CLEVELAND — Northeast Ohio is mourning the death of a Cleveland police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty Thursday night.
Three arrests have been made in the case, according to the Cleveland Division of Police. No charges related to the officer's death have been filed at this time.
Below is a breakdown of everything we know so far.
WHO IS THE OFFICER?
He has been identified as 53-year-old Det. James Skernivitz, a 25-year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department. He was pronounced dead around 10:30 p.m. Thursday. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office said the cause of death was a "gunshot wound of trunk with injuries of heart, great vessels and lungs."
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Police Chief Calvin Williams and Director of Public Safety Karrie Howard hosted a 3 p.m. press conference with new updates in the case. You can watch the full press conference in the player below:
Det. Skernivitz had just been sworn into the federal task force assisting "Operation Legend," Vicki Anderson of the Cleveland FBI tells 3News. U.S. Attorney General William Barr released the following statement on Skernivitz's death:
"Today is a very sad day for the city of Cleveland and the entire law enforcement community. Overnight, Cleveland Division of Police Detective James Skernivitz was shot and killed in the line of duty. Detective Skernivitz was a 22-year veteran of the Cleveland Division of Police and a sworn Operation Legend task force officer assigned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Violent Crimes Task Force.
"Two weeks ago, I had the honor of visiting the unit where Detective Skernivitz was assigned. I was briefed on the critical work that he and his colleagues do to keep our streets safe from violent crime. Detective Skernivitz selflessly gave his life in this cause.
"It takes a special kind of courage to be a police officer. Our men and women in blue put their lives on the line day after day in order to keep us safe. We will not forget Detective Skernivitz and his life of service and sacrifice. I send my heartfelt condolences to his wife, children, and family."
Skernivitz also served as an officer at Progressive Field, according to Curtis Danburg of the Cleveland Indians.
"Tonight, we will fly the flag at half staff and have a moment of silence in honor of @CLEpolice Det," the Indians tweeted shortly after 2 p.m. "James Skernivitz, who was killed in the line of duty. We are deeply saddened by the passing of Det. Skernivitz, as he spent many years at Progressive Field keeping fans safe."
Join us in paying tribute to Det. Skernivitz by leaving your thoughts and comments in the post below. Thank you for your service.
WHO WAS ARRESTED?
Police confirm three "persons of interest" (two juveniles and one adult) were taken into custody on charges not related to Skernivitz's death. The investigation remains ongoing.
Police say the shooting took place around 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, in the area of West 65th Street and Storer Avenue.
WHO IS THE SECOND PERSON KILLED?
A second person was also killed in connection with this incident. He has been identified as 50-year-old Scott Dingess, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office. He died at 10:43 p.m. Thursday.
Dingess was facing aggravated theft charges and was free on bond when he met with Skernivitz, 3News' Phil Trexler reports. It is not yet clear why the two men were together when the gunfire erupted. His bond was set July 31 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. His attorney, Bryan Byrne, did not immediately return a call for comment. Court records show Dingess has a long history on criminal cases dating back at least to 2009, according to online court records in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties. The cases generally involved drug and theft charges, records show.
In 2017, WSAZ in West Virginia reported Dingess was charged "after he allegedly hit a woman with a vehicle after she tried to stop him from leaving a store after shoplifting." According to their report, Dingess later admitted that his wife was trying to steal from the store, and she was arrested.
Watch 3News' extended coverage, which was done prior to any arrests being made in the case:
WHAT ARE OFFICIALS SAYING?
- Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson: "Personally, I want to give my condolences to the family on behalf of the city of Cleveland."
- Cleveland Police Chief Calvin D. Williams: "Cleveland lost one of its finest tonight in the line of duty. We still have an ongoing investigation. … We definitely need the prayers of the people in this city. This officer was out doing what all police officers do, trying protecting the people of this city and he gave his life. So we ask that you give his family a little room.”
- Gov. Mike DeWine: "Fran and I are heartbroken to learn of the shooting death of Det. James Skernivitz. We offer our deepest condolences to his family and colleagues. In honor of his life, I’ve ordered flags lowered on state buildings and grounds in Cuyahoga County and Columbus."
- Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost: "Detective Skernivitz gave his life trying to keep danger off the streets of Cleveland. This tragedy shows once again the valor and honor of the police — and that there are yet dangerous, evil men in the world who must be brought to justice. My heart breaks for his family and I pray that in their grief, they find solace in his legacy of service and sacrifice.”
- Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley and Chair of the Safety Committee Matt Zone: "It's with our deepest sympathy that we offer condolences to the family and friends of Det. James Skernivitz, a more than 20-year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department, who was shot and killed last night along with a still unidentified passenger in his car. We know the shooter or shooters involved in this cowardly and despicable killing will be caught and brought to justice. We ask anyone who knows anything to contact police either at 911 or anonymously via Crime Stoppers at 216-25-CRIME (252-7463) and we ask that the shooter to do the right thing and turn themselves in."
- Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish: “My heart goes out to the family, friends and fellow police officers who knew Detective James Skernivitz. Detective Skernivitz served 28 years on the Cleveland Police Force—as an undercover officer he was on the front lines of important work against gangs. Last night he was shot down. Police officers throughout the country put their lives on the line every day to protect us from crime and danger. That statement should not be a flashpoint or controversial—unfortunately, these days it is. I am grateful for Detective Skernivitz’s service and I pray for his family. May he rest in peace.”
- Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association: “A lot of prayers for his family. He was a great officer. ... It’s bad. This is a bad one. They’re all bad. This one hurts."
- Basheer Jones, Ward 7 Cleveland City Council member: "I want to send my condolences to the family of this great man - Det. James Skernivitz - who put his life on the line to make our city better. Our officers are extremely important and as Essential Workers they are absolutely necessary. I could never imagine the impact of these times on the very psyche of our officers. May God bless each and everyone of them!"
- Michael Polensek, Ward 8 Cleveland City Council member, Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee: On behalf of the residents of the City of Cleveland, and the residents of the Greater Collinwood community, I wish to offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of veteran Detective James Skernivitz, who was brutally murdered in the line of duty last evening, September 3, 2020. This should reinforce to all citizens, more than ever before, our collective need to support our men and women in blue, who are being vilified nationally, while at the same time, working tirelessly to safeguard our streets, our families and our businesses. We all hope and pray that the perpetrator(s) of this violent act are apprehended and brought to justice as soon as possible. The men and women of the Cleveland Police Department are the "the thin blue line" that protect us daily. Let us never forget that. May the good Lord welcome him to paradise. God bless his family, his brothers and sisters in the Cleveland Police Department and the City of Cleveland. God bless America."
The Association of Cleveland Firefighters Local 93 posted the following message on Twitter shortly before 9 a.m. Friday:
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has also ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Det. Skernivitz. This includes flags at all public buildings and grounds throughout Cuyahoga County and at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. Flags will remain lowered until sunset on the day of Det. Skernivitz's funeral.
WHAT’S NEXT? AUTHORITIES SEEKING PUBLIC'S HELP
Anybody with information in this case is asked to call the Cleveland Police Department at 216-623-5464 or 911.
The Cleveland FBI has established a 24/7 tip line for anybody who might have information in the case. That number is 216-622-6842. Tipsters can remain anonymous. Reward money is available for information that leads to the successful identification and prosecution of those involved.
Guests wishing to pay their respects to Det. James Skernivitz and his family will be received from 2-8 p.m. Thursday at A. Ripepi and Sons Funeral Home in Middleburg Heights. A Catholic Mass of Christian Burial will follow on Friday at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland, although an exact time still has not been determined.
A hearse carrying the body of Skernivitz drove through the city streets Saturday on its way to the funeral home, under a large American flag hoisted to the sky by two fire truck ladders. Multiple first responders, including those from the Cleveland Divisions of Fire and EMS, stood at attention.
NOTE: We are updating this story as new details come in. Please refresh this article to see the most-recent information.