A veteran Fresno police officer has been placed on leave after he was accused of misdemeanor child abuse, Chief Jerry Dyer said.
Jesse Joe Ruelas, who has been with the force since 1996, has been charged in Fresno County Superior Court with corporal injury to a child, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and-or fine.
A Fresno police report accuses Ruelas of striking a girl at least three times in her head with the heel of his right palm, causing her to suffer a mild concussion. The report also says a medical official examined the girl and said she has “post-concussion syndrome” with headaches “that come and go” and dizziness and fatigue.
Ruelas, 44, does not have a court date yet for his arraignment, but a warrant for his arrest was issued in July.
The police report says the incident happened May 21 while Ruelas was with the victim and two other children, ages 8 and 9, in his pickup truck. The report does not state the age of the victim.
While on the freeway, the girl, who was sitting behind Ruelas, asked him whether he knew it had been one year since he and the children’s mother separated.
“This angered Jesse,” the report said. “He began to yell and slam his fist into the middle console. While he did this, he yelled that it was their mother’s fault they split, not his.”
The report accuses Ruelas of swinging his right hand backward and and striking the victim behind her right ear. Ruelas then moved in his seat so he could strike her two more times behind the right ear, the report alleges.
When the victim complained, Ruelas told her “he could hit her wherever he wanted with whatever he wanted as hard as he wanted as long as he was discipling her,” the report says.
The victim later told her grandmother, who took her to a medical clinic to get treatment.
The California Penal Code said any person who willfully inflicts upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. But the police report says an officer saw no visible injuries on the victim’s head. The officer also felt behind the right ear of the victim’s head, but felt no bumps, the report said.
Once arrested, Ruelas’ misdemeanor corporal injury charge requires $1,000 bail.
Ruelas was placed on paid adminstrative leave on July 31. Dyer said an internal affairs investigation into Ruelas is ongoing, and his status will be evaluated once it concludes.