Police Shootout Happened At Worst Time

CLEVELAND – Any time there's a shootout involving police officers, it's a serious situation. When the shootout happens in one of Cleveland's busiest locations, it's even more serious. And when the shootout happens just as large crowds start to empty out of Downtown stadiums and arenas, the situation is about as serious as one could imagine.

That's what the scenario was on Thursday night in Cleveland's Public Square, Action News' Lynna Lai reported.

Action News cameras were on the scene within minutes of the shootout.

Police were using fingerprints on Friday to try to identify the suspect. They said that the officers were driving him to Public Square to catch a bus.

They said that the man tackled Officer Michael Schmitt as he left the cruiser. He then took the officer's gun and shot him in the chin.

Schmitt's partner then shot and killed the man.

Schmitt was taken to MetroHealth Medical Center, where he remained in critical condition with bullet fragments in his brain, police said. The hospital, however, said that he had actually improved slightly and was upgraded to serious condition.

People on Public Square with whom Action News talked on Friday, including Ida McElrath, paused to think about the violence that played out the night before.

"I mean right here in the city, and the next thing you know, a policeman being shot," McElrath said. "I thought it was terrible. It was really terrible."

At a time when the city was playing host to national events, like the U.S. Gymnastics Championships at Gund Arena, the timing couldn't have been worse.

The shooting happened right in front of John Q's Steakhouse. Owner Rick Cassara said that the shootout wasn't exactly the special of the day.

"October will be our tenth anniversary since we bought this place, and we've had nothing (like this) happen at all," Cassara said.

One out-of-town visitor with whom Action News talked said that the Downtown violence isn't making him blink.

"There's too much good going on here for a couple of incidents to change all that," Keith Brown said.

Despite Thursday night's shootout, Case Western Reserve University research suggests that Downtown Cleveland is a lot safer than it was 10 years ago.

The Downtown area has seen its incidents of violent crime nearly cut in half in the past 10 years, dropping at a faster rate than crime in the entire city.