Note: we are republishing this story amid nationwide discussion regarding police accountability and the relationship between police officers and their communities.
The family of a “known” mentally ill Sheboygan, Wisconsin, resident stated that his death could have been avoided. According to authorities, he was wielding two knives when he was fatally shot by an officer.
A Sheboygan Police Department officer responded to a disturbance call between a man and a woman. Officials stated that the encounter "ended with the loss of life."
Police didn’t identify the man, but his family told ABC News affiliate WISN that the victim was Kevin Ruffin.
According to Aaron Clayborn, Ruffin’s uncle, Ruffin suffered from mental illness and officers in the town were “familiar with him."
"He is known in this community for several years for having a mental disorder. He's been in and out of the system. He's been in mental health facilities in the state," Clayborn stated.
It’s unclear whether the officer was aware of Ruffin’s history with the department, and authorities stated that the officer attempted to engage in conversation with Ruffin before he fired his weapon.
Sheboygan Police Chief Christopher Domagalski stated that as Ruffin allegedly "charged at the officer with two dangerous weapons," the responding officer brandished his stun gun while "retreating backwards."
"The officer ordered the subject to stop while attempting to retreat while attempting to deploy his Taser. The subject continued to chase the officer, forcing the officer to transition to his firearm and discharged his firearm on the subject," Domnagalski said at a press conference.
Law enforcement officials didn’t mention if any weapons were recovered from the scene.
23-year-old Ruffin was pronounced dead at the scene and the officer placed on administrative leave as per department policy.
Sheriyah Appleton, Ruffin’s cousin, questioned whether the officer had received training on how to handle people with mental health issues, especially people of color.
"You don't come to somebody who is mentally ill with your guns drawn in the first place, that's not how you do things," she told WISN.
She stated that the officer’s actions against her cousin, a Black man, was "why the whole world is in unrest."
"We are a threat because the color of our skin. Now if he had to have been white with mental issues, he would have been taken into custody and not taken to the morgue. It's a whole different story because of the color of our skin," she said.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice later identified the officer involved in the fatal shooting. The man who killed Ruffin is Sheboygan Police Officer Bryan Pray, who is African American.
Sources: ABC News