LORAIN — Police officers surrounded an East 31st Street home Tuesday before arresting a driver believed to have been behind the wheel of a white Toyota Camry that struck and killed a Cleveland police officer earlier in the day.
The man, later identified as 44-year-old Israel Alvarez, was inside the home for about two hours before coming out shortly before noon. Police armed with assault rifles ordered Alvarez to put his hands up and then walk backward down the steps of the yellow two-story house.
Alvarez then kneeled on the ground as police surrounded him and put him in handcuffs before taking him in custody and briefly questioning him.
Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis said that before Alvarez was taken away, the handcuffs of Officer David Fahey, who died after being struck along westbound Interstate 90 in Lakewood, were placed on his wrists.
“We were able to bring Dave’s handcuffs from Cleveland up here and place them on the suspect in this thing,” Loomis said as he spoke with the media just beyond where police were waiting for a search warrant to enter the house. “That might not seem like a big thing to civilian folks, but that’s a huge thing to law enforcement to be able to do that.”
Loomis said Fahey was backing up Lakewood police at a crash involving a firetruck and another vehicle. He had gotten out of his patrol car to put flares on the road when the crash happened about 6 a.m.
“He just didn’t see the car coming,” Loomis said.
Loomis said Fahey’s partner, Officer Jennifer Scarborrough, saw Fahey get struck and was able to get a few identifying markers from the car before it drove off.
“It just goes to show what these officers go through,” Loomis said. “That was something very traumatic to happen in front of her, and she still had the presence of mind to get a good description of the car.”
He said Scarborrough attempted to revive Fahey but was unsuccessful.
Loomis said former a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent was driving through Lorain looking for a vehicle matching the description when he saw Alvarez’s Camry toward the back of the property on East 31st Street. Loomis said the vehicle was pretty far back and there appeared to have been some “forethought” into hiding it.
Lorain police spokesman Capt. Roger Watkins said former Lorain police Officer Brett Bangas was the DHS agent who found Alvarez.
In a news release, Cleveland police said that Alvarez was being held on aggravated vehicular homicide and felony hit-skip charges, although the final charges will be determined by Cuyahoga County prosecutors.
“All we want to do is find the guy that was responsible and hold him accountable, and that’s exactly what happened,” Loomis said, adding that officers were “confident” they have the right suspect.
Police later placed a blue tarp over the Camry before it was loaded on a flatbed and driven from the scene. Watkins said a search of the home turned up weapons.
Fahey had been on the job about two years and had worked for an emergency medical service before becoming a police officer, Loomis said.
“The fact of the matter is, we’re a family, a tight-knit family,” Loomis said. “I’m feeling the same heartache that the officers are and the people, the good law-abiding citizens out there, are feeling for us as well. We’re all in this mess together.”
Alvarez has a lengthy record in Lorain County dating back to the early 1990s.
In 1994, he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and spent several years in prison. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to felony nonsupport of a minor with more than $25,000 in owed child support. Also that year, he pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property and obstructing official business and was sentenced to two years of probation.
In 2015, he pleaded guilty to trafficking in heroin and was again placed on probation, which ended last month, according to court records.
Alvarez also has a few cases in Cuyahoga County for possession of drugs, attempted possession of drugs and receiving stolen property. There are also a number of misdemeanor charges in Lorain and Elyria municipal courts, including a drunken driving conviction from 1993.
Sarah Moon, a former neighbor, came to East 31st Street during the standoff between Alvarez and police after hearing about it.
She said she was surprised to hear that about the allegations against Alvarez.
“Him and his father were always good neighbors — good, concerned neighbors,” Moon said.
The crash took place not far from where Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Velez of Lorain was struck and killed on I-90 in September while conducting traffic enforcement. The man accused in that crash, Joshua Gaspar of Columbia Station, has pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with Velez’s death.
Chief Photographer Bruce Bishop contributed to this story.
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