ELYRIA — The judge was reading the jury’s decision on the third count of a 21-count indictment Friday afternoon when Martin Robinson gathered his yellow legal pad and blue paperback copy of the Bible, stood up and tried to walk out of the courtroom.
People in the packed courtroom began whispering, cameras began clicking and Judge Chris Cook stopped reading.
“Mr. Robinson, you need to stay present while I finish these forms,” Cook said. “I’m going to ask you please, sir, sit down. If there’s any problems, I’ll have you removed, but I would really appreciate, and ask, you to stay so that you can hear the verdict forms.”
“I’ve heard enough,” Robinson said.
What Robinson had heard was the jury had found him guilty of aggravated attempted murder and attempted murder in connection with the shooting of Amherst police officer and Lorain County SWAT team member Eugene “J.R.” Ptacek during a standoff at Robinson’s home May 31.
Robinson moved to stand in front of a door in the courtroom that leads to a secure area with a holding cell. Defense attorney Reid Yoder and deputies talked to Robinson in hushed tones as Cook repeatedly asked Robinson to sit back down, telling him there was no reason for him to leave the courtroom.
“Judge, I’m going to ask that you allow Mr. Robinson to be excused,” Yoder finally said.
Cook allowed it, and Robinson was escorted out of the courtroom and taken to the holding cell by deputies.
Cook then resumed reading the verdict for a defendant who no longer was present.
In all, the jury found Robinson guilty of 16 of the 21 counts. He was convicted of one count of aggravated attempted murder, six counts of attempted murder, eight counts of felonious assault and a misdemeanor count of inducing panic.
The day of the incident, the U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force surrounded Robinson’s Sheffield Lake home in an attempt to serve an arrest warrant out of Cuyahoga County. U.S. Marshals did not try to make contact with Robinson until the SWAT team arrived about three hours later, according to testimony.
When the SWAT team arrived, both the U.S. Marshals and SWAT attempted to contact Robinson by public address announcements over a loudspeaker, phone calls, text messages and video messages, testimony said. The SWAT team also parked its mine-resistant armor protected vehicle, described by many as a tank, on Robinson’s front lawn.
After hours passed without Robinson responding, the SWAT team decided to breach the front door of the home to make contact with him and place a robot inside to get a better idea of what Robinson was doing, testimony said.
Ptacek was tasked with breaching the door with a battering ram. After a few attempts, he was able to get the door open, and when he did, Robinson shot at him with a 20-gauge shotgun, testimony said.
A shootout ensued, with SWAT officers firing at Robinson’s home and Robinson shooting at officers with the shotgun and a 9 mm pistol, according to trial testimony.
Ptacek testified that he lost dexterity in his left leg after getting hit in the buttocks by a shotgun slug. He tried to crawl to safety, but was unable to.
SWAT team member Brian Barens ran from his cover and dragged Ptacek to cover near the MRAP. Avon firefighter and SWAT team medic Mike Rowe began triage on Ptacek.
SWAT officers eventually got Ptacek inside the MRAP and drove him to a waiting ambulance. He was flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland where he underwent several surgeries over a month. He then spent another month in a rehabilitation center.
Ptacek testified that he still walks with a limp and has another surgery scheduled for next week. He has not returned to duty.
The jury did not convict Robinson on four counts of felonious assault and one count of attempted murder.
The felonious assault charges the jury felt Robinson was not guilty of were in connection with Rowe, Avon Lake police lieutenant and SWAT team negotiator Sean Bockelman, Avon Lake police lieutenant and SWAT team member Fran Tibbitts and North Ridgeville police officer and SWAT team member Christopher Ody. The count of attempted murder Robinson was acquitted of was in connection with Rowe.
Bockelman testified that he was inside the MRAP when Robinson began shooting. Testimony said Tibbitts and Ody were each in the front yard of Robinson’s home during the shootout.
Testimony said six spent casings were found inside Robinson’s home — three from a shotgun and three from a 9 mm pistol.
Robinson will be sentenced by Cook on Monday morning.
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