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Life Of Fallen Cleveland Police Officer Celebrated In Funeral Service

Police officers lined up along East Ninth Street and Bolivar Avenue to pay their respects.
Gabriel Kramer
Ideastream Public Media
Police officers lined up along East Ninth Street and Bolivar Avenue to pay their respects.

A seemingly endless procession of police motorcycles and cruisers — lights flashing, sirens silent — rolled from Middleburg Heights to Downtown Cleveland Friday for the funeral of Cleveland Police Detective James Skernivitz, killed last week in the line of duty.

Police officers and civilians lined up along East 9th Street to pay their respects. Fire Department ladder trucks held aloft a huge United States flag.

Several civilians also joined to pay their respects. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Police officers from all over Ohio, and from other states, joined the procession to honor the 53-year-old police veteran.

While the service itself at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse was not open to the public, the Cleveland Divison of Police streamed a live video of the funeral on its Facebook page. 

“What he did out there for our city was to try to lift not individuals, not neighborhoods, not groups, but an entire city to a higher, more noble life,” said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams.

Police vehicles from all over Ohio and other states joined the procession. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

United States Attorney General William Barr called Skernivitz "an American hero." Barr attended the service as Skernivitz was part of the federal Operation Legend, targeting violent crime in several U.S. cities.

“I didn’t know Jim personally, but in a sense I do know Jim,” Barr said. “I know the strength of character, the decency, the courage and the commitment, which although too uncommon in society generally, are common virtues in the ranks of America’s police.”

Skernivitz was part of the Cleveland Division of Police Gang Impact Unit and was sworn in recently as a Violent Crimes Task Force officer as a part Operation Legend. 

Two juveniles and one adult —18-year-old David McDaniel — have been charged in Skernivitz’ death. 

The funeral was held in the venue where Skernivitz had worked as an usher. He loved attending concerts and live sporting events and worked at the Richfield Coliseum before Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Skernivitz worked as an usher for concerts and live sporting events. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Skernivitz is survived by his wife, Kristen, and three children. His wife, a high school sweetheart, did not speak at the service, but she wrote comments read by Brecksville Police Sgt. Mike Bauman.

Her husband was known to many as "Skern" and he was quick to bestow others with nicknames, she said.

She described him as a "truth teller" who "loved you by helping you see a better way, choose a better path and be a better person."

Lights flashed, but sirens were silent as motorcycles and police cars drove through Downtown Cleveland. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

And he served as an example for others.

"I don't think such a thing exists as the right way to die," she wrote. "But because of Jim, I sure know the right way to live."

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Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.