CLEVELAND - NewsChannel5 photojournalist Mike Vielhaber was scheduled to ride along with police for a story. It turned into a chase that ultimately ended in a police-involved shooting. He gives you his account of the evening.
My night was originally to be a ride-along with the Cleveland Police VGRIP unit. I had been working for a couple of weeks to do the ride-along because this group of six officers is making a huge difference in Cleveland. The unit is responsible for taking violent criminals, drugs and guns off the streets.
Before we set out, I had to sign some waivers and even put on a bulletproof vest. I've worn one before and understand that when I ride with police anything can happen.
As we set out around 9 p.m. for the target area, things seemed normal on the radio, if not just a little quiet. A group of undercover officers called the sergeant I was with on the police radio to tell us about a police chase in the second district. The chase was coming out of downtown Cleveland and was approaching "Dead Man's Curve." We were on the east side of the city. The sergeant I was riding with said that we would follow the chase but because I was with him we had to respond with the normal traffic flow.
At one point, we found ourselves near the tale end of the chase. We could see the lights in the distance and police cars were still passing us, trying to catch up to the chase.
Working the overnight shift I hear a lot of police chases but I could tell this one was a little different.
I learned later about the shots being fired near police headquarters. Then came the call on the radio that I am sure every officer dreads hearing, "shots fired, shots fired, shots fired." The officer I was riding with got very quiet and I could tell he was concerned, as was I.
I see a lot of these officers during my time at work and while I don't know them personally I respect them greatly. As we got close to the ending point of the chase we heard for the first time on the radio, "no officers injured," followed by the call for an ambulance.
As I walked onto the scene, it was calm and organized. Police were busy surrounding the area with crime scene tape. I began to get some video of the area and was in total shock when I panned across to the windshield of the suspect's car with more than a dozen bullet holes were visible. Then I saw the windshield of the Cleveland police car, which also had about a dozen bullet holes in it.
After surveying for a minute or two, I was asked to move back as police expanded their perimeter. At this point, most of the responding officers were starting to walk back to their cars. Most seemed stressed but relieved at the same time.
Once the officers who process crime scenes arrived, I got a true gauge of what had happened. The evidence markers numbered 73, not all were shell casings but most were. We will learn a lot from police in the coming days but may never know what triggered the entire event.