ELYRIA — Two veteran Elyria police officers shot and killed Ronald Palmer on Monday just minutes after he gunned down Officer James Kerstetter.
Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely said officers Jay Loesch and Donald Moss have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation into the shooting is being conducted.
Whitely said the leave is standard operating procedure for the department after an officer shoots a suspect. He said he didn’t know how long the leave would last, but praised both men.
“These officers are excellent officers. They’re experienced and they know what they’re doing,” he said. “I would be surprised if they didn’t act correctly.”
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The investigation into the deaths of Kerstetter and Palmer is being conducted by Lorain County Sheriff’s deputies, and Whitely said he expects it to take some time to complete.
Kerstetter, 43, was shot while responding to a call that a naked man had kicked in the window at a neighbor’s 18th Street house and exposed himself to her 10-year-old daughter.
Although the investigation is still ongoing, Whitely said he expects that a county grand jury will eventually review whether Loesch and Moss were justified in shooting Palmer. That, too, is protocol, he said, and what happened the last time an Elyria officer shot and killed a suspect.
In that incident, a grand jury found that Officer David Ross used justifiable force when he shot and killed James Cain Jr. on Nov. 7, 2004.
Whitely said Wednesday that he didn’t know whether or not Palmer was armed when he was shot, but they did know their fellow officer had just been shot because Kerstetter had called that out on the police radio.
Even if he was unarmed, that doesn’t mean the officers acted inappropriately, Whitely said.
“There’s no reason at this point to think they did anything wrong,” he said.
Kerstetter was dispatched at 10:01 p.m. to 18th Street, according to recordings of radio and phone traffic at the Elyria police dispatch office.
“My caller says her neighbor, who lives at 326 18th, came over naked, kicked in her windows, exposed himself to her child, caused a disturbance and went back home,” the dispatcher told Kerstetter over the radio.
“177 copies,” Kerstetter replied.
A few minutes later, Kerstetter called the dispatcher on the phone to confirm his destination and tells her he’ll arrive in a minute at the complainant’s house.
At 10:13 p.m., Kerstetter told the dispatcher that he was going over to Palmer’s house.
Fifty seconds later, Kerstetter hit his radio again.
“I’ve been shot! I’ve been shot!” he yelled.
His fellow officers immediately begin heading to the area.
At 10:16 p.m., an officer radioed back to dispatch.
“Shots fired. The suspect’s down,” the officer said.
Two minutes after Palmer was reported shot, an officer radioed the dispatcher telling her to get an ambulance there quickly.
As officers were frantically trying to save Kerstetter, one of them bumped his radio microphone.
“Come on, Sponge,” the desperate officer can be heard saying, calling Kerstetter by his nickname.
Over the next few minutes, the dispatchers fielded calls from Elyria officers trying to find out who had been shot, offers of help from other police departments and tried to guide a LifeFlight helicopter to either a nearby parking lot or EMH Regional Medical Center.
“Whatever’s faster for the bird,” an officer told her at one point. “We need it ASAP.”
The dispatcher took calls from several media outlets and from Palmer’s family, telling each that she didn’t have any information yet.
“Police just shot my son on 18th Street. I’d like to know if he’s dead or not,” a woman asked during a 10:35 p.m. call.
At 10:37 p.m., the police station received a call from an emotional Officer Daniel Marsico at EMH Regional Medical Center after Kerstetter was pronounced dead.
“He didn’t make it,” Marsico told Lt. Scott Sargent, the officer in charge of the shift.
“He didn’t make it?” Sargent asked.
“Ah, (expletive),” Sargent whispered. “All right.”
“I just got here and they just told me,” Marsico said.
“OK. All right, keep yourself together. Whitely’s picking up the family. He’s going to bring them over there so I need you to be composed and professional,” Sargent said. “I know it’s hard. We’re all going through it. All right, Danny? Suck it up and you stay with him until you’re told otherwise.”
“OK,” Marsico replies several times as he listens to Sargent’s instructions before hanging up.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.