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Colleagues Shocked By Arrest Of Lawman In Prostitute Slayings

February 25, 1989

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Police reacted with shock at the arrest of a sheriff’s deputy for investigation of murder in the shootings of three prostitutes, citing his reputation and outstanding record in 18 years on the force.

″He’s a great guy, a great police officer, and we’re just shocked,″ said police Sgt. Walt Burke, who has known Deputy Rickey Ross for about six years. ″This is so out of character, so inconsistent with the Rickey I’ve known. It’s so bizarre. I can’t fathom it.″

″Everybody is absolutely astounded,″ said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. Bob Wilber, Ross’ supervisor. ″I’ve talked to numerous officers and supervisors, and everybody has acted with disbelief to this, including myself.″

Ross, 40, a narcotics officer, was arrested after officers on routine patrol spotted him early Thursday, erratically driving an unmarked county car in south-central Los Angeles, an area plagued by prostitution and gang warfare.

After he was pulled over, Ross was found sitting with an alleged prostitute, who told police they were smoking crack cocaine, police said. In the trunk of the car was a gun that police said was linked by ballistics tests to the 1988 deaths of three prostitutes.

The district attorney’s office was reviewing the evidence on Ross and a decision on charges will be made Monday, said spokesman Andy Reynolds.

Ross was in jail Saturday and no bail was set.

Although Ross was arrested for investigation of three killings, published reports have said police are investigating as many as 12 deaths of the area’s ″strawberries,″ the street name for prostitutes who sell sex for drugs.

Sheriff Sherman Block said Ross, who is married and has two children, had been assigned to a narcotics unit at Los Angeles International Airport. Files show that no serious discipline had been taken against him in nearly two decades on the force.

″He has a very fine record,″ Block said. ″He has been a very effective investigator in the narcotics bureau.″

Ross and his family live in a $255,000 Spanish-style home in the San Bernardino County suburb of Rialto, 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

″He’s a nice guy,″ said James Crawford, 47, a Compton firefighter and neighbor of Ross. ″He’s a churchgoing family man I would speak with him across his driveway, on weekends mostly. He was a friendly guy.″

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