PARMA, Ohio -- A Cuyahoga County judge will decide whether a Cleveland police officer is guilty of dereliction of duty in connection with the shooting death of a Parma man over last year’s Fourth of July holiday.
David Mindek, 41, is accused of failing to stop a fight between Cleveland patrolman Matthew Craska and Daniel Ficker, 27. Ficker was shot to death by Craska; a grand jury cleared the officer of any wrongdoing.
“There are rules that exist to protect the public,” Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian McDonough told Judge Robert McClelland, “Every officer has rules to follow; if those rules aren’t followed people can get killed.”
The two officers had been waiting for Ficker and his fiancée, Tiffany Urbach, to return to their Parma home shortly before midnight on July 3, 2011. The couple had attended a birthday party at Mindek's house earlier in the day. Ficker's fiancée and officer Mindek's wife are cousins; Mrs. Mindek told her husband Ficker stole jewelry from their home and the officers drove to Parma to question him about it.
"You'll hear evidence that Officer Mindek broke that rule by not engaging, by being more of a referee than by a partner," said McDonough.
The assistant county prosecutor described a violent fight between Ficker and Officer Craska that left the officer dazed and close to passing out.
"Daniel Ficker, in a scissors position, a scissor lock, is choking out Officer Craska,” McDonough told the judge, “And officer Craska is shouting out to Officer Mindek, help, help, he's choking me."
Attorney Pat D'Angelo, who represents the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, offered a different view of what happened that night. He told Judge McClelland that Mindek did the best he could to manage an out of control situation, including pulling Ficker's legs from Craska's throat.
"In photographs, your honor, you will see there is blood on the shirt of Officer Mindek, the person they claim didn't do anything," said D’Angelo.
The defense attorney also said his client took a conservative approach to helping his partner in an effort to prevent the situation from escalating.
"Your honor, the law does not impose super human capabilities and obligations on police officers to prevent criminal acts that are rapidly unfolding," said D’Angelo.
A neighbor who witnessed part of what happened that night testified he saw Mindek running away from the scene after Ficker was shot.
Officer Craska is expected to take the witness stand on Tuesday.