Girlfriend reacts to man’s federal indictment after deputy-involved shooting

Video shows officer-involved shooting in East St. Louis

Demetrius Ward was shot by an unnamed St. Clair County Sheriff's deputy on Jan. 19 in East St. Louis. This video was captured by an onlooker.
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Demetrius Ward was shot by an unnamed St. Clair County Sheriff's deputy on Jan. 19 in East St. Louis. This video was captured by an onlooker.

The family of a 42-year-old East St. Louis man who was shot by a St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department deputy early Saturday is upset that he’s been federally indicted on a drug and weapons charge.

Demetrius O. Ward was shot early Saturday during an attempted traffic stop at 18th Street and Ridge Avenue in East St. Louis. A cell phone video recorded the interaction and shows Ward attempting to pick something up from the ground and run before being shot at by a deputy several times.

The identity of the deputy involved has not been released. ISP officials said it is the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department’s responsibility to release that information. St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said Monday the name should come from ISP.

Ward has been federally indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a controlled substance. He was in custody at a hospital.

Ward’s girlfriend, Erika Scruggs, told the BND she is upset with the grand jury indictment. She said she’s asked police several times why Ward was being pulled over, where her car is and other issues. She said they have provided no answers.

Ward was driving Scruggs’ car when the shooting occurred.

“By law, I have a right to ask about my vehicle. It’s registered to me. They should’ve told me that my car was involved in a high-speed car chase — if there was a high-speed chase,” Scruggs said.

Demetrius O. Ward’s girlfriend, Erika Scruggs, told the BND he has eight broken ribs, damage to his face and leg following a deputy-involved shooting Saturday. Provided

Scruggs told the BND a federal agent interviewed Ward while he was under the influence of heavy medication provided by the hospital for his pain.

“How can you interview someone who is highly sedated?” Scruggs said. “He was not in his right state of mind.”

The criminal complaint federally indicting Ward states a deputy attempted to stop Ward on a traffic violation around midnight on Saturday. Ward allegedly did not stop the Monte Carlo he was driving and a police pursuit ensued. The chase ended when the driver crashed into a pole at 18th and Ridge streets, the complaint states.

“The facts in this case show that Demetrius Ward created an incredibly dangerous situation by crashing his car while he was speeding away from the police and then fleeing on foot, before reaching for a stolen 9 mm handgun in front of an officer who was forced to make a decision that no police officer should have to make,” U.S. Attorney Steve Weinhoeft said Wednesday.

Both the deputy and driver exited their vehicles. The complaint states the man began to run and the deputy fired multiple rounds from his gun after he believed “the occupant of the silver Monte Carlo dropped and was reaching to pick up a handgun.”

Ward said he did not run, however a video captured from an apartment shows Ward attempting to run as he goes to pick something up from the ground.

Scruggs expressed concern with the agent investigating the case and said she wants someone different to investigate the case.

“How do we know if the police is telling the truth? He didn’t have any cameras. ...” she said. “How are we suppose to call the police to protect us when they shoot to kill us? Make it make sense.”

Police have confirmed there is no body camera or dashboard footage of the incident.

Scruggs said Ward has eight broken ribs and injuries to his face and leg.

“They don’t care because it was one of theirs. If it was a suspect-on-suspect situation, it wouldn’t be a problem, but an officer is involved in this. They have to get their stories together,” she said.

Illinois State Police have said they will not comment on the case because it is under investigation. St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson has said he cannot comment because it is ISP’s investigation.

Editor Dana Rieck contributed to this report.

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Carolyn P. Smith has worked for the Belleville News-Democrat for 18 years and currently covers breaking news in the Metro-East. She graduated from the Journalism School at the University of Missouri at Columbia and says news is in her DNA.