CLEVELAND (WJW) — A thin blue line of police officers escorted the body of Cleveland Police Detective James Skernivitz through the streets of the city he served to the A. Ripepi and Sons Funeral Home in Middleburg Heights on Saturday.
Detective Skernivitz was killed, along with a police informant, Thursday night while working on an undercover investigation in Cleveland’s Stockyards neighborhood.
Among those lining the procession route were Greater Clevelanders, who saluted Detective Skernivitz for his service and sacrifice, and showed support for his grieving family.
“I think this is just so heartbreaking and I think we all need to stand together and back the blue,” said Drinda Stasiak, the mother of a police officer.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams called Jim Skernivitz a “policeman’s policeman,” and over the past 22 years, the 53 year old detective had earned the respect of his fellow officers on the streets of Cleveland, and his supervisors, who admired his willingness to tackle tough cases involving drug trafficking and gun violence.
Commander Gary Gingell told Fox 8, “And for the folks in our neighborhoods, Jim cared, he gave his life and the rest of these guys do also.”
Detective Skernivitz was doing one of those tough jobs Thursday night, sitting in his undercover car with confidential informant Scott Dingess near West 65th and Storer Avenue, when the car was sprayed with bullets, killing both men.
The car then crashed into a fence at a playground nearby. Residents in the surrounding neighborhood have created a memorial at the site to honor Jim Skernivitz’s service to the people of Cleveland.
“What happened was awful, you know, they didn’t need to lose their lives,” said longtime resident “Doreen”, who asked that we not use her last name.
Three people have been arrested in connection with the slayings of Detective Skernivitz and Scott Dingess. Investigators have not revealed a motive for the murders.
The president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association says the case demonstrates the extreme danger of undercover police work.
“You know you’ve got to be a brave person to do it, it takes a great team to do it, police officers are doing it all the time, and you know neighborhoods are rough right now, and you know you’re in plain clothes, they don’t know you’re the police nine times out of ten,” said Jeff Follmer.
Detective Jim Skernivitz lived in Brecksville, and to show support for his wife and their children, the people of Brecksville have placed blue ribbons around the community.
“He paid the ultimate price, and we all owe him. He was a great man and a great police officer and he paid it all,” said neighbor Bill Day.
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