Authorities in Ohio have arrested three persons of interest in a shooting that killed a Cleveland police officer and an informant with whom he was working, reports CBS affiliate WOIO. Detective James Skernivitz, 53, was shot around 10 p.m. Thursday, becoming the first on-duty officer to be fatally shot in the city in more than a decade.
Skernivitz was working on an undercover drug operation and he and his informant were ambushed while sitting in a car, the station reports. The slain informant was identified as Scott Dingess, 50.
At a press conference Friday, Cleveland police said the three persons of interest, two juveniles and an adult, were taken into custody on unrelated charges. They were being questioned Friday afternoon.
An emotional Chief Calvin Williams told reporters that the department also lost another officer on Thursday to suicide. WOIO reports officer Nick Sabo, 39, was found dead at his home hours later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“I don’t think anybody out there can really understand what the division is going through,” Williams said. “The loss of one officer in the line of duty, especially to violence, is a terrible tragedy. But two officers in one night is really bad.”
Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Jeff Follmer described Sabo as a “great officer and friend.” Williams said the department was trying to understand what led to his suicide and encouraged anyone in need of help to reach out. He wouldn’t say whether the two deceased officers worked together.
Williams described Skernivitz, a 22-year department veteran who was married with two adult children, as a “policeman’s policeman.”
“He worked hard for the city he loved, he worked hard to take care of his family, and he worked hard to take care of his fellow officers,” Williams said.
Williams said investigators have not determined a motive, and are not sure whether the shooting was targeted or random.
Ohio governor Mike DeWine said on Twitter he is “heartbroken” and ordered flags on state buildings in Cuyahoga County and Columbus lowered.
It has been more than 10 years since an on-duty Cleveland police officer was fatally shot.
Patrol Officer Derek Owens, 36, was killed in February 2008 while chasing a suspect. Owens caught up to the man, who turned and shot Owens in the abdomen below his bulletproof vest.
The man was found guilty of aggravated murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole.
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email [email protected]