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Officials identify corrections officer killed in suspected murder-suicide in Cleveland

Posted at 4:14 PM, Sep 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 18:26:48-04

CLEVELAND — The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's office has identified the woman killed in a suspected murder-suicide in Cleveland on Thursday as a corrections officer with the county. Sources say the alleged shooter, found dead after a SWAT standoff, was a former corrections officer.

At about 2:30 p.m., officers responded to East 124th Street and Brackland Avenue in Cleveland's East Side Forest Hills neighborhood where they found a woman in a field with multiple gunshot wounds to the chest, according to a news release from Cleveland police. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office was called for mutual aid, and as deputies arrived on scene, they discovered that the woman was 37-year-old corrections officer Valerie Gudger, according to a statement from Sheriff Christoper Viland.

Cleveland SWAT responded to a residence on Eddy Road, near where Gudger was found, in search of a suspect and found an armed male who was locked inside, police said.

The standoff lasted eight hours.

When police entered the home at about 10:30 p.m., they found the man dead from a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to Cleveland police. Three firearms were also confiscated from the home.

Multiple sources have told News 5 that the man was a former correctional officer. A report from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office identifies him as 41-year-old Brandon Smith.

Police are investigating this case as a murder-suicide, and the matter remains under investigation.

Preliminary information suggests Gudger, who was Smith's girlfriend, was in the car with him when he shot her, police said. He then drove her to the field, removed her from the car and shot her again.

Smith then drove to his home on Eddy Road, just down the street from the field, where SWAT later responded.

News of the deaths shocked many inside the jail, according to Adam Chaloupka with Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union representing corrections officers.

"Both of these officers were well-liked, well-regarded both in and out of work," said Chaloupka. "It's just one of those things that just shocks you. It sounds probably cliche, but no one would have seen this, thought this was going to happen."

According to county records, Smith resigned from his job in the jail in 2019, months after he was reprimanded for his treatment of an inmate and just weeks before the U.S. Marshals would release a report on horrid conditions at the county jail.

According to records obtained by 5 On Your Side Investigators, the reprimand stemmed from an altercation where Smith put an inmate against the wall and pushed him when the U.S. Marshals review team was at the jail.

RELATED: Cuyahoga County Jail corrections officer reprimanded for aggressive behavior towards inmate

Viland said that Gudger had served with the sheriff's office with distinction since 2017.

"Our sincerest condolences go out to the friends and family of C.O. Gudger. This is a tragedy that shouldn't be suffered by any family. The loss of a second corrections officer to violent crime in the past several months will be difficult for all, including the many co-workers and friends who provide such admirable service to the citizens of this county every day," Viland said, referring also to the homicide of corrections officer Timothy Cruz at a Parma sports bar in March.

Chaloupka said Gudger was killed just hours before she was to report to work in the jail Thursday.

He added that grief counselors were brought into the facility to help employees deal with the deaths.

"I was in the jail until 11 o'clock last night and then again this morning," said Chaloupka. "It might be the most somber I've ever seen that place."