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Cleveland police officer shot and killed overnight; suspect in custody

A 24-year-old man has been arrested
Jamieson Ritter.JPG
Posted at 5:47 AM, Jul 04, 2024

CLEVELAND — Cleveland police officer Jamieson Ritter was shot and killed on the East Side in the early morning hours.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Ritter's family. CLICK HERE for more information.

The suspect has been identified as 24-year-old Delawnte Hardy, and he has been charged with aggravated murder, according to police.

Police chief Annie Todd and Mayor Justin Bibb held a 6:45 a.m. press conference at which we learned that a 27-year-old officer out of the Third District was shot and killed while on a call for a suspect wanted for felonious assault.

"There were several officers on scene because we did know the facts ahead of time; we had information that this was potentially a violent felon that was wanted. So, we had multiple officers on scene of this incident," said Todd.

Todd confirms Hardy attempted to get away from police on a bike before reportedly firing on officers.

"This is a really tough situation, and it's hitting everyone really hard," Todd said. "They go out there, they work hard, they risk their lives, they risk everything they have to protect the community, and they care about the community. I hope that this is another time to show our support to our officers. They need it, they deserve it," said Todd.

"Today is a sad day for our city," said Todd. "Ironically, on this day designated for freedom, we are reminded of the evil that tries to impose on our community. However, despite our pain and hurt, we take in the immense sacrifice Officer Ritter gave, and we will honor his memory and compassion. We will continue to carry his legacy in our hearts."

Bibb released the following statement on the death of the officer:

"I am heartbroken about the devastating loss of one of our Cleveland Division of Police officers today. Our entire city mourns the tragic loss of this dedicated public servant.

We will fully support the investigation and ensure that the perpetrator is swiftly brought to justice to the fullest extent of the law.

My deepest condolences go out to the family, friends, and colleagues of our fallen officer. Please pray for his family and the Cleveland Division of Police as we mourn this senseless loss."

News 5 had a crew on scene all night and learned that police were called to East 80th off Wade Park for reports of shots fired around 1:30 a.m.

Police say the suspect exited the house and tried to flee on a bike. Several officers were present. Police tried to arrest him, and he fired on them multiple times, according to authorities. Hardy was arrested and has no injuries, say police.

Neighbors say they heard around 10 gunshots, and our reporters saw about 20 evidence markers scattered in the roadway.

Cleveland police officer shot and transported to hospital

There was a massive police presence all night both at the scene, where multiple city blocks were closed off, and at UH Main Campus in Cleveland.

At the hospital, a News 5 reporter saw a casket draped with an American flag loaded into a van while officers saluted, followed by a police procession away from the hospital.

Officer shot in Hough neighborhood

A News 5 photographer at UH was present for the procession.

Who was Officer Ritter?

News 5's Maya Lockett spoke with Cleveland area artist Moriss Grayson, who said he met Officer Ritter while painting a mural for a business, and the two eventually became friends.

“I was devastated, I didn't believe it was true. I had closed my eyes and opened them again and pinch myself to see if it was a dream. But it wasn't and I sat there and I went through the comments and it was just all type of vulgar weird things said by the community and I gave them backlash on that, along with embracing him because this wasn't just a cop. This was a guy that I knew to be a good dude and a good friend,” said Grayson.

Grayson met Ritter while he was painting a mural on a business. Originally, Ritter thought he was painting illegally until Morris explained he was doing a community mural. They shared a conversation about wanting to help kids in low-income communities and showing them how to express themselves through art.

"A couple of days later, we had an art show at Graffiti Art, and he told me him and his partner Brittany would come to the show," Grayson said. "As I was leaving, he was coming, and I took them on a tour and showed him the art, and he embraced it."

Grayson said Ritter wanted to work together and plan different events for kids, teaching them how to use art to express themselves.

He said Ritter was dedicated to making sure Cleveland neighborhoods were safe and wanted to do more in the community to improve relationships between police and residents.

Focused, humble, and selfless were just a few traits Syracuse Army ROTC member Eric Schaertl used to describe Ritter.

"It was obvious to me that he was truly driven to help others," said Schaertl to News 5's Kaylee Olivas.

Schaertl met Ritter when he was a high school senior in New York. Ritter was applying for ROTC scholarships at the time.

As news broke of Ritter's untimely death, Schaertl said a feeling of disgust and frustration washed over him.

"It’s pretty devastating to see someone’s life… someone who wanted to give so much back to his community have his life taken away by someone who could care less," added Schaertl. "It’s happened over and over and over and over and over again throughout this country. Ya know, the loss of life of people, society’s protectors losing their lives from society’s predators and nothing ever changing."

Although gone, Schaertl said Ritter will never be forgotten and is hoping a call for change follows.

"I’d like to see our society get our act together and start respecting the folks who are serving them, the law enforcement officers, firefighters, military and start demanding a change in the criminal laws and codes and hold people accountable for their actions," stated Schaertl. "If they’re not fit to obey the laws, then they shouldn’t be part of society."

'Honoring heroic actions'

Last month, Ritter was nominated for the Cleveland Police Foundation's Officer of the Month award, along with Officer Brittany Vajusi, for three calls the two officers responded to this year.

According to the foundation, on Feb. 2, the two responded to a home in the 3400 block of East 69th Street for a man shot. The two officers used chest seals to cover his wounds and administered CPR.

While the victim later died from his injuries, "the officers gave it their all to give the victim a chance at survival," Sgt. Eric Newton said in his nomination for the two officers.

On April 20, Ritter and Vajusi responded to the 1000 block of Old River Road after a man jumped into the Cuyahoga River. The officers went in after him, pulled him to safety and then helped warm him up to prevent hypothermia.

"Again, Patrol Officers Vajusi and Ritter played a key role in saving someone's life," Newton said.

In the most recent incident mentioned in Newton's nomination, Ritter and Vajusi responded to the area of East 55th Street and McBride for a man shot.

"Patrol Officers Vajusi and Ritter removed the male's clothing, applied bandages and chest seals, and gave words of encouragement to the male in an effort to keep him alive. As if this wasn't enough, they were also inquiring for information about who had shot him. Their inquiries ultimately led to the arrest of the suspected shooter. The officers literally conducted the investigation at the same time they were saving the victim's life. Patrol Officer Ritter stayed with the victim all the way until he was inside the EMS wagon. I do not believe the victim would have survived had it not been for Patrol Officer Vajusi and Ritter's dedication to saving lives," Newton said.

The suspect

Cleveland Police said they were called to a home on East 80th Street early Thursday morning because Delawnte Hardy showed up.

The situation involved a felonious assault in Garfield Heights, and Police said Hardy was the prime suspect.

Their report said a man called police early Saturday morning, saying he said he found his wife "laying in a pool of blood"

When officers arrived, one tried to provide medical attention, but due to the amount of blood, it was nearly impossible.

The woman was taken to MetroHealth, but her condition and her connection to Hardy are unclear at this time.

News 5 also learned the assault isn't Hardy's first brush with the law.

He was charged with resisting arrest and criminal trespassing in Cleveland last December, but those misdemeanor charges were dropped in April.

Hardy will make an initial appearance in Cleveland Municipal Court and then be bound over to Cuyahoga County to face aggravated murder charges.

Support for officers

As tributes continue for Officer Ritter, The Cleveland Police Foundation and The Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society offer their services to the fallen officer’s relatives and colleagues.

“How he worked- it was like he had a mission. It was to be a good police officer,” said Bob Guttu with The Cleveland Police Foundation. He spoke with News 5's Damon Maloney.

Guttu recently delivered the news to Ritter and his partner, Brittany Vajusi, that they were the May Officers of The Month awarded by the foundation. Guttu said Ritter was humble about being recognized. The pair were nominated for recently saving a man who jumped into the Cuyahoga County River and aided two people who had been shot.

“Your main goal is to go home safe and sound back to your family,” Guttu said. “Sometimes that doesn't happen.”

He said grief in situations like this never gets any easier for fallen officers’ families or fellow officers.

“We need to stress to them that sometimes it's okay not to be okay,” Guttu said.

It’s why The Cleveland Police Foundation has an officer wellness and morale program, an employee assistance program, and other resources to handle tragedy.

“It’s just a bad situation. We're going to be grieving for a while. We're going to be thinking about this for a while. We never forget,” Guttu said.

The Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial in downtown Cleveland is a living tribute to fallen heroes.

“We’re here to support Cleveland in any way they need and the family itself which we do with every officer who’s killed in the line of duty,” said Joe Mannion, president of The Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society.

“We’re there for them. We offer where they can go for assistance if they need to talk to someone."

193 names are etched into stones at the memorial. Mannion said Ritter’s name, along with the name of fallen Euclid Police Officer Jacob Derbin, will be added. Derbin was shot and killed while responding to a 911 call in May. Both men will have their names read aloud during next year’s memorial service, which occurs during National Police Week.

“This the place where they (fallen officer’s families) have solitude and reflect… think of all the good times (and) the memories they have with their loved ones that have been killed,” Mannion said.

Guttu said the community has lost a selfless man and hopes Ritter knew he was appreciated. Guttu said the Officer of The Month award speaks volumes.

"I’m so glad I had that interaction. I’m so glad that we could do that for him. That’s the very least we could do,” Guttu said.

Reactions from officials

On behalf of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, I extend my condolences to the members of the Cleveland Division of Police on the senseless and tragic killing of Police Officer Jamieson Ritter. This is another stark reminder of the increasing violence against law enforcement, and the danger faced by those who answer the call to duty. My heart breaks for Officer Jamieson Ritter’s family and loved ones. The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Cleveland Division of Police.

Cleveland City Council also released a statement Thursday afternoon:

The entire Council expresses profound sorrow upon learning of the passing of Cleveland Police Officer Jamieson Ritter. Officer Ritter was fatally shot while on duty near East 80th and Wade Park early this morning. 

Council President Blaine A. Griffin remarked, "This is an immense tragedy not only for the officer’s family and friends but also for the Division of Police and the city of Cleveland. We extend our sincerest sympathies to his family." 

Councilwoman Stephanie Howse-Jones conveyed, "I am deeply grieved by the devastating loss of Officer Ritter, a devoted public servant. His valor and dedication to ensuring the safety of our community will be forever remembered. My deepest condolences are with Officer Ritter’s family, friends, colleagues, and the Third District family." 

“It is with great sorrow that we mourn the loss of Officer Ritter who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving and protecting our community. His selfless dedication and bravery will forever be remembered,” shared Councilman Mike Polensek, chair of Council’s Safety Committee. “We stand in solidarity with the Cleveland Police members as we grieve this devastating loss.”

Congresswoman Shontel Brown (OH-11) released a statement as well:

“I am deeply saddened by the devastating loss of Officer Jamieson Ritter and my prayers are with his family, loved ones, and the men and women of the Cleveland Division of Police.

“Officer Ritter made the ultimate sacrifice for our community and justice must be done. It is truly tragic to see a young man taken from us too soon. In May, Officer Ritter was named Officer of the Month by the Cleveland Police Foundation, for three heroic actions taken in this year alone. Officer Ritter was someone who saved lives and helped those in need.

“It is beyond heartbreaking that we have lost an officer in the line of duty, a powerful and sober reminder of the risks that law enforcement officers take every day to protect us.”

Below, you can read Attorney General Dave Yost's statement:

This young officer was a selfless hero who served his community with favor and dedicated his life to restraining evil.

The loss of an officer on a day when we celebrate the many freedoms of our country is a cruel reminder of the price paid by those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our communities safe.

My deepest condolences are with Officer Ritter’s loved ones and the Cleveland Police Department

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