Mychal Dourson at his pizza shop in Carlsbad, where he tackled and disarmed Thomas Scott Ruth
  • Mychal Dourson at his pizza shop in Carlsbad, where he tackled and disarmed Thomas Scott Ruth
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Dourson’s bold moves to tackle and disarm a man who put a loaded handgun in his face during an attempted robbery made national news in February 2011. But Dourson said he is disappointed with a plea deal the prosecutor’s office made in November.

In the plea deal, Thomas Scott Ruth, 23, admitted to two counts of attempted robbery and that he had used a dangerous weapon. It was unclear if the weapon he admitted to having used was pepper spray or the loaded handgun. Five other felonies were dismissed in the deal, including assault charges for spraying both the shop owner and his employee with tear gas in the course of the midnight scuffle. Court paperwork is unclear as to whether Ruth admitted to the special allegation of using a firearm during an attempted robbery.

Both Dourson and his employee Patrick Clemons said that a man wearing a knit mask pointed a gun at them and said, “Give me the money!” Dourson claims he said, “What money?” and then was peppersprayed. Dourson made his way to the cash register; he managed to dial 911 as he passed a wall phone. When the robber began to wave his gun around, Dourson decided to tackle him. Both Dourson and Clemons said they wrestled the would-be robber onto the tiled floor and took his pepper spray and handgun. BBs and pellets spilled out of the gun. Some ammunition rolled under the nearby pizza oven.

“He kept saying, ‘All right, all right, I’ll just leave,’” Dourson said. “But I said, ‘No, man, the cops are going to escort you out.’”

Clemons was so annoyed, he tried to pepper-spray the attacker with his own weapon, but Clemons couldn’t work out how to use the can, so he threw it away.

Dourson said he pulled the ski mask off the offender as soon as they had him on the floor, but he did not recognize Thomas Scott Ruth. “Thank God it was a 22-year-old spoiled brat from La Costa and not a real criminal,” Dourson later said.

Thomas Scott Ruth

The Would-Be Robber Confessed, Carlsbad Cop Said

Carlsbad police officer Shaun Lawton arrived on the scene to find Ruth restrained on the floor. “I immediately handcuffed him,” he said. The officer described the gun recovered as a CO2-powered pellet pistol in the style of a Beretta semi-automatic.

After he took the bloodied Ruth away from the pizza-shop workers, Officer Lawton asked Ruth if he’d planned the crime or if it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. at a preliminary hearing, the officer testified that Ruth told him it was a spur-of-the-moment thing.

Ruth was ordered to face all seven felonies at the end of his hearing in June.

He received a moving violation while out on bail in August. He gave an address in the 3000 block of Calle del Sur in Carlsbad — this is La Costa, an upscale part of San Diego County.

Dourson now complains that Ruth has received “rich man” justice. The restaurateur, who works the overnight shift in his pizza shop every night, can’t understand why the robbery case was not continued to a trial. Dourson wants the man who stuck a gun in his face and pepper-sprayed him convicted of all seven felonies he was charged with.

“The robber got a sweetheart deal,” Dourson said. “I don’t think that Thomas Scott Ruth thinks there are consequences for his actions. And this case is proving it.” Dourson claims the plea deal was intended to be completed on October 26 — as a gift for Thomas Scott Ruth’s birthday — but that because journalists got word of it, the deal was delayed.

About a month after Scott was first brought to court, the specific charge of attempted robbery against Mychal Dourson as the named victim was dropped, in an “amended” complaint filed March 30, 2011. This reduced the felony count to six. Inquiries were made, and Dourson says the district attorney’s office says it was a clerical error. This “error” was corrected June 30, when a “second amended complaint” was filed, and the missing felony was restored.

“I feel completely betrayed by the district attorney’s office. We didn’t even get a chance in the justice system. They stole my opportunity for justice.”

Dourson has had as many as ten phone conversations with persons in the prosecutor’s office. “I fought for months to stop this plea deal, but it was futile, against the wishes of the DA’s office.”

He was told that prosecutors “cannot force the defendant to go to trial,” and “there’s nothing I can do,” and “the decision came down from the branch chief.” (A person with the DA’s office said that Summer Stephan is the current chief of the DA’s North County branch.)

Clemons is also disappointed. “The plea deal saddens me but doesn’t surprise me much. What small faith I had in the fairness of the justice system waved its final goodbye…’cause I guarantee [that] if Ruth was poor and a minority, justice would’ve already been dealt — with a much heavier hand.”

“This whole situation stinks,” Clemons concluded. He and his boss have been friends for 17 years and have worked together making pizzas for ten. Both men were 36 years old at the time of the robbery.

It does appear that this case may have been passed around like a hot potato. In less than one year, several different deputy district attorneys have been assigned to the case, including Aimee McLeod, Christine Ryan, Brooke Tafreshi, and Brock Arstill.

At the sentencing hearing on February 2, 2012, judge Daniel Goldstein ordered Thomas Ruth to serve 365 days for each of the two felony attempted-robbery charges that he admitted; time is to be served consecutively and in county jail, not state prison. But then the judge suspended that sentence and granted the defendant three years of formal probation. Judge Goldstein ordered Ruth into a residential treatment program and to report to a probation officer within 72 hours of his release from custody. ■

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SurfPuppy619 March 2, 2012 @ 3:56 p.m.

At the sentencing hearing on February 2, 2012, judge Daniel Goldstein ordered Thomas Ruth to serve 365 days for each of the two felony attempted-robbery charges that he admitted; time is to be served consecutively and in county jail, not state prison. But then the judge suspended that sentence and granted the defendant three years of formal probation == The two years in county was a gift-then to see that sentence was suspended????? Whoa. There is no logical reason for that at all. THat tells me this guy knew someone, and someone who was high up and connected.

This was a violent crime, robbery (although if he had a BB gun instead of a real gun that does take it down a notch).

The guy is right, if this guy were poor, and a minority (black or brown), he would have done 10 years in state prison.

I have seen people do real time in county for a two punch fist fight.

One last thing to note, this was a violent "strike" offense, where the time given must be 85% served. I would like to know if the strike was part of the deal???


Eva Knott March 3, 2012 @ 9:16 a.m.

Sentencing is unbelievably complicated. I was there at sentencing, and I saw the paperwork and I am still not clear how it is that the Sheriff has the perp's release date listed as December 27 of this year. That doesn't even make 2 years since the date of the crimes, Feb 16 2011. On the day of sentencing it was noted that the perp had already served 137 days in custody but was being credited with 205 days. The same day, Feb 2 2012, Judge Goldstein warned the perp that he has "two strikes" now. Sometimes I can only report what is going on, as accurately as possible, without necessarily understanding it all.


SurfPuppy619 March 3, 2012 @ 11:07 a.m.

OK, this is confusing because the story says the 2 years was "suspended". I just checked and this guy IS in custody in Vista on TWO robbery convictions. He was booked 9-22-2011 and is set to be released 12-12-2012, that is 13 months. So his sentence was not suspended. Strike offenders are not supposed to go to county jails, or "Local Prison", they are supposed to go to a state pen. I don't know how he got this deal, but 13 months for TWO robbery convictions is a gift anyway you slice it.


Eva Knott March 3, 2012 @ 9:25 a.m.

The CO2 powered pellet gun can be a deadly weapon. If the pellet or BB is fired near the eye socket or sinuses, for example, the projectile can easily make it into the brain. According to the victims, the perp put the loaded pellet gun into their faces before he sprayed them both with mace. That makes two dangerous weapons used on two different people, during the attempted robbery. Posted by Eva Knott.


SurfPuppy619 March 3, 2012 @ 11:12 a.m.

Yes, a pellet or BB gun could in a worst case scenario cause a death, but it is so unlikely I question if they could make that stick. I guess that would qualify as "dangerous" though.

As for pepper spray, I guess it too is a "dangerous" weapon. It is not deadly, but I guess dangerous is a term that could be applied.

The entire system is a mess because the discretion is 90% of the system, where one person is sent to the slammer for 10 years for some minor non violent crime and a guy like this gets 13- 22 months of local jail. BTW, was he out on bond between the February arrest and the booking date of September??


SurfPuppy619 March 3, 2012 @ 11:15 a.m.

He received a moving violation while out on bail in August. == OK, he was out on bond. So he is doing 13 months for two robbery convictions. I can't imagine they would not be strikes, except that strikes are considered violent and I thought required state prison and 85% of the sentence to be served.

But I guess this is all wheel and deal type stuff, where the judge and prosecutor can bend the rules and do whatever they want under "discretion".


MrArtless March 6, 2012 @ 7:21 a.m.

Well, Thomas is my friend, and this article left out a few key details. The first one is that he doesn't even remember committing the crime. He was in a blackout brought on from the self-medication he was administering due to a serious opiate addiction. He basically stumbled into the pizza joint. His fault? Yes. The psychopathic actions of a deranged potential murderer? Hardly. He got such a light sentence because he has severe depression which went untreated, as well as a whole bunch of other psychological imbalances.

What I do know is that Thomas is honestly one of the nicest people I've ever met. He's the kind of guy who will walk into a gas station, buy a Twix bar, eat one quarter, and share the other three with whoever he is with. I've had a lot of heart-to-hearts with him and he's not a bad guy. He's actually got a genius level IQ.

Finally, that has to be the least flattering picture of him I've ever seen. He's usually smiling and friendly.


dayforbananafish Dec. 20, 2012 @ 12:32 a.m.

Re: Mr. Ruth, consequences, and addiction

Incarceration is not intended to be comfortable. Nor is it a benign "time out" or scolding. For someone like Mr. Ruth -- a fundamentally decent, intelligent young man -- it had to be a sobering, frightening experience. No one is the same after jail or prison. Even the “'rich man' justice" Mr. Dourson complains of did not preclude Mr. Ruth the dehumanizing, dangerous, and traumatic year in custody. Few people understand that the San Diego county jail system -- under the pressures of California prison realignment scheme -- is essentially as dangerous as any prison. Violence is the norm.

A more balanced piece (i.e., less sensational, less might have included more about Mr. Ruth's mental state past and present. If it is true the he is an addict, author Eva Knott might have added this profound fact: a person will do things under the influence of substances that he simply would not ever do sober, and that some consequences of these things cannot ever be erased or amended. Felonies are an example of this.

Mr. Ruth cannot erase or amend this. Even in light last month's amendment of the "strikes" law, the two "strikes" the judge applied are profoundly serious business. Now he must rebuild a life, and no amount of wealth or preferential treatment will make the task easy.


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