Photo by David von Diemar on Unsplash

Ohio cathedral vandalism suspect, police officer killed in volley of gunfire

  • January 19, 2021

TOLEDO, Ohio -- The suspect sought in connection with vandalism and a small fire at Toledo's cathedral early Jan. 18 and a 24-year-old police officer both died in a hail of gunfire later that same day.

Toledo Police Officer Brandon Stalker was shot when the suspect came out of a home blocks from Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral with two weapons and began firing, Police Chief George Kral said during a news conference.

Stalker was shot once while securing the area around the home. He was taken to St. Vincent Medical Center, where he died.

The suspect, identified as Christopher Harris, 27, was shot by police after a two-hour standoff and later died at the hospital.

Toledo Bishop Daniel E. Thomas mourned Stalker's death in a statement Jan. 19, saying the diocese stood "in prayerful solidarity" with the officer's family and friends, the Toledo Police Department, and "with our entire community."

"Together with all people of goodwill, I am deeply grateful for the selfless generosity of the men and woman in uniform who daily risk their own lives to protect and serve us all," Bishop Thomas said. "Together, may we all commit ourselves to increased prayer and action to bring about an end to violence and all its underlying causes."

Harris was the suspect in vandalism at the cathedral that was discovered about 2:30 a.m. by firefighters responding to reports of a fire at the 90-year-old structure in the city's historic Old West End.

Fire personnel did not see any fire, but while checking the church, they discovered graffiti painted on walls reading "Jesus is Black" and scorch marks on the wooden main entry doors.

Harris was charged with vandalism, aggravated arson and ethnic intimidation in connection with the cathedral incident, police said. At about 4 p.m., members of the Toledo Police Gang Task Force recognized the man outside a home, located less than a half-mile from the cathedral, and approached him after they saw him carrying a gun, Kral said.

The man entered the house and police began negotiating with him as other officers secured the immediate area. After about two hours, police said, the man exited the house and began firing. One shot hit Stalker.

Police returned fire, critically injuring the Harris, who was rushed to the hospital.

Fire investigators determined the cathedral doors were damaged by what they described as an intentionally set flash fire that had extinguished itself before they arrived, the department said. Fire damage was limited to the doors, the department reported.

In a statement Jan. 18, the diocese said it was "alarmed and heartsick" about the damage at "a historical, architectural and spiritual treasure."

"We are very grateful for the vigilance of our neighbors and the rapid response of our first responders, and that no one was injured," the diocese also said.

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