NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio (WJW) -- A North Olmsted police officer is recovering after he was hit by an SUV while trying to stop a couple of shoplifters at Great Northern Mall on Thursday night.
Patrolman Robert Briesath is well-known in the community for visiting elementary schools on his own time and reading books to the students. The children call him “Officer Bob."
In a 2018 episode of FOX 8’s “Cool Schools”, he told us, "this way, the kids all know me. I come in here, I see them in the city, I see them when I’m driving through the neighborhoods, and they all holler 'hey, it's Officer Bob,' it's a wonderful feeling."
North Olmsted police said Patrolman Briesath was working off duty at the Dillard's at Great Northern, when the 30-year veteran was alerted to a female shoplifter.
When Officer Briesath followed her out of the store, she jumped into the passenger seat of a grey Kia Sportage with a stolen dealer plate. The suspect behind the wheel of the SUV then ran over the patrolman, and sped away.
On police dispatch tapes, Officer Briesath tells the dispatcher, “I need help, a SUV just hit me, I'm outside Dillard's, it's heading east on Country Club."
While some fellow officers began to search for the hit-and-run vehicle, others rushed to Great Northern to help their fallen comrade.
"He was on the ground, he was shivering, there were lots of good people helping him out, they got blankets for him, kept him warm until the squad got there, came and took him to the hospital,” said Detective Matt Beck.
For the co-workers who saw their friend lying on the ground, the search for the suspects is personal.
"I was upset, I was angry, I mean a property crime is nothing to risk your life over, so why these people had to go and strike a cop to get away for a few hundred dollars in a theft is beyond me, but that's what people do these days I guess," said Detective Beck.
Investigators said the SUV and the dealer plates were stolen on Cleveland's West Side in January, and the SUV has since been spotted during shoplifting incidents reported in Beachwood, Strongsville and Brooklyn.
Police are now asking for the public's help to identify the woman who was shoplifting, and the getaway driver who ran over Officer Briesath.
He was treated for his injuries at a local hospital and is now recovering at home.