I-TEAM: New details shed light on what happened before fatal shooting of Cleveland detective

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-TEAM has uncovered more about what happened before the shooting of a Cleveland police detective in the line of duty.

We’ve been doing some digging to go inside the investigation.

Police radio recordings show confusion. Detective James Skernivitz had been working undercover, and we’ve learned he’d been sitting in a car with an informant and a wire for recording. Multiple sources say they were preparing to make a drug deal.

At first, officers thought the car had crashed. Then, they found the detective and the informant had both been shot.

On the radio recordings, a police supervisor can be heard saying, “What is going on at Roses? I’m asking for the fourth time.” An officer responds, “Something to do with an officer in trouble.”

An officer also says on the radio, “One of the drivers seen a passenger, both unconscious. We need EMS to this.”

The radio tapes then show officers grow increasingly impatient waiting for an ambulance.

An officer says, “EMS needs to get here, right now.”

And you also hear, “The undercover car was shot at several times.”

Ultimately, both the undercover detective and the man with him died.

It happened off West 65th in Cleveland just after 10 p.m. on Thursday.

So what happened? The I-TEAM has learned investigators believe three guys walked up to the car. Two juveniles and a young adult. They ended up firing a series of gunshots even through the back window. But why?

As of Friday afternoon, investigators were still not clear on the motive. But, investigators are determined to find out the reason behind what happened.

Meantime, the I-TEAM obtained video of officers searching for suspects. We’ve learned detectives identified potential suspects by piecing together clues from some video, information on the streets and even other cases.

The I-TEAM has also found all of the people arrested were already wanted by the courts for other violent crimes.

As for the EMS response, Cleveland EMS says an ambulance arrived at the scene in 8-10 minutes. That is a little longer than the target average response time for top priority calls to Cleveland EMS.

The I-TEAM also obtained video from the wee hours of Friday morning showing the first step in a long goodbye. A police escort took the body of Detective James Skernivitz from the hospital to the medical examiner.

Officers say Skernivitz died doing what he loved, police work. Everyone called him Jim or ‘Skern’.

He also loved serving in the honor guard. Now, in the days ahead, an honor guard for him will help many people say their final goodbyes.

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