NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) — The sister of the accused Palmetto Expressway shooter says her brother has “mental health issues” and was “trying to get killed.”
Ruth Garcia, who is the sister of the suspect, 36-year-old Horvin Ruiz, said she is speaking out for the first time because “I want the public to know that my brother is not a monster and that he is normally a very kind person who helps people, and who has mental health issues and who needs help.”
In an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, Garcia said, “I think he was trying to get killed. That’s what I think. My brother’s in pain and needs help. He does have mental health issues and we are all in this family suffering from depression.”
Ruiz faces a series of charges including 16 counts of attempted first degree murder.
Miami-Dade Police said he was driving southbound on the Palmetto Expressway at 1:10 a.m. on Memorial Day when he suddenly turned his car into oncoming traffic, causing one car to crash.
He reportedly then used an AK-47 to fire at the man in that car, along with his pregnant wife and three children who are 2, 4 and 6 years old. Police said he continued to fire his weapon as police yelled at him to lower it.
They said he dropped his rifle and retrieved a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and continued to fire. Miami-Dade Police fired back at him. They said he surrendered and raised his hands after firing 108 rounds at 7 vehicles.
No one was killed or seriously injured. Enrique Bendana did suffer cuts from broken glass in his car after a bullet smashed through his rear passenger window and ripped through his passenger headrest before exiting the front windshield. Another victim, Simone Evans, said a bullet went through the windshield of her car.
“It tears my heart apart. This is not who he is, he is not like that. He is a family man. He has a 16-year-old son. He works in a bakery. He helps people, he is always helping people. He is kind-hearted,” said Garcia. “In no way am I trying to minimize what happened on the highway. My heart goes out to the police officers and the families that my brother shot at and the families caught in the middle of everything.”
Garcia said her brother was hospitalized last week at Jackson Memorial Hospital for mental issues and was put on medication. She did not know if he was still taking that medication during the time of the shooting.
“He was diagnosed with acute psychosis and some of the side effects are hallucinations and paranoia,” she said. “You think people are after you. That’s what he was telling our mother, that people were after him and they wanted to kill him.”
On Tuesday, Ruiz appeared in bond court wearing a vest normally reserved for those on suicide watch.
“This is my concern,” said Ruiz, “that he’d take his own life.”
She said, “He just needs help and I am pleading with the public to see that side of him. I hope that, at least, this is giving an opportunity to hear my brother’s side so everyone will not be so quick to judge and condemn him, because my brother needs help. If there’s a politician listening to this, I am advocating on behalf of people who need help with mental health issues. Again, I am so grateful that no one in law enforcement and no civilians were killed or seriously injured.”
Garcia came to South Florida from her home in Brooklyn in New York City, when she heard about the shooting. She said she is a chaplain for the New York state Chaplains task force, helping people in prisons and in hospitals who have had some problems in the past.
She said she has been unable to speak with her brother, now being held without bond.
He’s charged with attempted first degree murder with a deadly weapon and the attempted murder of law enforcement officers, discharging a weapon in public and from a vehicle, and child abuse, after allegedly firing at a vehicle that had children inside it.
The southbound lanes of the Palmetto were shut down for nearly 9 hours.