico Bidwell Presbyterian Church, while a homeless man reported seeing Rushing pushing a shopping cart downtown, “covered in mosquito bites and … ‘filthy dirty,’ but with a smile,” says the report.
Dave Waddell is news director at ChicoSol and Leslie Layton is editor. Read a previous related story by Waddell here.