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'We in Toledo are still in mourning and will be for a long time' | TPD chief, mayor discuss events surrounding fatal shooting of Officer Stalker

Stalker, 24, was killed Monday when shots were fired during a standoff with a man suspected of vandalizing Rosary Cathedral earlier in the day.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The Toledo Police Department held a press conference Wednesday afternoon, outlining the events leading up to the fatal shootings of Officer Brandon Stalker and a 27-year-old suspect. 

Officer Stalker, 24, died after being struck in the head by a bullet while on perimeter duty during a standoff with the suspect, later identified as Christopher A. Harris, on Monday.  

Police on Tuesday confirmed 27-year-old Harris as a suspect in the Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral fire and vandalism that occurred early Monday morning, noting a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Stalker was hired by TPD in July of 2019, serving for roughly two-and-a-half years. He leaves behind a fiancée and two children - a 7-year-old daughter and a 3-month-old son.

"We in Toledo are still in mourning and will be for a long time; and the hurt we feel will last forever. For the second time in six months, we lost an officer in the line of duty. Officer Stalker was a fantastic officer, but he was also a great dad and a great person," Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said.

Officer Stalker's funeral is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. at Savage Arena. The service will be open to Stalker's family, friends, and law enforcement only. Residents are encouraged to line the route when it is finalized and announced. 

RELATED: Shooting suspect's family prays for healing and forgiveness; shares his mental health struggles

What led up to the shooting? 

Just before 2:30 a.m. Monday, officers responded to reports of flames coming from the Rosary Cathedral. 

The words, "Jesus is Black" were also painted on the walls.

The incident was investigated as arson, vandalism and RRE - which stands for "race, religious or ethnic intimidation." 

A few hours later, a Crime Stopper tip came in, linking Harris to the incident at the church.

Based on probable cause, Kral said, warrants were issued for Harris's arrest.

Officers went to his home on Fulton St. at around 12:30 p.m. in an attempt to take him into custody. However, that first attempt proved unsuccessful. 

At around 4 p.m., officers came back to the home, this time, spotting Harris outside smoking a cigarette. Officers noted that he had a firearm, and Harris fled inside the home, locking himself inside.  

Critical incident negotiators and SWAT team members were called to the scene. 

Additional officers were used for crowd control and scene protection as a large crowd began to gather. These officers were stationed along the perimeter. Other personnel, including Stalker, were inside the scene, using a marked police for cover.

Kral said negotiations consisted of two hours worth of 30-40 second calls, in which Harris was described as "incoherent." He reportedly said he would only speak to "President Donald Trump, Gov. DeWine or the mayor."

Tear gas was eventually deployed and Harris left his house with a gun in each hand, immediately opening fire. 

Five shots struck the department's armored personnel carrier, and one struck Stalker in the head. 

Another officer, Brian Jackson had been standing behind the carrier and was blocked by a small hatch on the stop that had been left open.

"If that hatch was not there, we would be burying two police officers on Tuesday," Kral said. 

Five officers returned fire after Stalker was struck, firing a total of 19 rounds and hitting Harris eight times. 

Both Stalker and Harris were transported to the hospital and where they later died.

Christopher Harris

Crystal Harris, Christopher Harris's mother, said her was an active member in the church. He had a girlfriend and served as a father figure to her child. 

However, she said her son knew something was wrong with his mental health, which he struggled to accept. When she tried to get him help, he would refuse.

Harris had a girlfriend and was a father figure to her child. Family described that he would give the shirt off his back. 

Crystal says her son knew something was wrong with his mental health, but it was difficult for him to accept, and when she tried to get him help, he would always refuse.

"He started reading his word more and as he read more, demons and something started attacking him," Crystal Harris said. "One minute he'd be good and the next minute, he'd be all over the place." 

Kral noted during Wednesday's conference concerning posts made by Harris on social media, on which he went by the name "Danny Love."

Officers found posts that read, "I will legit be setting the world on fires soon. Take heed and enjoy the moments with your loved ones," and "Don't worry, I'm not going to jail. They're going to have to kill me."

Kral said there were also posts mentioning the phrase, "Jesus is Black," mirroring the spraypaint found on the church walls. 

Who were the officers involved?

Five officers fired a total of 19 rounds during the incident. They have been placed on administrative leave and identified as:

Officer David Marsh

  • Date of hire: Oct. 15, 2013
  • Age 40
  • Unit 1195 - SWAT team
  • No active discipline on file
  • Fired weapon

Adam Knaggs

  • Date of hire: Nov. 1, 2010
  • Age: 40
  • Unit 1180 - SWAT team
  • No active discipline on file
  • Fired weapon

Gregory Linkous

  • Date of hire: Nov. 1, 2010
  • Age: 42
  • Unit 1190 - SWAT team
  • No active discipline on file
  • Fired weapon

Brian Jackson

  • Date of hire: Oct. 15, 2013
  • Age: 35
  • Unit 1194 - SWAT team
  • Active discipline: 2019 verbal reprimand, in-car video system (did not wear issued microphone during traffic stop)
  • Fired weapon

Ben Kiser

  • Date of hire: Sept. 4, 2012
  • Age: 35
  • Unit 1192 - SWAT team
  • Active discipline: 2020 verbal reprimand, unnecessary use of physical control techniques/reporting use (deployed pepper ball gun during vehicle pursuit)
  • Fired weapon

Critical Incident Negotiation Team

The Critical Incident Negotiation Team (CINT) is made up of 12 negotiators and commanded by one lieutenant. The team received an original 40-hour certification training back in 2015.

CINT training is conducted on a quarterly basis and on occasion, joint training is conducted with the SWAT team. 

There were a total of 16 call-outs for negotiators last year, Kral said Wednesday.

Each incident requires three negotiators.

DeWine orders flags lowered

Following Monday's fatal shooting, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered flags in Lucas County and across Columbus to be lowered to half-staff, until sunset the day of Stalker's funeral.

In a tweet, he said:

"Fran and I are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Toledo Police Officer Brandon Stalker. He is the second Toledo officer killed in the line of duty in less than a year," Governor DeWine said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to his family, friends, Chief @gkraltoledo, and everyone at the Toledo Police Dept."

He continued:

"In honor of Officer Stalker's life and service, I have ordered that all U.S. and Ohio flags be flown at half-staff upon all public buildings and grounds in Lucas County and at the @OhioStatehouse, Riffe Center, and Rhodes Tower in Columbus until sunset on the day of his funeral."