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'It is a dark day in our city' | Toledo police officer dies following standoff

Ofc. Brandon Stalker died in a standoff with a suspect in the Rosary Cathedral vandalism. The suspect, Christopher Harris, was also killed.
Credit: (Image Courtesy: WTOL)

TOLEDO, Ohio — A Toledo police officer has died after both he and a suspect in the arson and vandalism of Rosary Cathedral were shot in a standoff Monday afternoon.

The police department held a news conference just hours after the incident, in which the officer was identified as 24-year-old Officer Brandon Stalker.

The autopsy from the Lucas County Coroner's Office on Tuesday said Stalker's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. 

ABOUT OFFICER STALKER

Kral said Stalker, while not married, did have a fiancé and a young child. Family friends of Stalker confirmed to WTOL 11 that he had a 7-year-old daughter and a 3-month-old son who was born on Oct. 15, 2020.

Stalker also leaves behind his partner in the force, Mitchell Vanderhorst, according to family friends. 

"It is a dark day in our city and a dark time in our community," Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said.

Credit: Washington Local Schools
Ofc. Brandon Stalker, right, died in a standoff with a suspect in the Rosary Cathedral vandalism.

Stalker joined the Toledo Police Department in July 2018. He was classmates with Officer Anthony Dia, who was killed in the line of duty on July 4, 2020.

“The entire Toledo Police family is in shock. Another hero has paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting the residents of Toledo. Our hearts are heavy tonight,” Chief Kral said.

Stalker was a 2015 Whitmer grad and played baseball for the Panthers He also was an assistant baseball coach last year but wasn’t able to coach anymore because his shift changed. 

The Whitmer Baseball organization tweeted out condolences, calling Stalker by his nickname, "O.J."

A GoFundMe has been created by the same individual who ran the fundraiser for the family of slain TPD Officer Anthony Dia. It can be accessed by clicking this link. 

RELATED: GoFundMe, other initiatives set for family of Toledo Police Officer Stalker killed in the line of duty

EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE STANDOFF

Credit: Harris Family
Chris Harris had warrants out for his arrest in relation to the vandalism of Rosary Cathedral on Jan. 19, when the words "JESUS IS BLACK" were spray painted on the church and the doors were set on fire. A standoff and shootout ensued later, and TPD Officer Brandon Stalker and Harris both were killed.

Toledo Police Chief George Kral said there was a warrant out for a suspect's arrest in relation to the Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral fire and vandalism that occurred early Monday morning. 

A series of warrants shows that suspect to be Christopher A. Harris, 27.

Toledo police later confirmed Harris as the suspect involved in the Rosary Cathedral incident and the standoff in a press release sent early Tuesday.

Harris fired at officers during the standoff, striking Stalker, according to Toledo police. He was shot by police on scene and pronounced dead at the hospital.

According to Toledo Municipal Court documents, a warrant was issued for Harris for spray painting "Jesus is black" and "black" multiple times on Rosary Cathedral on Collingwood Boulevard on Monday morning.

He is also accused of pouring a flammable liquid on the doors of the cathedral and lighting it. There was damage to the doors but not the inside of the cathedral.

On a separate warrant filed Monday, Harris is also accused of spray painting the inside of his previous apartment at 2062 N. 14th St. in Toledo on Jan. 8.

The same message painted on the cathedral was found on the Facebook page of a "Danny Love," which is a known alias of Harris.

For the two incidents, Harris faced charges of ethnic intimidation, two vandalism and two aggravated arson charges.

A Facebook page of "Danny Love" contained a posting from the morning of the shooting: "Jesus is Black though." There were also several posts referencing a standoff with police. 

ABOUT THE STANDOFF AND SHOOTING

The events leading up to Officer Stalker's death began just before 4 p.m. on Monday as officers spotted Harris outside of a residence on the 2200 block of Fulton Street. 

When police approached the Fulton Street residence, he went around the corner, brandished a firearm and then fled inside his house.

RELATED: Police looking for person suspected of trying to set church on fire, spray-painting 'Jesus is Black'

Kral said officers set up a perimeter before calling in negotiators and the city's SWAT team, which he said is the normal course of action whenever there is a barricaded suspect. Stalker was stationed on the perimeter to keep residents away from the scene.

Officers reportedly tried to negotiate for two hours with Harris. However, these attempts were unsuccessful. The SWAT team fired tear gas into the house in an attempt to get Harris to exit the home and surrender. Stalker was not a member of the SWAT team but was doing perimeter security work during the standoff. 

After the tear gas was deployed, Harris exited the house with a firearm in both hands and fired shots in several directions.

One shot struck Stalker in the head. Stalker was taken to Mercy-Health St. Vincent Medical Center but succumbed to his injuries.

Harris was shot by Toledo police on scene. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Multiple officers fired their weapons at Harris, TPD confirmed. The officers will be placed on paid administrative leave according to collective bargaining agreements.

Toledo police are scheduled to hold another news conference on Wednesday AT 2 p.m.

Credit: Melissa Andrews


Here is a look at the recent history of TPD deaths while in the line of duty:

  • Officer Brandon Stalker - Jan. 18, 2021 
  • Officer Anthony Dia  - July 4, 2020 
  • Toledo Police Vice Detective Keith Dressel - Feb. 21, 2007
  • Patrolman William Miscannon - September 18, 1970

Stalker is the 32nd Toledo police officer killed in the line of duty.

FULL PRESS CONFERENCE

RELATED: Police looking for person suspected of trying to set church on fire, spray-painting 'Jesus is Black'