Police identify man who died after diving into Inner Harbor

Man jumped into water after claiming robbery, running from guards

July 08, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A man who drowned last week in the Inner Harbor after running from police and hotel security guards has been identified as Howard Ruffin, 36, of the 2700 block of Hugo Ave. in Baltimore.

Ruffin had been shopping downtown for clothes Wednesday, police said. About noon, he began telling people outside the Sheraton Inner Harbor hotel that he had been robbed, police said.

A hotel security guard approached Ruffin, who dashed toward a taxi cab and jumped behind the steering wheel, said Detective Dennis Raftery of the city's homicide unit.

Ruffin, who did not know how to drive, according to his family, couldn't start the cab.

He jumped out and ran toward the harbor, chased by two security guards, Raftery said.

Ruffin ran to the edge of the harbor, near the 300 block of Light St., turned around and stared at the security guards, Raftery said.

He then jumped into the water and began swimming, the detective said.

Police and bystanders tossed Ruffin flotation devices, and officers in a boat tried to rescue him, Raftery said. But Ruffin refused their help, took a deep breath and dived under the surface, Raftery said.

He was pulled from the water about 20 minutes later and pronounced dead at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Ruffin's relatives said he knew how to swim and that he was a former lifeguard.

They said that two days before he drowned, Ruffin was released from Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he had been treated for epileptic seizures.

Police are awaiting the results of toxicology reports.

Ruffin's family had no explanation for his behavior.

Relatives said that his flight from police might have stemmed from an incident in the 1980s when he was shot by an officer.

"He was just afraid of cops," said Mada Pitts, 34, Ruffin's sister.

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