WALNUT — Four years after the unsolved shooting death of a retired police sergeant and school teacher outside his Walnut handyman business, detectives and family members are renewing their calls to bring his killer to justice.
Ruben Whittington, 61, of Diamond Bar, had just left his Mr. Handyman business in the 300 block of South Lemon Avenue on July 29, 2007, when he was fatally shot, sheriff’s investigators said.
No motive has been established in the killing, and nothing was believed to have been stolen from Whittington.
“It’s just so hard to understand what the person wanted enough to kill him,” said his wife, Marsha Kramer. “I will never understand. The worst part of the anger and the frustration is it literally got them nothing.”
Whittington had noticed a flat tire on his SUV and was waiting for a tow truck when he was shot, authorities said.
“Our best guess is he couldn’t get the lug nut off for some reason, he called AAA,” Kramer said. “As he was waiting for the tow, he was killed.”
Between five and 10 minutes passed between the time Whittington called AAA and the time the driver arrived and found him dead.
Investigators have been left with no witnesses and no solid leads to follow, Detective Kevin Lowe of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“It’s a frustrating case for us,” Lowe said, adding that detectives continue to pursue the killer.
The leading theory in the shooting is that Whittington was surprised by someone who tried to rob him, the detective said. But he added he could also not rule out the possibility of some type of personal dispute “that we didn’t know about.”
Having been retired from the LAPD for 13 years at the time of the killing, Lowe said it was unlikely the shooting had anything to do with his previous career as a Los Angeles police officer.
Whittington resisted his attacker, Lowe said.
“There were defensive wounds,” he said. “There was a struggle, I believe over the gun. It was a struggle for his life. He put up a good fight.”
Whittington was ultimately shot in the torso and died at the scene.
Though his status as a retired police sergeant allowed Whittington to carry a concealed handgun, he didn’t arm himself, Kramer said.
“We really talked about that,” she said. “His thought was, honestly, it’s pretty easy to disarm an older person.”
It did not appear that the killer intentionally flattened Whittington’s tire prior to the killing, Lowe said. A nail was found in the tire of Whittington’s SUV that appeared to have been there for some time.
Whittington, a Vietnam veteran, was born and raised in the Philadelphia area before coming to California to join the LAPD in 1974, his wife said.
“He loved being a cop, and it suited him so well because he was a community service kind of guy,” she said.
After his retirement from police work, he spent 10 years teaching law enforcement at high schools through the La Puente Valley Regional Occupational Program.
“As it turned out, he loved it,” Kramer said. “Besides liking the kids and wanting to talk to them, he tried to get them to do really productive things in their lives. He recruited many officers into the LAPD.”
In 2005, he started his handyman business.
She described her husband as an “extremely sociable” man who quickly made friends with everyone he met.
Whittington is survived by son, Joseph, 29, and daughter, Emily, 27.
Kramer said she was thankful for the detectives and community since her husband’s slaying.
“They’ve been really gracious to us,” she said.
Kramer and Lowe both said they hope someone has information regarding this killing and implored anyone who may have information to call sheriff’s homicide investigators at 323-890-5500.
With all leads in the case drying up, Lowe said, “we’ll take any help we can get.”
PHOTO of Ruben Whittington courtesy of family members