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Cops and Courts

Brooklyn officer recalls traffic stop during trial on alleged murder-for-hire

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ELYRIA — Brooklyn police had no idea that Patrick Gall and John Sullivan were suspected of being involved in the slaying of Willie Fisher hours before officers pulled the two over in a black BMW on Interstate 480 on July 6.

Officer Shane Phillips, of the Brooklyn Police Department, testified on the third day of testimony in the jury trial of Gall, 19, of East Cleveland, that officers released Gall shortly after stopping the two for traveling 80 mph in a 60-mph zone.

Sullivan, 30, of East Cleveland, was arrested by officers after the stop on an active warrant out of Maple Heights. He also was charged with having a weapon under disability after police found a handgun in the glove compartment of the BMW he’d been driving. Ballistics testing showed it was the same gun that was used in the shooting of Fisher, whose body was found behind a shopping plaza on East Avenue about 6 p.m. July 6.

Phillips walked the jury through body camera footage that was shot during the traffic stop. The video showed Gall tell Phillips that his name was Saint-Velle Pruitt. He also gave a date of birth, but said he didn’t know his Social Security number.

After running Pruitt’s information through the Law Enforcement Automated Database System, which came back clean, police released Gall, Phillips said.

The BMW was registered to ATT Security, which is a owned by Bruce Arnoff, 59, of Solon, who prosecutors have said paid Sullivan and Gall $500 to execute Fisher.

Prosecutors believe Sullivan and Gall had left a meeting with Arnoff at Amber’s Cabaret, located on Brookpark Road, when they were pulled over on Interstate 480 between the Tiedeman Road and Ridge Road exits.

On Wednesday, prosecutors showed video of Arnoff withdrawing $540 from a PNC Bank ATM. When police arrested Sullivan, he had a little more than $345 in cash in his pocket, $340 of it in $20 bills, Phillips testified.

On Tuesday, the real Saint-Velle Pruitt testified that he was not with Sullivan when Brooklyn police made the traffic stop on July 6. He also said that he knew Gall, and that Gall previously had used his name.

When Elyria police began looking for the man that had been traveling with Sullivan, a warrant for Pruitt was issued. Pruitt turned himself in and told police that he had nothing to do with the alleged crime. He was released, and a warrant for Gall was then issued.

Bert Fitzgerald, with the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force, testified that U.S. Marshals went to a home in East Cleveland on July 10 after receiving information that Gall was there. Fitzgerald said that Gall surrendered to officers after a four-hour standoff that involved calling in the Cuyahoga County SWAT team. A robot was used to locate Gall, who was hiding under a mattress, Fitzgerald said.

Fisher had been hired by Arnoff to do some landscaping work around the convenience store, according to Elyria police.

Sullivan allegedly shot Fisher just after 6 p.m. July 6 after Gall led the victim into an ambush behind the Convenient Food Mart at 1401 East Ave., where Sullivan was lying in wait.

Cell phone records put Sullivan’s phone in the area at the time of the shooting, Elyria police Detective Dan Sumpter testified Thursday during direct examination by Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Laura Dezort.

In an audio-taped conversation with Sumpter and Detective Dustin Thacker that was played Thursday for the jury, Gall denied having anything to do with the shooting or the alleged plot to set up Fisher.

“This is a bunch of baloney,” he told detectives.

“I know you didn’t do it,” Sumpter told Gall. “Sullivan did. … I said you were not the shooter.”

But detectives also told Gall they knew that he knew what was going to happen to Fisher, and that they had evidence he was standing right next to Fisher when Sullivan opened fire.

“We have video of you and (Sullivan) and the next thing you know, you come back with Willie, (Sullivan) starts popping him while you’re standing next to him,” Sumpter said.

Gall said he was suspicious of that version of events, telling detectives: “I’m not about to put myself in that situation.”

“I wanna get to the very bottom of this,” he told detectives, again asking to see the tape, a request they again denied.

Gall also denied knowing or ever meeting Arnoff, even after Sumpter described to him what Arnoff looked like. Saying he hadn’t seen any coverage of the killing on TV or in the newspaper, Gall then asked detectives for a photo of Arnoff, which they declined to give him.

“I literally got paid zero dollars for anything,” Gall told the detectives, later adding: “I’m not doing anything for Bruce (Arnoff), I never did anything for that man.”

Gall said he was at the Convenient Food Mart to get cookies and juice and was trying to get a “personal Uber” ride home to East Cleveland, but surveillance images showed he never bought the snacks, Sumpter testified.

The story detectives told Gall “sounds like a story someone told y’all,” Gall said, repeating it twice more. “I feel like I’m being set up.”

“It’s on video when (Sullivan) shoots Willie, and you’re standing next to him,” a detective says on the tape.

“How’d I not get shot?” Gall asked.

“By the grace of God,” one of the detectives replied.

Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. today in Judge John Miraldi’s courtroom with Sumpter’s cross examination by defense attorney J. Anthony Rich.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT. Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7247 or do’brien@chroniclet.com.


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