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Army Ranger speaks out after shot while fighting off shotgun-wielding robber with his bare hands

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Russell Ruth, a wounded warrior athlete, practices a discus throw at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., June 20, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan C. Grossklag)
March 18, 2021

In an interview with Army Times this week, Russell Ruth, an active-duty soldier who served in the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, spoke out publicly two years after being shot while fighting off an armed robbery at a Georgia restaurant.

On March 24, 2019, then-Staff Sgt. Ruth met friends for brunch at the Brewer’s Sports Bar & Grill in Savannah, Ga. when a suspect with a sawed-off shotgun entered the restaurant and began robbing the place.

Ruth said he saw the masked-man enter the building and yell, “This is a robbery, nobody move.” As the robber disappeared around a hallway in the restaurant with the restaurant owner, Ruth helped evacuated the other nine patrons in the building.

Ruth had heard a scream from inside the restaurant and told Army Times he thought the robber looked nervous. Worrying about the owner’s safety, Ruth made the decision to go back into the restaurant, despite being unarmed.

Ruth said he crept along the hallway where the owner was and saw the robber, with his back turned. That’s when Ruth jumped into action and landed a punch to the robber’s head, briefly knocking him unconscious.

As the robber went down, Ruth tackled him and separated him from his shotgun. It was as he was holding down the first robber that he was struck by a 9mm pistol round fired by the robber’s previously unseen partner. The bullet entered Ruth’s chest and exited his back.

The second robber helped the first up to his feet and the two fled out the back door of the restaurant, leaving the shotgun behind.

Ruth was also able to leave the restaurant under his own power, running out an exit to where the evacuated restaurant patrons were huddled. At the time, Ruth was clutching his side, bleeding from the gunshot wound.

“I’m holding my side, hunched over and I’m thinking, ‘OK, I have a collapsed lung,’” Ruth said. The soldier was able to get to the crowd and, show them the wound and where to apply pressure while they waited for an ambulance.

To his luck, a nurse and Navy veteran was in the huddled group and Ruth credited the medical professional with keeping him alive after he passed out from the wound.

Ruth had, in fact, suffered a collapsed lung as a result of the gunshot. Through five Afghanistan deployments and an Iraq deployment, Ruth had been shot at on multiple occasions but never hit until that day on March 24, 2019.

Army Staff Sgt. Russell Ruth runs track during the DoD Warrior Games hosted in Tampa, Fla., June 22, 2019. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Barry Loo)

Despite his injury, Ruth went on to participate in the Department of Defense Warrior Games just three months after the shooting, in June 2019.

Ruth competed in the 100-meter dash, discus and wheelchair rugby during the DOD Warrior Games.

“You meet some of the most interesting people here and staying in touch opens the doors to be able to give back to others,” Ruth said during the 2019 DOD Warrior Games. “Observers will see that we are wounded veterans, but we’re capable of anything.”

Army Staff Sgt. Russell Ruth competes in wheelchair rugby during the DoD Warrior Games hosted in Tampa, Fla., June 27, 2019. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Barry Loo)

Law enforcement has since been able to arrest and charge two men for the robbery. The abandoned shotgun assisted investigators recovering DNA evidence from the crime scene.

Police from Chatham County, Ga. arrested Anthony Raife in September 2019 and the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force arrested Justin Campbell in Janaury 2020, WTOC reported.

Raife pleaded guilty to possession of a short-barreled shotgun in furtherance of a crime and is serving ten years in prison. Campbell plead guilty to robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and three years of supervised release. Both men must also pay $35,500 in restitution to the victims of their victims, WTOC reported.

Ruth continues to serve on active-duty. After completing a 10-month recovery, Ruth transitioned moved on from the 75th Ranger Regiment to begin helicopter flight training. Now-Warrant Officer 1 Ruth is currently training to become an Army helicopter pilot at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Ruth told the Army Times that his prior unit command was looking into submitting him for an award, possibly the Soldier’s Medal for heroism in non-combat situations.