Arson investigator shot and killed by the suspect in the string of arsons he was investigating. He had two young kids.

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HOUSTON, TX – An arson investigator for the Houston Fire Department was shot and killed as he was investigating a string of arsons.  It happened after he made contact with the suspect. 

Exactly what happened when the investigator caught up to the suspect is unknown, other than a shootout happened, leaving both the investigator and suspect dead.

The Houston Fire Department Investigator, Lemuel Bruce, is the first arson investigator in the history of the agency to be shot in the line of duty. 

Bruce was a married father of two, aged 8 and 12.  Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena, said that Bruce was a 17 year veteran of the agency.  Pena commented on the loss of Bruce and his family:

“Please keep them in your prayers.  It’s a tragic loss.  It’s senseless.  Senseless.”

The Mayor for the City of Houston, Sylvester Turner, spoke at a news conference outside of the hospital where Bruce was pronounced deceased at a news conference with Pena.  Tuner said:

“We send our condolences and prayers to investigator Bruce, and his wife and his two children.  We are uplifting him, and we are asking the City of Houston to do the same.”

The incident started off just after midnight on October 16th when Bruce and other members of the arson squad were conducting surveillance for the string of arsons they were working. 

Minutes before he caught up with the suspect, investigators heard that an SUV had been set on fire a few blocks from their location that was believed to have been involved.

Bruce reported that he saw a vehicle which matched the description of the suspect’s nearby.  It would appear that Bruce attempted to stop and make contact with the suspect, however, at this time in the investigation, it is unclear how contact was made.

Firefighters at a station close to the incident reported hearing gunshots and rushed to the location within a couple of minutes according to Pena.  Upon their arrival, they located Bruce who had been shot several times in his chest and head.

Another arson investigator located the suspect’s vehicle roughly a block away from the shooting scene.  The investigator located the suspect dead, it has not been reported if it was self-inflicted or otherwise.

According to ABC13, the suspect was identified as Joshua Delacerda by his mother.  Police did not confirm the name but did mention that he was a suspect in Bruce’s murder and in at least two arson cases that occurred prior to the shooting.

Bruce was rushed to the Memorial Hermann Hospital for medical treatment.  However, sadly, he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased before 5am.

When Bruce’s body was moved from the hospital to the medical examiner’s office, firefighters formed a wall of honor outside of the hospital as the ambulance left with his body. 

The Houston Fire Department advised that Bruce had become an arson investigator after serving 12 years as a firefighter.  Houston Fire Department released the following:

“Please keep the family, friends and members of the HFD Arson Bureau in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

The Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, also released a statement regarding the loss of Bruce.  He said:

“Early this morning, a brave first responder with the Houston Fire Department was gunned down in the line of duty.  Please join Jan and me in praying for his family, including his wife and two children, his friends, and the Houston Fire Department.

“As Texans, we know that law enforcement puts their lives on the line every day to keep our families and our communities safe.  It is important than ever that they have our support.”

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Officer down: Detective on federal task force ambushed, murdered while working undercover operation

September 4, 2020

CLEVELAND, OH –Law Enforcement Today reported earlier regarding the death of Cleveland Police Department Detective who has now been identified as James Skernivitz.  We have learned he was shot and killed while working an undercover drug operation.

Skernivitz was a twenty five year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department who was pronounced deceased at 10:30pm on September 3rd.  The preliminary cause of death is listed as gunshot wound which injured his heart and lungs, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner. 

Skernivitz had been sworn into a federal task force, Operation Legend, on September 2nd.  US Attorney General William Barr released a statement regarding the death of Skernivitz:

“Today is a very sad day for the city of Cleveland and the entire law enforcement community. Overnight, Cleveland Division of Police Detective James Skernivitz was shot and killed in the line of duty.

Detective Skernivitz was a 22-year veteran of the Cleveland Division of Police and a sworn Operation Legend task force officer assigned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Violent Crimes Task Force.

“Two weeks ago, I had the honor of visiting the unit where Detective Skernivitz was assigned. I was briefed on the critical work that he and his colleagues do to keep our streets safe from violent crime. Detective Skernivitz selflessly gave his life in this cause.

“It takes a special kind of courage to be a police officer. Our men and women in blue put their lives on the line day after day in order to keep us safe. We will not forget Detective Skernivitz and his life of service and sacrifice. I send my heartfelt condolences to his wife, children, and family.”

Police are not releasing much information regarding the murder of Skernivitz, other than he was in his police vehicle with a man named Scott Dingess.  There has been no information released as to why the two were together other than to say the two were ambushed in Skernivitz’s vehicle.

Dingess, who was out on bond at the time of the murder, had a lengthy criminal history dating back to 2009.  Most of the cases seemed to involved drug and theft charges.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said:

“Cleveland lost one of its finest tonight in the line of duty.  We still have an ongoing investigation…We definitely need the prayers of the people in this city.  This officer was out doing what all police officers do, trying protecting the people of this city and he gave his life.  So, we ask that you give his family a little room.”

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine added:

“Grand and I are heartbroken to learn of the shooting death of Det. James Skernivitz.  We offer our deepest condolences to his family and colleagues. 

In honor of his life, I’ve ordered flags lowered on state buildings and grounds in Cuyahoga County and Columbus.

Dave Yost, the Attorney General for the State of Ohio said:

“Detective Skernivitz gave his life trying to keep danger off the streets of Cleveland. This tragedy shows once again the valor and honor of the police — and that there are yet dangerous, evil men in the world who must be brought to justice.

My heart breaks for his family and I pray that in their grief, they find solace in his legacy of service and sacrifice.”

Armond Budish, the Cuyahoga County Executive said:

“My heart goes out to the family, friends and fellow police officers who knew Detective James Skernivitz. Detective Skernivitz served 28 years on the Cleveland Police Force—as an undercover officer he was on the front lines of important work against gangs.

Last night he was shot down. Police officers throughout the country put their lives on the line every day to protect us from crime and danger.

That statement should not be a flashpoint or controversial—unfortunately, these days it is. I am grateful for Detective Skernivitz’s service and I pray for his family. May he rest in peace.”

Michael Polensk, the Ward 8 Cleveland City Council Member and Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee gave his thoughts:

“On behalf of the residents of the City of Cleveland, and the residents of the Greater Collinwood community, I wish to offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of veteran Detective James Skernivitz, who was brutally murdered in the line of duty last evening, September 3, 2020.

This should reinforce to all citizens, more than ever before, our collective need to support our men and women in blue, who are being vilified nationally, while at the same time, working tirelessly to safeguard our streets, our families and our businesses.

We all hope and pray that the perpetrator(s) of this violent act are apprehended and brought to justice as soon as possible. The men and women of the Cleveland Police Department are the “the thin blue line” that protect us daily. Let us never forget that. May the good Lord welcome him to paradise.

God bless his family, his brothers and sisters in the Cleveland Police Department and the City of Cleveland. God bless America.”

Cleveland Police announced that three people have been taken into custody on warrants unrelated to the shooting.  There has been no information released as to how they may be involved in this shooting.

Law Enforcement Today wishes to extend our condolences for the fallen officer and his family at this difficult time.

In the meantime in San Antonio, Texas, a police officer was stabbed in the face Friday when a shoplifting suspect rushed at him with a knife.

According to KSAT News, San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) Chief William McManus confirmed that a suspect was dead, and a San Antonio police officer was hospitalized in stable condition after he was stabbed in the face following a shoplifting incident at a Northwest Side H-E-B supermarket.

ABC News reported the suspect was black.

KSAT reported the incident happened around 2:30 p.m., Friday, at an H-E-B store in the 2100 block of Fredericksburg Road.

San Antonio police officers were first notified of the incident after receiving a call for shoplifting at the store. Upon arrival, the shoplifting suspect was detained by H-E-B security and an off-duty police officer from Floresville, officials said.

The suspect was then turned over to San Antonio police. McManus told ABC News:

“The suspect was standing in front of the police vehicle going through some things in his backpack. I’m not sure what that was about.

“He stepped to his right out of the view of the COBAN (police dashboard camera system), and a second later he came back, very aggressively and very quickly, and stabbed the officer in the face. It was quite a vicious attack.”

The suspect lunged at the officer with a knife nearly 5 inches long and stabbed him in the face. He then continued to fight the SAPD officer and the off-duty officer from Floresville, according to KSAT.

The stabbed officer was passing in and out of consciousness en route to the hospital because of blood loss, McManus said. He was listed in serious condition at San Antonio Military Medical Center.

 

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