On Wednesday, federal prosecutors indicted Fall River, Massachusetts, Police Officer Nicholas M. Hoar for violating civil rights and making false reports after he allegedly beat a man in custody with a baton in the winter of 2020 and failed to report it.
A little over three years before that incident, Hoar shot and killed 19-year-old Larry Ruiz Barreto while breaking up a drag race—claiming that he feared for his life after the man accelerated and pushed the officer onto the hood of a car. Hoar was cleared in that case by local prosecutors who concluded it was a justified use of force.
Now, Ruiz Barreto’s father is calling Hoar’s federal indictment the tip of the iceberg on local police misconduct—and demanding prosecutors reopen a criminal probe of a nightmare he witnessed in person, and for which he is suing Hoar in federal court.
“When a person follows a pattern of conduct, of aggression, lies, he has no credibility,” Demix Ruiz Hernandez told The Daily Beast in Spanish, repeating the claim made in the lawsuit that his son’s hands were in the air when Hoar shot and killed him.
“He is a criminal. He’s worse than a criminal—he’s a criminal hidden in a policeman’s uniform.”
Neither an attorney for the City of Fall River nor Hoar or his own attorney immediately responded to requests for comment.
The Fall River Police Department will “not be issuing a comment on Mr. Ruiz Hernandez’s statements,” Det. Sergeant Moses Pereira wrote The Daily Beast, citing the ongoing civil proceedings.
Hoar was previously placed on paid leave, after it was alleged he assaulted the man in custody, according to MassLive. As of this week, Hoar’s leave is no longer paid, and he has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges. He has previously denied Ruiz Barreto’s family’s allegations in the civil case.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office that determined the 2017 shooting was warranted did not seem to think a local cop being charged with lying by omission was a good reason to revisit a case in which he killed someone.
He is a criminal. He’s worse than a criminal—he’s a criminal hidden in a policeman’s uniform.
This even though there was no video evidence of that shooting, and the local police department only began using body-worn cameras this year.
“That’s a closed matter from five years ago that was fully investigated,” a spokesperson for Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III told The Daily Beast on Thursday, referring to the probe of the shooting of Ruiz Barreto. “ So I don’t see why this new indictment has anything to do with an incident five years ago.”
In 2020, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of family members and Ruiz Barreto’s young son, LaAriel Ruiz, who was still in his mother’s belly when his father was killed. The death devastated the entire family. Ruiz Hernandez lives with his grandson, who is now almost five, and who he said still doesn’t know of his father’s fate.
“We have pictures edited with him and my son. My son, my grandson in the picture together so that we can show him when he’s a little bigger: ‘This is your dad,’ and explain everything to him,” Ruiz Hernandez told The Daily Beast.
One thing every party in the sprawling federal lawsuit—which has ensnared a slew of police officers and an array of relatives—seems to agree on is that in November 2017, Ruiz Hernandez and his son were at a local drag race when cops pulled up and most cars fled.
Officer Hoar’s interview in the District Attorney’s report said that Ruiz Barreto ignored multiple commands and accelerated “towards him”—and that Hoar ended up on the hood of the car, from which he fired the six fatal shots.
But family members alleged in their lawsuit that the officer approached from the side of Ruiz Barreto’s vehicle with his gun already in hand. They also say he had every chance to avoid the car, and was yelling in a language the Spanish-speaking family did not understand.
They aren’t basing that just on what they might like to believe about the events that took place. Ruiz Hernandez was in the car with his son when he was killed.
“When he got out of his patrol car, he had his pistol in hand, he pointed at my son, and he shot,” Ruiz Hernandez told The Daily Beast of Hoar. The father maintains the car didn’t move, and in their lawsuit, the family alleged that the officer was already standing to the side of the vehicle when the shots were fired. The arguments in the case are now part of a long legacy of litigation over when and how cops can shoot people in vehicles—often including plaintiff claims that cops’ alleged fear for their own lives were unwarranted.
Later, at that hospital, multiple family members were arrested after cops alleged that they assaulted officers—and, in the case of Ruiz Hernandez, that he had threatened to shoot police. But every single criminal charge was later dropped. According to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Ruiz Barreto’s family, officers were caught on camera breaking the skull of one family member, engaging in excessive force, and then filing false reports about the incident.
Multiple officers denied the allegations in court.
“They assaulted me, they assaulted my brother,” said Ruiz Hernandez.
The criminal case against Ruiz Hernandez was dismissed “in the interest of justice,” a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s office told The Daily Beast by text message, adding, “The case was not prosecutable.”
One of the officers at the hospital, Michael Pessoa, was later fired after facing charges in court for multiple allegations of excessive force unrelated to the Ruiz family. He has pleaded not guilty and faces trial next year.
The allegations are only the latest in a string of firings and charges and upheaval in the Fall River Police Department. But the lawyer for Ruiz Barreto’s father was holding out hope that some authority would see cause to revisit the fatal shooting from 2017.
“Hopefully, the individuals who control the decision-making power in that regard would reflect upon his past practices on questionable events, which this is one of, and proceed accordingly,” said the family’s lawyer, Ronald J. Resmini.
The outcome of that day five years ago was devastating, Ruiz Hernandez said, telling The Daily Beast that his father is a police officer in Puerto Rico—and that he did not leave his house for a year after witnessing his son’s death from the back seat of the car.
“I know this will all come to light because the lawyers are fighting,” Ruiz Hernandez said. “But the greatest lawyer is God, and I know that I’m putting this in his hands… because this had to happen so that everything would be brought to light.”