CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cleveland police officer and an unknown man are dead after a shooting and car crash Thursday night on the city’s West Side, officials said.
Officer James Skernivitz, 53, was killed in the shooting, according to three sources with knowledge of the investigation. He was hired in 1998.
The shooting happened about 10 p.m. on West 65th Street near Storer Avenue in the city’s Stockyards neighborhood. Cleveland police released limited information in the ongoing investigation.
Cleveland police spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia said no arrests have been made and investigators are still searching for the shooter or shooters.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams, alongside Mayor Frank Jackson, gave a brief statement to reporters gathered at MetroHealth. He did not identify the officer but described him as “excellent” and a veteran of the city’s police force.
“Cleveland lost one of its finest tonight in the line of duty,” Williams said. “He was doing what all police officers do — trying to protect this city, and he gave his life.”
Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Jeff Follmer confirmed the officer died. He said a second person, who was not a police officer but was in the officer’s car, also died in the shooting. He has not been identified.
The officer’s car crashed after the shooting, Follmer said. Follmer declined to identify the officer because the officer’s family had not yet been notified.
“He was a great person and a great officer,” Follmer said.
An ambulance took the officer to MetroHealth Medical Center, where he died.
Dozens of police officers swarmed an area near Constellation Schools’ Stockyard Elementary School and the nearby Shaker Valley Foods grocery store. Investigators shuffled in and out of the crime scene. Some hugged each other, while others searched outside homes and businesses as far as three blocks away.
Large black SUVs rolled in an out of the area as a police helicopter hovered overhead, scanning the neighborhood.
More officers came in and out of MetroHealth’s emergency room, along with Williams and Jackson. At 3 a.m., a line of about three dozen police cars escorted Skernivitz’s body from the hospital to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.
It’s the second time someone shot a Cleveland police officer in less than two months. A man shot 26-year-old officer Jennifer Kilnapp as she responded to an incident where a man threatened a woman and fired a shot through the floor. The man shot Kilnapp in the arm and back. She survived.
Skernivitz is the first on-duty Cleveland police officer to die since Vu Nguyen died July 7, 2017 after he collapsed of heatstroke during a training exercise and the first to be fatally shot on duty since Derek Owens on Feb. 29, 2008.
Lamidi Kafaru fatally shot Owens as Owens chased after him after breaking up a party and witnessing a drug deal. Kafaru is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole eligibility.
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