"Elias was not a gang banger." Mentors and friends remember Elias Ruiz.

, Posted: Tue, January 24 2012 at 12:07 AM, Updated: Tue, January 24 2012 at 5:29 PM

Those who knew Elias Ruiz are painting a different picture from the suicidal teen that police say they saw Sunday afternoon. Friends and mentors say he was a young man with teenage struggles, but a man who was committed to change and one who was banking on a future. NBC5's Laura Cavanaugh reports.

"He was a kid who as recently as a month ago shared the hope of graduating from high school this year and moving on to college," says Tom Cole, Executive Director of Medford's Kids Unlimited, a non-profit youth development organization.

Tom Cole says he watched Elias Ruiz grow up in the Kids Unlimited after-school programs.

"He was involved in the early years of our rotary Kids Unlimited basketball program," says Cole.

An athletic young man who loved hoops, swimming even wrestling, who participated in nearly a decade of Kids Unlimited programs.  He even recently volunteered.

"Recently he helped to do some community service hours in developing our kitchen in the back, a food program called Food For Thought," notes Cole.

That's why the director of the youth program says he was shocked and saddened to hear Sunday's news, that one of Kids Unlimited's own was killed in an officer involved shooting at this Pennsylvania Street home.

Medford Police say they responded to what they thought was a disturbance call.  An upset Ruiz had locked himself in the house, his mother and brother were outside.  Within minutes, the teen emerged holding a knife.

"The suspect wielded a large knife and approached the officers. They attempted to use a taser.  That did not work and subsequently they used a firearm," says Medford Police Chief Tim George.

"He's a good kid. He wouldn't do something like that," said Ruthbicela Rosales.

Ruthbicela Rosales says her best friend, Elias, was dealing with some familial issues, but he was always kind and caring.

"He used to walk me home after school," says Rosales.

And friends of the family, who left candles and photos at a makeshift memorial, remember an upstanding kid.

"Elias he didn't drink. He didn't do no drugs," said family friend Benjamin Farias.

But the teen did have a few prior run-ins with the law, including urinating in public and and an assault charge for getting into a fight.  He served some of his community service hours at Kids Unlimited.

"Doing the floors, doing the painting," said Tom Cole.

But those close to Ruiz say he was finishing his senior year at Central High School and say he was intent on turning his life around.

"Elias was not a kid who was a gang banger. He was a kid, like many teenagers, who are faced with some difficult choices. Like many adults, that go through times in their life that make poor choices, he was a kid who was committed to making some right choices," says Cole.

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