Rubber bullets take down violent suspect |

Rubber bullets take down violent suspect

Michael Schneider

Rubber shotgun pellets were used Sunday night to subdue a machete-wielding suspect bent on being shot by police, South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Dave Solaro said.

“If you had to get shot with one or the other, which one would you choose?” Solaro asked.

The suspect, Jose Rugamas, was treated and later released from Barton Memorial Hospital. He is being held in the El Dorado County Jail in South Lake Tahoe awaiting further criminal proceedings. He is charged with a count of brandishing a weapon at a police officer and spousal battery, both felonies.

Officers were dispatched late Sunday night to a Glenwood Way residence in response to a domestic dispute call.

Rugamas, 32, was found in front of the house wielding a machete. He appeared drunk and angry, officers said. Rugamas told them he was prepared to die.

Officers allegedly tried to persuade Rugamas to put down the weapon, but he refused, reportedly challenging officers to shoot him because he said he didn’t want to go to jail.

Solaro said Rugamas didn’t charge the police, allowing an officer time to get the rubber shotgun shells from his car.

Rugamas was shot in the chest and right arm with the rubber rounds and taken into custody. He was transported to Barton Memorial Hospital.

The victim of the spousal abuse reportedly sustained a minor injury to a finger which did not need medical attention.

The police department has been using rubber shells for about four years, however officers are rarely in situations when they can use them. Use of deadly force would have been justified in this case, Solaro said, but it was not necessary because officers had the luxury of time.

While not fatal, the rubber pellets can cause injury. Solaro said the extent depends on the distance of the gun from the target, the angle of the shot and the clothing worn by the target. The pellets are fired from a shotgun.

“Our policy is to use the least lethal method possible,” Solaro said. “We wanted to diffuse the situation without shooting him.”

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