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Cleveland police officer killed

CLEVELAND — A Cleveland police detective who had just joined a federal violence task force was shot and killed in his unmarked car along with a police informant during a drug operation, officials said Friday.

Three people have been arrested in the shooting that killed Detective James Skernivitz, 53, and another man on Thursday night. Cleveland Safety Director Karrie Howard said at a news briefing Friday afternoon that two juveniles and an adult taken into custody for unrelated arrest warrants are being questioned. Their names have not been released.

Scott Dingess, 50, has been identified by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office as the other man killed inside Skernivitz’s car.

An emotional Police Chief Calvin Williams did not provide details about the shootings during the briefing.

“It could have been random, it could have been targeted,” Williams said. “We don’t know. We’re still investigating.”

Skernivitz and Dingess were shot around 10 p.m. Thursday on the city’s west side. A Cleveland police official knowledgeable about some details of the shooting, but who was not authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press that Skernivitz was working undercover as part of a drug operation and that Dingess was a police informant.

Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, said no other officers were in the area when the two men were shot.

Officials have not said whether Skernivitz was working Thursday night as part of the federal task force or as a member of the Cleveland police gang unit to which he was normally assigned.

Skernivitz was a 25-year veteran. Williams at Friday’s briefing called him a “policeman’s policeman.”

Skernivitz and other law enforcement officers were sworn in Wednesday at the Cleveland FBI office to become members of the FBI’s Violent Crime Task Force in support of Operation Legend, a Justice Department effort to crack down on violent crime in a number of U.S. cities, including Cleveland, FBI spokesperson Vicki Anderson.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr called Skernivitz’s death “a very sad day for the city of Cleveland and the entire law enforcement community.”

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