Lancaster Sunday News | By Bernard Harris and Tom Knapp
Lancaster residents were so angry about the drive-by shooting of a 7-year-old girl last month that many overcame their usual reluctance to talk to police about what they saw or heard in connection to the crime.
City police Chief Keith Sadler on Saturday said that willingness to talk with police led directly to Friday's arrest of Rene Ruiz-Mayo, a 27-year-old city man who now stands accused of the shooting.
"Because that crime outraged so many people, we got a lot more information than we usually do," Sadler said.
"People weren't afraid to tell us anything that might be connected to the crime," he said. "We got a lot of calls."
Ruiz-Mayo has been charged with aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person for the shooting, which happened on the first block of West James Street.
City police captured him late Friday after a foot chase that ended with him hiding under the porch of a nearby home.
The girl, who has not been publicly identified, was playing outside her home with her sister at about 8:20 p.m. Oct. 18 when the shooting happened near James and Market streets. Her mother and stepfather were nearby, police said.
The girl was struck by bullets at least three times in the legs and torso, newspaper records show. She was scooped up by her stepfather, who began to run the two blocks to Lancaster General Hospital until a stranger in a car drove them the rest of the way there, witnesses said.
Once at the hospital, she was stabilized, then airlifted to Hershey Medical Center, where she underwent several surgeries.
Sadler said Saturday the "best resolution ... would have been catching him that same night."
"You don't want a criminal like that roaming the streets," he said.
But he's very pleased, he said, that people were willing to come forward and tell police what they knew or suspected.
A police statement Saturday said Ruiz-Mayo was identified as the shooter after multiple witness interviews and tips from citizens.
Ruiz-Mayo was spotted late Friday evening getting into a car in the 700 block of South West End Avenue. When a marked police car began following him, Ruiz-Mayo reportedly stopped the car in the middle of the street and fled on foot through adjacent backyards.
Officers pursued him, and he was quickly caught while trying to hide under the back porch of a home in the 600 block of West End Avenue. Officers recovered a stolen handgun in the same yard.
Lt. Clark Bearinger on Saturday did not say who was the intended target of the shooting.
"That aspect of the investigation is still under investigation," Bearinger said.
Mayor Rick Gray on Saturday added his praise, both to the police who investigated the shooting and the citizens who stepped forward with information.
"The act itself was despicable," he said. "And it was obvious our police took this both personally and professionally, and followed up on every lead."
Several people on West James Street Saturday evening didn't want to talk about the shooting — or didn't want to be identified.
"It's good" Ruiz-Mayo was arrested, a woman smoking a cigarette near Market Street said. "But what can you do? It happens these days."
Rosetta Crumpton, working behind the counter at the Southern Style Barbecue, didn't bother to hide her disgust with people who withheld information from police.
"It's a good thing they got him. But it shouldn't have took so long," she said.
"What's wrong with the world these days? 'I don't want to be a snitch' — what is that? This is a child. If you know something, you say something," Crumpton said.
"But I'm happy they got him off the streets. Someone like that is a danger to the environment. To the whole city. ... Lancaster used to be a nice, calm place. It just lets you know, you are not safe anywhere."
City police said the girl had returned home from Hershey last Sunday. The girl, believed to be a second-grade student at Ross Elementary, has not yet returned to school, police said.
In fact, Crumpton said the girl stopped by the eatery earlier Saturday.
"She's doing good. But it's such a shame she had to go through that, right outside her own home."
Gray said he, too, is "elated that the little girl is out of danger."
He spoke to the girl's mother shortly after the shooting, he said, and "she asked me for one thing. 'Please get the person who did this.' That's all she asked for," he said.
"I'm overjoyed the police did such a thorough job, such an excellent job of apprehending this individual."
Detective Nathan Nickel charged Ruiz-Mayo with three counts each of aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person related to the shooting.
Ruiz-Mayo further was charged with carrying a firearm without a license and receiving stolen property in connection to the stolen handgun.
He was arraigned before Magisterial District Justice Bruce Roth, who set bail at $1.2 million. Ruiz-Mayo is being held in lieu of bail at Lancaster County Prison.
Ruiz-Mayo is not a stranger to police.
In 2007, state police doing a traffic stop on Route 30 allegedly found two small bags of marijuana and a bag of crack in Ruiz-Mayo's possession, newspaper records show.
Shortly after midnight on New Year's Day, 2003, city police responded to Garden Court Apartments, where Ruiz-Mayo lived, for a report of shots being fired. There, they arrested Ruiz-Mayo.
He later was sentenced to two years probation for illegally possessing a .38 caliber revolver with an obliterated serial number.
The city police statement issued Saturday said the investigation into the shooting of the girl remains active and they are still seeking leads to identify anyone who might have assisted Ruiz-Mayo.
Anyone with information is asked to call Lancaster city police at 735-3300. Callers do not have to give their names to provide information.
Citizens talked, suspect in shooting of 7-year-old girl arrested
Lancaster Sunday News | By Bernard Harris and Tom Knapp