In light of the Trayvon Martin case, a Virginia Beach community is on edge because of a pistol-packing neighbor who says he is a neighborhood watchman.
NewsChannel 3`s Barbara Ciara responded to a viewer who asked us to take action to find out if he is patrolling for creeps or just plain creepy.
Who is this pistol-packing patrolman who claims to be a neighborhood watchman?
Manny Ruiz, who has been a resident of Holland Farms for 16 years, has quietly co-existed until a couple of weeks ago when one of his midnight patrols set some of his neighbors’ nerves on edge.
Some were so frightened by Manny's behavior, they asked NewsChannel 3 to shield their identities.
“My next door neighbor was sitting in her car and he walked up and told her he was neighborhood watch and showed her a weapon,” says a concerned neighbor.
The young woman who was approached that night says she was too fearful to go on camera especially after she learned from police that Manny is not an official neighborhood watchman.
“This gentleman is posing as a captain or coordinator with the program and obviously can't be since there is no such program,” says Grazia Moyers of the Virginia Beach Police Department.
Manny may not be a part of the program, but he has a permit that allows him to legally carry a concealed weapon.
Some neighbors are so creeped out by Manny, they are videotaping his patrols and calling 911.
NewChannel 3’s Barbara Ciara spoke with Manny.
"They [neighbors] feel like you are intimating them,” says Barbara Ciara.
“Carrying a weapon is for my personal, for my safety because I’ve been shot a couple of times,” responds Manny.
“Neighbors are saying you are identifying yourself as neighborhood watch, but you are not neighborhood watch,” says Ciara.
To add to the confusion, Holland Farms has signs posted boasting of a neighborhood watch program. But the program wasn't renewed and police say the signs are coming down until neighbors officially reinstate neighborhood watch.
Manny says he has collected about 40 signatures so far to make that happen.
“Some people are against neighborhood watch, some people are not, so both sides of the story. But the people that know me right now, I have to get signatures,” says Manny Ruiz.
Stephanie McCain is one of those neighbors who stepped up to sign a vote of confidence for Manny. She thinks he is doing a good job patrolling.
“I feel good about him patrolling because I really think he cares about the neighborhood,” says McCain.
Still, there are some neighbors who see Manny plus a gun and what they believe to be overzealous patrol, and see bad news waiting to happen.
"I said ‘What would you do if you found someone doing something instead of calling police? Would you challenge them and confront them because you have a weapon?’ and he didn't answer me,” says Zoe Smith, a concerned neighbor.
The young woman who told police Manny brandished his firearm on her driveway declined to press charges.
So as far as police are concerned, he has done nothing illegal.
His supporters say that he is misunderstood and works hard to keep crime at bay in the neighborhood.
The latest supporter to chime in is Carl Wright, the president of the Virginia Beach NAACP.
Some neighbors are still uneasy with a civilian patrolman stopping people and asking questions while carrying a gun.