On Wednesday, a Flagler county jury convicted a 38-year-old Palm Coast man of brazenly attacking a Lyft driver, unprovoked, during a paid fare in 2020. On Thursday, Flagler county Sheriff’s deputies arrested Sean Michael Ruel, a 39-year-old Palm Coast man, for what appears to be a brazen, unprovoked attack on a 76-year-old man at a convenience store four days before.
The victim in the jury conviction was in his 40s, so the penalty is only a misdemeanor battery, for which the attacker may serve up to a year in jail. Ruel’s alleged victim being over 65, the battery charge is automatically upgraded to a third-degree felony, exposing Ruel to up to five years in prison if convicted.
The incident took place midmorning on May 22 at the convenience store of the Shell gas station at 320 Palm Coast Parkway. Interior and exterior video surveillance captured the scene. A video clip was released by the Sheriff’s Office.
The video shows the alleged victim, M.A., standing at the counter and carrying out a transaction with the store clerk, possibly involving lottery tickets the clerk is counting. Ruel is standing a few feet behind M.A., a coffee cup in his left hand, his right hand’s fingers flexing slightly as he shifts his weight from left to right and back. The video does not show the scene before Ruel got in line, so it’s not known how long he had been standing there. A woman was also standing to the left.
At no point in the footage released by the Sheriff’s Office does M.A. turn around or address Ruel. Fifteen seconds into the video, Ruel shifts his coffee cup to his right hand as he begins to walk toward the exit. As he does so, he nonchalantly but intentionally throws his coffee cup at M.A.’s left heel, spilling its contents on the floor and splashing M.A. A startled M.A. looks to the ground, then to the exit. There’s no sound in the video, but M.A. is clearly startled. Notably, there’s a garbage can clearly visible, and accessible to customers, inches away from Ruel as he throws his coffee cup toward the alleged victim.
A video angle showing the entrance from outside shows Ruel walking out straight then turning left on the sidewalk, and out of view of the camera. Inside, M.A. speaks briefly with the woman standing to his left and with the clerk, then walks out of the store. He is seen standing by the door of the store, speaking with Ruel, who is a few feet away. “You threw your coffee at me,” the man is quoted as telling Ruel, according to Ruel’s arrest report.
Ruel immediately lunges at M.A. and uppercuts him with a closed right fist, yelling something before turning around, getting on his bike–he has reportedly had three drunk driving arrests in California–and riding off. M.A. crumbled to the floor, at the foot of a man who was approaching the store entrance, and who looked stunned. M.A. initially thought he had a broken wrist from the fall.
Deputies could not immediately find Ruel. But he returned to the store the next day. The Sheriff’s Office was alerted, and deputies were able to make contact with Ruel, who refused to speak with them. He was Mirandized, but allowed to leave after deputies took pictures of him. After analyzing photographs of Ruel in conjunction with the video footage, deputies determined that he was the suspect in the incident. They went to his home at 9 Emily Place in Palm Coast on Thursday. He was relaxing in his backyard, again Mirandized, and again said he did not wish to speak with deputies. But he relented after watching the security footage.
He told deputies that as he stood in line, M.A. turned around and called him a psychopath and a rapist, so Ruel dropped his coffee cup and walked out. (If M.A. had turned around at any point, it would have been before the 15 seconds of Ruel standing still). As Ruel left, he said, M.A. followed him and allegedly asked him threateningly if he wanted to fight. So Ruel says he felt threatened, assumed the alleged victim was going to attack him, so he attacked him first. Notably, the video shows the victim standing by the door, without a hint of a movement forward, the only sign of aggression a barely raised forefinger as he spoke to Ruel.
Ruel said his “fight or flight” instincts took over. “It may have been the wrong response,” he said, according to his arrest report–a notable detail that will likely become relevant if and when, as is often the case in such circumstances, the defendant pleads out the matter. “At the conclusion of the interview, it appeared that Sean had taken responsibility for his actions and was cooperative with law enforcement,” Ruel’s arrest report states.
Given Ruel’s contrition, and other attenuating circumstances–Ruel, his arrest report states, has a history of mental illness, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder–the issue may be resolved with a downgrading of the charge and a light probationary term.
For M.A., however, the incident was no less violent. M.A. was taken to AdventHealth Palm Coast, where his injured arm prevented him from completing a written statement. But it had not been fractured.
Ruel was charged with battery on a person 65 or older. He remains at the Flagler County jail on $5,000 bond. “Because this guy couldn’t control his anger he battered a senior citizen and is lucky he did not seriously injure him,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Our deputies did a great job to identify, locate and arrest Ruel for what he did to this senior in our community. We won’t tolerate this kind of behavior.”
Holy smokes! Last week while waiting in line at the CVS on Palm Coast Pkwy. I had about a five minute conversation about the e- bike Ruel had parked outside. I’m not a senior, but he cordially greeted me as we waited. Wow! As strangers we had nice, cool, calm talk about biking and bikes and wondering were our cashier went. Not one time, on THAT DAY to me did he appear or come across like a loose cannon. Sad.
Land of no turn signals says says
Let’s play the mental health card drop all charges so next time the victim will be seriously hurt or killed.
Brian Larson says
Well one thing I will say is that store needs two full time clerks , it`s asshole central when it comes to lottery tickets , where these people get the money to waste on both scratch offs and lotto tickets is beyond me , but it`s insanity how long you can be stuck in line there waiting for people doing lottery tickets , I bet his coffee got cold , I would never hit anyone over that nonsense , but I`ve walked out of that store on a few occasions, I mean you are in a hurry you have a 20 in your hand to get gas at a pump , you shouldn`t have to wait 25 minutes to hand the money to clerk for gas , it is a GAS STATION , not a LOTTERY STATION, they need to have a totally different section for that to avoid these people getting frustrated having to wait so long , hitting an elderly person is totally inexcusable , there are 3 other gas stations right there .
ULTRA MAGA says
Talking with strangers can lead to bad actions! People are on EDGE because of Biden’s Inflation! Have a PEACEFUL life and remember that Biden will replaced and ADULTS will be back Making America Great Again!
Keep dreaming Trumpster groupie !
Wow the POWER of Worldwide Inflation POTUS wields . You live in fantasy land
Ultra Maga: Please stop embarrassing us seniors with your nonsense! You trumpers turn everything into political garbage, and blame Biden for everything you can possibly dream up. You are the people who young people imagine we are all alike, and we are not! Your far right qraziness is why they look at us like useless, old fools and wait for us to die off. Okay, boomer. Change your MAGA to MACS: Make America Crappy for Seniors. Thanks for your participation in this trend, UM.
Now, back to the article. My guess is the assaulter was impatient, and as it is today, without patience, manners or consideration, so he focused his anger on someone who is physically weaker than himself, which is usually the case with cowards, and lashed out. Today, everyone is a victim, and whatever they do is someone else’s fault, and here the offender is the victim because of a poor mental state. Baloney! If you know you have a problem, and society will enlighten you somehow, do something positive to straighten out your life!
jerry boyd says
My guess is you put politics first as your comment demonstrated.
That punch-throwing jag-off was probably one of trump’s maga-morons.
Oh right. Let’s all go break into the Capital and kill some cops and defecate in the halls. It’ll be such a peaceful moment.
Donnie 2 scoops says
LMAO…only a Trumpster could make it about something other than what it is…LOL they are entertaining if not moronic
Yuck, No Way Ultra Maga! Not only your Maga was not such, bad instead a MAAM (Made America A Mess) it made the world a mess as well as Putin pissed of over loosing control of the most powerful country in the world…went ballistic and started a war ks.illing innocent civilians and babies!
Yep.. Making America Great Again .. One Insurrection At A Time!
The man should not have went outside for a conformation, he followed outside which is a clear sign that you are looking for more confrontation. Both men are wrong. Please don’t take more then 2 minutes in line with your lotto addiction. People have real things to do.
Perhaps this is exactly as supposed in this article and as might appear from the video. But it’ll be interesting to get more facts, and we should probably hold off on painting this alleged victim as some benevolent senior just minding his own business. Flagler seems flush with angry, aggrieved old men, so just maybe there is more to this story
Pale Rider says
Don’t PISS OFF Old People. The older we get, the less “Life in Prison” is a deterrent.
You feel lucky ,PUNK…… Well do ya ?
“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the Earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the Earth.” (Revelation 6:7,8)
Not a Lotto respect says
Not that I would ever throw a coffee or punch anyone, however on numerous occasions in line I have set down my purchases and walked out of gas station quickie marts due to people purchasing then scratching off lottery tickets while still at the register, then purchasing more lottery tickets. It is infuriating. Scratch off ticket residue covering all the gum and chips for sale at the counter, its gross.
I’m thinking that’s what happened. The coffee guy got tired of waiting in line while Lotto guy bought reams of tickets. It _is_ annoying as anything to be the one standing behind a Lotto addict.
I already have good luck says
Can we get a NON-LOTTO – I have a life and just need to pay for gas and be on my way – gas station in this town??? Or at least one register at every gas station with NO LOTTO sales at it, dedicated for people with actual crap to do.
Welcome to Palm Coast !!!!!!!!!! Getting worse every day !!!!
Next time maybe the kid will have a gun. Then everyone will say why didn’t someone stop him. You are supposed to learn as a child that violence is not a good response. I don’t care who said what to whom but throwing your coffee at someone and then a punch is not adult behavior, whatever the Trumpers have taught you.
OMG! Are you grown men, making comments here, serious? Maybe it’s okay to deck an old man because of a lack of patience? “Lotto addition” is an excuse for punching a person twice your age? The old man should have stayed inside? Both men are at blame? Flager is flushed with angry old men, so knock them down?
Is this how your mother and father raised you? My God, learn a little patience. If you’re real lucky, you’ll be old some day too and you can now hope and pray that your current attitude will not prevail with younger folk. Get a book on manners, you can use a little education.
My mom was 40 years older than me, and sometimes I’d grit my teeth, without her knowing, while she took forever to get through the grocery store, but that’s just how it was. Sounds to me like Flager is flushed with angry young and middle aged men. Get over it.
Dawn Smith says
Some of these comments don’t make sense why bring politics into it, the culprit just didn’t get enough ass whoopins’ growing up, never learned respect. Parental control was needed in his youth.