Man, 44, shot to death in Palmetto

PALMETTO - A 44-year-old Bradenton man was found shot to death in a an industrial park off U.S. 301 in Palmetto early this morning, according to Palmetto police.

The death of John Carl Ruger is the first homicide of the year in Manatee County.

Police said Ruger was killed between midnight and 4 a.m. in the parking lot of Piano Distributors, 1475 12th St. E. An officer on patrol discovered his body about 4:30 a.m., according to police.

Police said it appeared Ruger had been killed at the scene. Investigators say they have leads indicating a possible motive, but they have not released details.

By 8 a.m., Ruger’s body was being taken to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy, and by 8:15 a.m. a green Dodge minivan was towed from the scene.

An employee at the piano warehouse, who declined to give his name, said employees were surprised at the scene as they came to work. He stood near the crime scene that cleared just moments earlier.

“It’s a little bit unusual happening this morning,” he said. “We have no details.”

He said the office shuts down after 5 p.m. and has been located on 12th Street East since 2002. He said employees did not know who the victim was.

John Vassallo, who owns Arrowhead Industrial Services, just down the street watched the investigation unfold.

“I’m a little surprised to see it. I’ve been at this park late at night and there’s usually no one here,” Vassallo said. “We make sure we lock the door, set the alarm and close the gate, but that’s really all you can do.”

Anyone with information about the case can call Detective Chad Oyler at (941) 721-2000, ext. 306, Detective Ryan LaRowe at (941) 721-2000, ext. 125, or Manatee County Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-8477. Callers may remain anonymous and may be entitled to a reward.

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