In the summer of 2010, a masked man gunned down Ikeem Ruffin, 17, in an apartment complex on this city's north side. When police arrived, they found Ruffin dead and another teenager beside the body calling for an ambulance. The next day, police charged the teen with robbery and murder.
Prosecutors dropped the murder charge last August and said another man, still unidentified, pulled the trigger. Teresa Ruffin, the victim’s mother, said the police overlooked important evidence -- including a witness who pointed to another suspect -- and allowed her son's killer to go free.
“They didn’t do their job,” Ruffin said of the police.
Ruffin, who is black, said she sees parallels between how Sanford police officers handled her son’s murder and how they investigated the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager shot to death Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who told police he acted in self-defense.
Police said they couldn’t refute Zimmerman’s claim and haven't arrested him, unleashing withering criticism over perceived missteps and favoritism.
"All this with Trayvon is just bringing the light on the Sanford Police Department," Ruffin said. "This happened for a reason.”
Martin’s killing has sparked national outrage. But it is not the first criminal investigation to upset Sanford’s black community, whose leaders say police have repeatedly failed to properly investigate crimes involving black victims.
A string of recent scandals involving department personnel has added to community anger. In the past three years, officers have been caught demanding bribes from motorists, fabricating evidence and drawing weapons unlawfully.
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