End of Watch: March 25, 2000
On March 25, 2000, at 6:53 A.M., Ashtabula County Sheriff's Department, Jefferson, Ohio, K9 Deputy William Niemi and K9 Cero were enroute to a call that a shooting had just taken place on a residential side street, just around the corner from the Sheriff's Department. Other officers from the Sheriff's Department as well as the on duty officer from the Jefferson Village Police Department were also enroute. They were advised by dispatch that a victim was lying in the street and that the suspect male was now walking along the side street towards the main intersection where there is a Dairy Mart and other stores with people present. Deputy Niemi arrived in the area and observed the suspect walking on the sidewalk, wearing a black rain type coat with what appeared to be the barrel of a long gun sticking out from the bottom of the black coat. As a Sheriff's Department Sergeant and another Deputy arrived on scene, the suspect stopped walking. The Sergeant ordered the suspect to put the gun down several times. The suspect started to turn to his right and then spun around, raising the shotgun and pointing it in the direction of the Sergeant and other Deputy. The suspect opened fire at the Deputy's patrol vehicle, with the first shot striking the vehicle windshield while the Deputy was still sitting in the driver's seat. The Deputy took cover as he exited the vehicle and moved to the rear near the trunk lid. The suspect continued firing his weapon, striking the same patrol vehicle and shooting out the rear windshield. Rounds fired by the suspect during this time also struck other patrol vehicles and houses.
At this time the suspect threw the shotgun down into the middle of the street after emptying it. During this time, the other officers on scene were returning fire at the suspect. The suspect turned and began to walk away at a fast pace and took cover behind a tree. As the suspect began to flee, Deputy Niemi commanded K9 Cero to apprehend the suspect. At the same time several other officers began to change positions. K9 Cero engaged the suspect on the arm and held on, diverting the suspect’s attention away from two officers who were out in the open and vulnerable at that time. The suspect pulled a .22 caliber revolver and shot K9 Cero through the front chest as K9 Cero was still holding onto the subject's arm. At this time K9 Cero let go of the suspect due to the gunshot. The bullet traveled through K9 Cero's chest and lodged in his heart. The suspect then began firing at the officers again. The suspect was shot a number of additional times and fell to the ground. Even while on the ground the suspect continued to fire his weapon at the officers. Finally the suspect dropped the weapon from his hand at which time officers rushed him, kicked the weapon away and secured the suspect. Rescue was called as was the department vet. The suspect was transported to a hospital and at a point in time was pronounced DOA.
K9 Cero did not survive his wound and passed away after giving his life for his handler, Deputy William Niemi as well as for the other officers present and especially for those citizens who were living and visiting in that area. K9 Cero is the first law enforcement K9 in northeast Ohio to be killed in the Line of Duty. He will be missed dearly by all. He has passed on to above to keep an eye on all of us. K9 Cero is one of the Guardians of the Night. God bless and watch over him.