Surveillance video from the scene of a fatal officer-involved shooting was seen publicly for the first time Monday since the Aug. 22 incident.
That video, along with statements from witnesses, led a grand jury to return a “no indictment” decision in the case in which Hamilton Police officer Kevin Ruhl fatally shot 34-year-old Kelley Brandon Forte as police say he charged at the officer with a knife.
“This was not just armed robbery,” Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit said as he outlined in detail what happened shortly before 2:30 a.m. when Forte entered a Walgreens on High Street and placed a 1o-inch knife to the throat of a pharmacist and demanded drugs and money.
“The suspect was in the pharmacy for nine minutes, nine agonizingly slow, terrifying minutes. He doesn’t just rob her, he terrorizes her,” Bucheit said as he held up the knife Forte used in the robbery, noting the “gutting” hook on the tip that is commonly used for hunting or skinning.
The video begins in front of the store with Forte pulling out the knife with a sock wrapped around it and walking into the store straight toward the pharmacy.
Forte hops over a counter at the pharmacy and puts the knife to a pharmacist’s throat. Initially, Forte asked the pharmacist for drugs — Vicodin and Percocet, which she bagged up for him, Bucheit said.
Then Forte demands cash. The video shows the pharmacist complying, opening a cash drawer and Forte stuffing money into his jacket, while still holding the knife to the woman’s back. Forte also told the woman he had a gun in his pocket, according to Bucheit.
Eventually, Forte pushes the woman toward a break room.
It was then, the woman told police, that she feared Forte was planning to assault her.
“He had all the drugs he asked for, he had all the money he asked for,” Bucheit said. “He told her he was going to take her in the bathroom, that he was going to be her date.”
Responding to 911 calls from a customer and an employee of the store, the video then captures the actions of Ruhl and officer Danielle Sorber, which ended with Ruhl firing three shots.
When the officers encounter Forte, Ruhl shouts orders for him put down the knife, but Forte charges at the officer.
Ruhl fired two shots when Forte was “3 feet or less” away for him, according to Bucheit.
Forte then stumbles down an aisle in the pharmacy, with Ruhl following. Forte can be seen regaining his footing and turning back toward Ruhl. That is when Ruhl fires the third shot.
The officers are then seen handcuffing Forte and calling for emergency medical crews. Forte was pronounced dead at the scene.
Bucheit said the officers remain on leave and are undergoing counseling, but will return to full duty when they are ready.
Ruhl, 33, is a a nine-year veteran of the police department and Sorber, 23, is a one-year veteran of the police department.
He said the incident has taken a toll on all of the department’s police officers as well as the store employees.
“All life is sacred and lost under these circumstances is unfortunate,” Bucheit said, adding that he met with Forte’s family Monday morning to show them the results of the investigation.
“They are struggling with this,” Bucheit said.
Forte, 34, had a lengthy criminal record in Hamilton County and was convicted in 2012 of aggravated vehicular assault and given a prison sentence of four years, mandatory two years, by Judge Robert Winkler.
Forte was released from prison Dec. 30 and was under three years of post-release control.
In announcing the grand jury’s decision of “no indictment” against Ruhl, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said, “the confronting officer (Ruhl) fatally shot the assailant preventing potential injury to him and others and preventing the assailant’s escape.”
It has been a policy since Gmoser took office that all officer-involved shootings be reviewed by a grand jury.
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