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Cops and Courts

Why was SWAT called for Martin Robinson, defense attorney asks

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    Martin Robinson appears in Judge Chris Cook's court during his attempted murder trial, in connection to the shooting of Officer Eugene Ptacek, on Wednesday, February 27.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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    Martin Robinson appears in Lorain County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday next to his defense attorney, Reid Yoder, during his attempted murder trial in connection with the shooting of Amherst police Officer Eugene Ptacek.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — On May 31, the members of the U.S. Marshals’ Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force surrounded the home of Martin Robinson in an attempt to serve him an arrest warrant out of Cuyahoga County, but they didn’t try to make contact with Robinson until the Lorain County SWAT team arrived hours later.

During the ongoing trial of Robinson, 40, of Sheffield Lake, for attempted murder charges in connection with a shootout that took place that day, defense attorney Reid Yoder has repeatedly asked officers why SWAT was called out to the home for a man who “had no criminal record?”

On Wednesday, prosecutors attempted to answer that question by calling Deputy U.S. Marshal David Siler to the stand.

Siler was in charge of the task force that attempted to arrest Robinson. When asked what information he had been given that made him think Robinson could be a danger, Siler said multiple agencies had urged him to use caution.

He stated that Sheffield Lake Police Chief Anthony Campo had told the U.S. Marshals that his officers had a run-in with Robinson when responding to a domestic violence call at the residence in which Robinson had a gun on him the entire time he interacted with them. Marshals made contact with Campo and then withdrew from the scene, pulling Robinson’s girlfriend away, as well, Siler said.

He also said when he was checking on the warrant out of Cuyahoga County, a woman from the warrant department advised Robinson should be considered armed and dangerous.

Siler said his team set up a perimeter around the home and then waited for the Lorain County SWAT team to arrive.

“You surround the home and watch the home for three hours before SWAT arrives,” Yoder said. “There’s no stirring at that home, meaning Mr. Robinson never came out of that home. … The fact that you have an individual who has no prior criminal record and has a failure to appear for court on a low-level felony, you felt it was appropriate or necessary to bring in the SWAT team?”

Siler answered, “Yes.”

“You have all these tactical things that SWAT has. You have a machine gun, you’ve got a side pistol, you’ve got a bulletproof vest, you’ve got a helmet and you’ve got your entire team,” Yoder said. “It’s your job to execute warrants, yet prior to making communication with that individual inside, you escalate and bring in the Lorain County SWAT team.”

“My training experience was right that day,” Siler said. “I called the SWAT team because of how I felt from the information that we gathered in reference to Mr. Robinson. I was right that day.”

Hours after the SWAT team arrived and Robinson failed to respond to law enforcement’s requests, via loudspeaker announcements, phone calls and text messages, for him to come out of the home, officers attempted to breach the front door of the house to make contact with Robinson and place a robot inside the home to get a look inside.

When SWAT team member and Amherst police Officer Eugene “J.R.” Ptacek opened the door with a battering ram, two shots from a 20-gauge shotgun were fired from inside the home, according to testimony. Ptacek was struck by one of the shots and had to be rescued by fellow SWAT team members and eventually flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where he underwent multiple surgeries.

Ptacek testified earlier in the week that he has not been able to return to his duties as a police officer, still walks with a limp and has at least one more surgery left in his future.

Testimony in the trial will resume this morning.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.


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