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Hero Down: Maricopa County Deputy Juan ‘Johnny’ Ruiz Beaten To Death By Fugitive

By Holly Matkin and Sandy Malone

Phoenix, AZ – Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Deputy Juan “Johnny” Ruiz was murdered in the line of duty on Oct. 11 after being brutally beaten by a convicted child molester he arrested on a parole violation two days earlier.

The incident began shortly before 11 a.m. on Oct. 9 after Maricopa County Deputy Juan “Johnny” Ruiz arrested 30-year-old Clinton Hurley, a convicted child molester, on multiple felony warrants, KTAR reported.

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said Deputy Ruiz took Hurley into the Maricopa County sheriff’s station in Avondale to process him, KTVK reported.

Sheriff Penzone said Deputy Ruiz removed Hurley’s handcuffs and was putting him into a jail cell when the prisoner turned on him and began fighting.

The sheriff said Deputy Ruiz tried to call for help several times on his radio as he was being beaten unconscious by Hurley, KTVK reported.

After violently attacking the deputy, Hurley stole the keys to Deputy Ruiz’s vehicle, crashed through the gate, and fled the area.

Sheriff Penzone said that a citizen who saw a sheriff’s department vehicle being driven by somebody who wasn’t a deputy called 911 and reported it, KTVK reported.

He said deputies who responded to the holding cell found Deputy Ruiz unconscious.

The sheriff said the deputies rushed Deputy Ruiz toward a hospital in a patrol vehicle and passed him to paramedics in an ambulance who met them halfway, KTVK reported.

A multijurisdictional manhunt for Hurley ensued and a $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to his capture.

Officials said that Hurley tried to enter a home in Tonopah at about 6:30 p.m. the same day, KPNX reported.

The homeowner shot him.

Sheriff Penzone said that Hurley had a history with the homeowners, KTVK reported.

One of the Maricopa County deputies who responded to the shooting recognized Hurley’s tattoos as he was rendering aid to the wounded suspect and identified him as Deputy Ruiz’s attacker.

Hurley remained in the hospital in serious-but-stable condition, KTVK reported.

The sheriff said during an earlier press conference that Hurley had been released from prison in December of 2020 after serving 10 years in prison for attempted child molestation, KPNX reported.

On Monday, Sheriff Penzone announced that Deputy Ruiz had not regained consciousness after the beating and was not expected to recover.

The sheriff said the deputy’s family had made the difficult decision to remove the deputy from life support and that medical staff were conducting testing to determine the viability of the hero’s organs for donation, KTVK reported.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the passing of Deputy Juan “Johnny” Ruiz #S2212,” Sheriff Penzone said in a Facebook post. “He succumbed to the injuries sustained on Saturday at the hands of a violent predator.”

“Deputy Ruiz proudly served this community with courage and conviction. His loss is a tragedy for our profession and our community,” the sheriff wrote. “We stand strong with great appreciation for his service and pray for his family during this unimaginable sacrifice and loss.”

Sheriff Penzone said he is committed to pursuing justice for Deputy Ruiz to the fullest extent of the law.

“Nothing less is acceptable,” he added.

Deputy Ruiz joined the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office just under three years ago.

“Deputy Ruiz’s family needs more than your prayers,” the sheriff told reporters on Monday, according to the The Arizona Republic. “They need to know that you care that men and women put on badges and uniforms and sacrifice their lives.”

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey ordered flags at state buildings be lowered to half-staff on Tuesday in Deputy Ruiz’s honor.

“Arizona is heartbroken over the loss of Deputy Juan M. Ruiz,” Ducey said in a statement on Monday. “He served our state honorably for years, and his dedication to protecting others continues with the donation of his organs.”

“He will always be remembered for his selfless sacrifice – and my deepest prayers are with Deputy Ruiz’s family and loved ones, as well as the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the entire law enforcement community,” the governor added.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Juan “Johnny” Ruiz, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Deputy Juan Ruiz, your life mattered.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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