Distraught household desires solutions in Ruggs case

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LAS VEGAS — On the drive residence from an in a single day shift at Paris On line casino, Pedja Komazec came across a crash scene. To his proper, a burned husk of metallic rested in the course of the street. He could not inform whether or not it was a automotive or an SUV; its options had melted into anonymity.

On the curb sat a crumpled Corvette that belonged to Las Vegas Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs III. However that information hadn’t gotten out but. It was hours earlier than daylight on Nov. 2. By the point Komazec neared South Rainbow Boulevard that morning, fireplace had consumed no matter was on the street. Any individual bought killed, he thought.

Komazec had seen sufficient wrecks within the 24/7 freneticism of Las Vegas that he hadn’t stopped to wonder if he knew the particular person in that charred car in the course of the street. He turned and headed residence.

Three stoplights away, a household was desperately looking for their 23-year-old rock of the family. After working six days in a row, Tina Tintor had been out with a pal, strolling her golden retriever, Max. She had texted her mother to let her know she’d be residence late. However then calls to Tina’s telephone stored going to voicemail.

Her household checked with space hospitals and clung to their telephones as information trickled out. A star, a soccer participant, was concerned in a crash. There have been pictures of that charred car, a RAV4, and information that the driving force of that automotive had died. Tina’s mom cried. Tina drove a 2013 RAV4.

Round 7 a.m., Komazec’s sister, Mirjana, knocked on the door of his home.

HENRY RUGGS III went residence in the future after the crash. He was launched from the hospital, launched from custody on a $150,000 bond and released by the Las Vegas Raiders. He was charged with a number of felonies, together with driving beneath the affect leading to dying and reckless driving, and was placed on home arrest, with alcohol and site digital monitoring gadgets.

On Tuesday, his attorneys argued in courtroom that Las Vegas police had no authorized purpose to request a warrant for blood to be drawn from Ruggs the morning of the crash and that the blood alcohol take a look at shouldn’t be allowed. (Police didn’t conduct a subject sobriety take a look at on the web site of the crash.) Authorities say Ruggs’ blood alcohol content material, measured two hours after the crash, was 0.161 — greater than twice the authorized restrict in Nevada. Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman denied the request to suppress the take a look at.

Authorities say Ruggs tore by means of Las Vegas’ valley west of the Strip at 156 mph in his Corvette Stingray. The Clark County coroner ruled in December that Tintor and her canine burned to dying within the crash. “I have been concerned within the justice system for over 40 years as each a protection lawyer and a younger prosecutor,” Clark County district lawyer Steve Wolfson instructed ESPN. “I’ve by no means been concerned in, or am I conscious of, one other legal case involving anyone touring 156 miles an hour.”

Ruggs awaits a preliminary listening to — now set for Sept. 7 — to find out whether or not he’ll stand trial in state courtroom. That listening to has been rescheduled 4 occasions — the newest postponement coming final month. If convicted, the 23-year-old former Alabama standout faces a minimal of two years and a most of fifty years in jail, Wolfson instructed reporters in November.

One Las Vegas DUI protection lawyer not concerned within the case stated such delays are usually not uncommon, given the quantity of DUI circumstances within the metropolis and the type of authorized maneuvering anticipated over proof and medical information.

Nonetheless, with every delay, a household wonders whether or not justice will ever be served.

“You’ll be able to’t even think about the ache,” Komazec stated of his niece’s dying. “You do not even understand how you are feeling anymore. You do not even have emotions.”

Joe Sullivan, a supervisor of sufferer providers for Moms Towards Drunk Driving, has sat in a courtroom with Tintor’s household throughout hearings over the previous a number of months and has instructed them that the justice system can transfer slowly. Sullivan arrange a gathering in June between the household and Clark County assistant district lawyer Eric Bauman, and Sullivan known as the assembly productive.

Nonetheless, Komazec cannot sleep. He scours the web and finds tales of celebrities and privileged individuals who’ve dedicated crimes and completed little or no time in Las Vegas. The household worries that the longer it takes for the case to be resolved, the much less anybody will bear in mind Tintor.

They wish to know every thing that occurred the evening Tintor died. They wish to know the place Ruggs and his girlfriend, Kiara Je’nai Kilgo-Washington, had been earlier than the crash — what they have been doing, who they have been with, the place they have been going and why he made the alternatives he did.

However none of that may reply the existential questions. Why was a soccer participant with a multimillion-dollar contract in his automotive quite than one of many quite a few rideshare choices? How might this occur when Ruggs’ life and profession had been outlined by a previous lethal crash?

ON THE HEADER of Ruggs’ Twitter web page, which has been silent since Oct. 31, is a photograph of a tombstone. It lists Roderic D. Scott’s date of delivery, the date of his dying and an epitaph for a younger man who by no means noticed his 18th birthday: “I’ll do one thing nice. I shall be one thing nice.”

Ruggs had these phrases tattooed on his leg. He’d been pals with Scott since elementary faculty, after they met each morning to play basketball at a YMCA in Montgomery, Alabama. They grew to become greatest pals at Robert E. Lee Excessive College and dreamed of getting out of Montgomery and taking part in within the NBA.

In an intensive interview with ESPN’s Faculty GameDay in 2019, Ruggs stated he would not be taking part in soccer if it weren’t for Scott.

Scott had a imaginative and prescient that his pal can be a five-star athlete, and that he’d play soccer at Alabama. Ruggs had barely picked up a soccer in his first two years of highschool, however Scott stored urging him to play. He’d seen how briskly Ruggs might run, and the way excessive he might bounce.

“He was all the time the one which was giving me confidence and simply boosting my head up,” Ruggs stated within the GameDay interview.

“I feel he simply noticed my potential.”

The soccer coaches at Robert E. Lee additionally stored pursuing Ruggs, and junior 12 months, he lastly relented. He acquired his first soccer scholarship supply after the second sport of the season.

Scott accepted a basketball scholarship to Jacksonville State, and their futures appeared set. Shortly after their basketball staff was eradicated from the postseason, Scott and Ruggs deliberate a visit to Birmingham to cheer for his or her pals within the state finals. Ruggs was purported to drive, however he caught the flu, so Scott rode with 4 different youngsters, together with his longtime pal Darian Adams.

It was raining the morning of March 3, 2016, as they headed north on Interstate 65. Adams stated the driving force was rushing and distracted on her telephone. He had requested her to decelerate. He was sleeping within the again seat, unrestrained, when he awoke to the thump-thump of the tires driving over rumble strips. However Adams by some means managed to nod off once more. Shortly after that, the automotive began hydroplaning, then left the street and overturned.

“The whole lot was in sluggish movement,” Adams stated. “I bear in mind me being on [the interior roof], and Rod was within the center. I bear in mind trying down on him.”

The subsequent time he awakened, Adams was mendacity in the course of the street. He had damaged two bones in his neck. He requested the place Scott was, however no one on the scene, or the hospital, would inform him.

Ruggs was at residence in mattress. His telephone stored ringing, and Ruggs stored hitting ignore. When he lastly answered and heard the information, he wished to hurry to see Scott, however his brother, Kevontae’, had taken his truck to the hospital. So Ruggs ran roughly a mile to Baptist Medical Middle South to get to Scott.

When he came upon his pal was lifeless, Ruggs stated he “misplaced himself.” He stated he carried round guilt as a result of he did not drive him that day.

“I do not get sick,” he instructed GameDay. “So why was I sick and why at the moment?

“I strive to not put on it an excessive amount of on myself however … I do not even know the right way to really feel about it. Like, was it a superb factor for me that I wasn’t there or was it simply meant to be that manner?”

(ESPN requested information for the accident report from the State of Alabama Legislation Enforcement Company, however the request was denied, citing Lagniappe v. Mack, a 2021 Alabama Supreme Court docket choice involving an area newspaper’s request for body-cam footage in a deadly police taking pictures. The state Supreme Court docket dominated that “investigative writings or recordings are privileged communications protected against disclosure.”)

Eleven months after his pal’s dying, Ruggs introduced his school selection in a 1-minute, 50-second video that began with him crouched at Scott’s grave.

“I honor him each day,” Ruggs says within the video. “The whole lot I’m, every thing I’ve, I honor his reminiscence. As a result of he all the time instructed me, ‘I’ll do one thing nice. I shall be one thing nice.'”

On the finish of the video, Ruggs locations an Alabama cap on Scott’s grave.

“That is for you, Rod,” Ruggs says.

Adams went on to play school basketball at Troy, then transferred to Jacksonville State in 2020. He figured it was a option to honor Rod Scott, by sporting the uniform he could not. It has been six years because the crash on I-65, and Adams nonetheless thinks about Scott each day. He cannot shake the reminiscences.

He was preparing for a sport when he heard the information of the crash in Las Vegas. Adams stated he vacillated from being upset in regards to the predicament Ruggs put himself in to feeling brokenhearted about Tintor to even sympathy for Ruggs. He stated he prays for each of them.

He stated he reached out to Ruggs however Ruggs by no means responded.

“The one factor I’d say about Henry is that soccer could have been his life,” Adams stated, “however his life is not over in my eyes.”

TINTOR WAS, BY 20-something requirements, a homebody. Her uncle stated a few of that got here out of necessity. Her father, Nedeljko Tintor, struggled with language obstacles and did not have a driver’s license. She took him wherever he wanted to go, and he or she was supposed to select him up from work the morning she died.

She preferred doing issues for her household, be it babysitting Ayden, Komazec’s son, or spending a day together with her grandmother. Tintor fought to get into the world. She was born untimely, and endured bombings within the former Yugoslavia. Komazec’s household would ration meals to save lots of for child Tina.

In 2000, when she was a toddler, Tintor, her mother and father and her brother, Djordje, got here to the US. Komazec’s household joined them a 12 months later, they usually all lived beneath one roof in Las Vegas for about 4 years. The cramped quarters, and the shared nervousness of abandoning every thing for an additional nation, solid a deep bond inside the household.

Tintor liked cooking and dyeing her hair and doting over her canine and cats. She graduated from Durango Excessive College in 2016, and labored on the Goal on Grand Canyon Drive. It was a placeholder job to pay the payments till she discovered who she wished to be. She would take advantage of mundane issues enjoyable — Tintor loved sifting by means of the chaos of the greenback aisle — and hang around with co-workers within the car parking zone for hours after the shop closed. They’d commiserate over imply clients and teenage angst.

She had plans. She wished to be a nurse, then modified her thoughts and targeted on computer systems. She was actually good with computer systems, her pal Ryder Hankins stated. He stated she had hopes of finding out at UNLV.

“She was very tomboyish, and he or she was courageous,” Hankins stated. “She did not take s— from anybody. She did not let anybody speak all the way down to her, particularly at Goal. If the visitor is mad, we simply receives a commission $12 an hour to take a seat there and pay attention. She was by no means shy. She was all the time there to assist.

“She was somebody that I gained quite a lot of braveness from, and I seemed as much as her in that sense. She knew who she was and likewise wasn’t afraid to be herself. And she or he was very blunt. She knew the right way to say one thing trustworthy with out hurting anybody.”

THE RAIDERS HELD a staff assembly on Monday, Nov. 1. They’d simply come off a comparatively uneventful bye week, however interim head coach Wealthy Bisaccia delivered a message as they entered an off day on Tuesday: Keep out of hassle.

Out in Dallas, Cowboys security Damontae Kazee had been arrested on suspicion of DWI throughout his staff’s bye two weeks earlier, and that was entrance of thoughts for the Las Vegas workers. The Raiders had weathered Jon Gruden’s e mail scandal, and his bitter departure, and have been 5-2 heading right into a Week 9 street sport in opposition to the New York Giants.

Ruggs, a second-year receiver who was lastly displaying the promise that earned him the twelfth general draft decide and a $16.67 million assured contract, determined to exit that evening. He went to Topgolf, a preferred leisure venue that overlooks the Strip. His girlfriend posted a video on Fb of Ruggs taking swings from the bay whereas they loved the night with no less than one different, unidentified pal. She later instructed police that they have been ingesting mai tais and that she drank two however did not know what number of, if any, Ruggs had. Messages to Topgolf and the corporate’s nationwide workplace weren’t returned.

Kilgo-Washington narrated Ruggs as he swatted at golf balls. “You are beneath strain once you’re on digicam,” she laughed.

Membership music thumped. Excessive Curler, the town’s well-known 550-foot remark wheel, was in Ruggs’ sight line. Ruggs stated that there have been 14 minutes left of their session. After they left Topgolf, Ruggs and his girlfriend went to a pal’s home, in response to the police report.

Simply after 3:30 within the morning, Tintor’s RAV4 was headed north within the far proper lane of South Rainbow Boulevard. Kilgo-Washington instructed police she was on the telephone whereas Ruggs was driving his Corvette. She heard him yell, “What is that this man doing?” across the time he began braking. The automotive started to slip, veering from the center of the northbound lanes, south of Spring Valley Parkway, into the far proper lane and hit Tintor’s Toyota at 127 mph. The RAV4 was propelled 571 toes.

Michael Leone, who lives alongside South Rainbow Boulevard, was awake and feeding his 6-month-old son when he heard a increase. Leone went to his yard, the place he might see the road. In an interview with ESPN, he stated he noticed somebody nonetheless within the driver’s seat of a Corvette and remembered music blaring. Leone stated one other man — later decided to be a safety guard at a close-by apartment advanced — helped the driving force to the aspect of the street.

Leone stated he noticed a black SUV pull up behind the accident scene, after which seen a white automotive additionally parked not far-off. He estimated 10 folks have been strolling nearer to the crash, and he remembered an officer telling one of many males to again up, and the person replied, “Oh, we’re his pals, we all know them.”

The police report stated {that a} black Dior shoe was on the bottom and a handgun was on the floorboard.

A TMZ video exhibits the Corvette on the aspect of the street, partially on the sidewalk — hazard lights flashing and doorways ajar. Tintor’s RAV4 sits sideways within the heart lane, burning, as Ruggs curses. The fireplace within the RAV4 pops so loudly that it apparently units off a automotive alarm. A person on the sidewalk — who seems wearing the identical clothes as their pal within the Fb video from Topgolf — factors out to an officer that the particular person sitting on the bottom is Ruggs, who performs for the Raiders, and that he wants assist “ASAP.”

A voice on the video, however off digicam, tells police there may be somebody nonetheless within the automotive that is on fireplace. Two males — the safety guard and a passerby — had tried to save lots of Tintor, in response to statements made to police, however she was pinned inside. Smoke and warmth from the fireplace brought on each males to again away.

The TMZ video reveals Ruggs’ response to a catastrophe in actual time: He sits on the street and cries as Kilgo-Washington faces him, holding his head in her arms. She repeatedly pleads for assist and tells Ruggs to consider their toddler daughter.

“Consider Kenzli,” she says. “Consider Kenzli.”

Ruggs was taken to College Medical Middle, the place, in response to a police report, an officer seen Ruggs’ speech was slurred. Citing proof collected on the scene in addition to Ruggs’ situation and conduct at UMC, police concluded he was drunk. Citing checks by hospital workers earlier than police arrived, the report stated Ruggs hadn’t suffered head trauma. Ruggs was booked into Clark County Detention Middle.

When Ruggs was on the hospital, he grew to become enraged, police stated. He tried to take the IVs out of his arm and the monitor from his finger.

“Get me the f— out of right here,” Ruggs screamed.

TINTOR WAS BURIED on a sun-splashed Thursday afternoon. Younger folks wearing black scattered grime right into a gap within the floor and made an indication of the cross. Certainly one of Tintor’s pals posted on social media that it was the primary funeral she had ever attended.

Tintor’s household wished the providers to be non-public, with no cameras, so a throng of reports media stood within the nook of a car parking zone at St. Simeon Serbian Orthodox Church, the location of the funeral.

Nonetheless, a handful of strangers felt compelled to attend.

“I by no means knew Tina,” Las Vegas resident Bob Kendzior stated. “I did not know a factor about her till the occasions, and it caught with me all week. I am a canine particular person like she was; I’ve had rescue canine my complete life. And the tragedy is simply unspeakable. I did not know what to do. I wished to donate, I wished to ship condolences and ship flowers, however nothing appeared proper.

“After which I remembered after I misplaced family members, crucial factor to me was the individuals who simply confirmed up. So I made a decision to point out up. I am sorry if I wasn’t dressed appropriately, however I’ve by no means been to a Serbian occasion earlier than. However it was vital to be right here.”

Raiders proprietor Mark Davis attended the funeral, and Komazec thought it was a pleasant gesture. However then he later learn within the Las Vegas Overview-Journal that Davis stated he would not abandon Ruggs although he was minimize from the staff.

“I used to be simply pondering he was anyone who feels sorry and he’ll change one thing,” Komazec stated. “That he’ll say, ‘We now have too many issues within the membership. I wish to change one thing. This isn’t acceptable, what is going on on.’ However after that I learn within the information, ‘Hey I’ll give him all of the assist he wants.’ That is the factor — why would you be two[-faced]?”

However within the days after the accident, Tintor’s household did really feel the assist of Las Vegas. Angela Pinzon, a mom of two, works on the Petco subsequent to the park the place Tintor walked her canine that final evening. Pinzon, who has 4 golden retrievers, discovered herself grieving a lady and a canine she had by no means met and wished to do one thing. Pinzon and Las Vegas canine coach Sabrina Smilor organized a “Pack Stroll” for Nov. 13, the Saturday after Tintor’s funeral. There was only one rule: Neither the canine nor their people might put on Raiders gear.

Pinzon stated it wasn’t meant as a knock in opposition to the Raiders. She simply wished the day to be about Tintor and Max. She hoped Tintor’s household would hear in regards to the stroll and know that the town of Las Vegas was fascinated by them. Know that they weren’t alone.

Within the crowd she noticed a gaggle of individuals wearing black. Pinzon checked out their solemn faces and knew — it was Tintor’s household. She walked as much as Mirjana Komazec, Tintor’s mother, and hugged her.

A number of weeks later, Pinzon was loading groceries into her automotive within the car parking zone of La Bonita on South Rainbow Boulevard when a lady within the car parking zone approached her. It was Mirjana.

They embraced once more. Mirjana, Pinzon stated, was sporting black. She instructed Pinzon that she by no means would have imagined all these folks would present up that day for Tintor. She was crying.

She instructed Pinzon that she hoped this by no means occurs to anybody else.

ON MARCH 16, the Clark County courtroom granted Ruggs permission to depart residence confinement twice every week to work out for 3 hours a day at a coaching heart within the Las Vegas Valley close to Purple Rock Canyon. The health club touts itself as a premier sports activities facility, catering to pro-level athletes.

It is unclear whether or not Ruggs is definitely understanding or whether or not he has hopes of sometime resurrecting his soccer profession. Ruggs’ lawyer, David Chesnoff, stated his shopper is not going to do interviews whereas the case is ongoing. Chesnoff would not touch upon a movement the protection made, and a decide granted, in late April requesting permission for Ruggs to go to California for one month — Might 2 to June 2 — for medical remedy. ESPN requested a duplicate of the protection’s movement, however the courtroom sealed the doc outlining his medical wants.

Dozens of pals and ex-teammates have been contacted for this story, and plenty of them both did not reply or declined to remark. Ruggs’ agent, Jovan Barnes, who has made quite a few journeys to Las Vegas since Nov. 2 to be with Ruggs, stated that he want to speak in regards to the Henry Ruggs he is aware of however that he cannot remark.

Raiders gamers have had a number of brushes with the legislation involving driving in Las Vegas. In January, rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs pleaded guilty to a careless driving cost after a DUI cost was dropped. Prosecutors stated Hobbs’ blood alcohol degree was 0.01%, beneath the Nevada authorized restrict. Hobbs additionally confronted a separate reckless driving cost from earlier that month — he was going 110 mph in a 65 mph zone — for which he entered a no-contest plea and paid a $250 tremendous. Hobbs’ incident got here nearly a 12 months to the day after working again Josh Jacobs was arrested on suspicion of DUI in a single-car crash close to the airport. He was by no means charged as a result of his blood alcohol degree was beneath the authorized restrict.

Alex Otte, nationwide president of MADD, stated that the group reached out to the Raiders and supplied assist within the hope of avoiding a repeat of what occurred on South Rainbow Boulevard and that they’ve been in discussions about efforts to forestall impaired driving.

A consultant from the NFLPA instructed ESPN using ride-sharing apps is promoted in annual staff conferences. In 2010, the union started providing a driver service; the on-demand portion of the service was discontinued in 2019 after Uber and Lyft grew to become in style. Gamers at present can safe a automotive service, with no less than an hour’s discover, by calling the 1-800 quantity on the again of their NFLPA membership card.

“We want to have the ability to practice gamers, workers, followers,” Otte stated. “We would like everybody who’s concerned with their group, with the NFL and with the general public typically, to grasp that that is by no means an possibility. Ingesting and driving ought to by no means be an possibility for somebody.”

JUST A FEW hours after the NFL’s first-round draft picks stroll the pink carpet beneath the backdrop of the Bellagio Fountains in late April, Pedja Komazec quietly will get in his Volkswagen and makes the three:30 a.m. journey residence from work. A number of miles from his home, he stops his automotive and walks to the crash web site.

Over the winter, he had commissioned an artist to color a mural close to the nook of Spring Valley and Rainbow, just some toes from the place Tintor died. He stops on the mural each evening on his manner residence from work simply to verify the flowers, candles and memorials are intact. It relaxes him when he is aware of every thing is OK.

In December, he arrived on the web site and seen that somebody was stealing her Christmas lights. Komazec ran after the person. He requested the person why he did it, and the person stated he did not know. Komazec has come to the world late at evening for greater than half a 12 months now, when a memorial was throughout the road, when somebody wrote in chalk, “DEPORT THE RAIDERS.”

He walks a few blocks to the spot the place Ruggs slammed on his brakes. The police paint traces marking the automobiles’ actions are fading, however the scorch marks from Tintor’s RAV4 are nonetheless seen. Komazec thinks in regards to the ultimate seconds of his niece’s life again and again. He will do one thing. He desires to fulfill with state legislators about toughening DUI legal guidelines. He stated he has a video name scheduled with no less than one state senator subsequent month. Komazec plans to be within the courtroom for each listening to.

“We’re by no means going to get her again,” he stated, “however no less than he can get what he deserves to get.”

It is nearly 4 a.m., across the time Tintor died on Nov. 2. Vehicles whiz by the intersection. The solar shall be out quickly. Komazec, wearing his work garments — black pants, a white shirt and a tie — declines to be in any pictures of himself by the memorial. He desires all the eye to be on Tintor. He says Tintor’s mother ordered an enormous photograph of her daughter shortly after her dying, and when the household hung it on the wall, their Siberian husky cried and barked for days.

The canine did not eat for 4 or 5 days straight, Komazec stated, as a result of it realized that Tintor wasn’t coming residence.

Tintor’s mother not too long ago adopted one other golden retriever, he stated. It reminds her of Tina. There was little hesitation when deciding what to name him. They named him Max.

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