A San Diego police sergeant accused of soliciting a minor for sex was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Monday afternoon inside his Carmel Valley home after failing to appear in court earlier in the day, police Chief David Nisleit said.
Sgt. Joseph Ruvido, 49, was slated to be arraigned on two felonies and a misdemeanor after he allegedly set up a meeting with a minor — or someone believed to be a minor — for sexual purposes and then showed up at the arranged place and time. He was also suspected of attempting to commit lewd acts with a child between the ages of 14 and 15.
When Ruvido did not show up for his initial court appearance Monday afternoon, a $150,000 bench warrant was issued for his arrest, and police officers were sent to his Carmel Valley residence, where they forced entry after he failed to answer the door, authorities said.
“All signs, all indications are that this is a suicide,” Nisleit said at a Monday night press briefing. “Like many of you, I too have many questions that remain unanswered.”
Officers found Ruvido’s body around 4:25 p.m., Nisleit said, but it was unclear when he died — Nisleit said nobody with the police department had been in contact with Ruvido since he posted $100,000 bail on July 27, the same day he was arrested.
“We had sent our chaplains, we had sent our wellness unit and several officers out there to try to make contact (with) him ever since he bailed,” Nisleit said. “We sent resources there to make contact with him. Unfortunately all those attempts we were unable to contact him.”
Ruvido was not married and had no children, according to the police chief, who said the investigation into Ruvido’s alleged criminal conduct would not end with his death, and he would not speculate whether his apparent suicide indicated an admission of guilt.
The charges against Ruvido stemmed from acts that reportedly occurred on July 6, prosecutors said.
Ruvido was arrested July 27 while off duty in Carmel Valley after someone submitted a tip through Crime Stoppers that identified people soliciting sex from minors. The tip was forwarded to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Ruvido, a 21-year veteran, was identified as a suspect.
Nisleit said last month that the department worked “around the clock” to fully investigate the allegations, which included constant surveillance of Ruvido up until his arrest.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Stephen Marquardt released few additional details about the case at Monday’s hearing. Neither police nor prosecutors have said whether the alleged crime involved an undercover officer or an actual minor.
For the past year Ruvido had been assigned to the watch commander’s office, a position that had him approving officer reports and jail bookings from a desk in the basement of police headquarters. Before that he was a patrol sergeant in Eastern Division.
Ruvido had been suspended from duty without pay.
In 2011, a San Diego police officer awaiting trial on drunken driving and hit-and-run charges was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Clairemont.
Officer David C. Hall’s wife reported his August suicide. The 14-year veteran had pleaded not guilty several months earlier to two charges of felony drunken driving causing injury, one charge of hit and run and an allegation that his blood-alcohol content was greater than 0.15%.
He faced three years and eight months behind bars.
Winkley and Riggins write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.