ELYRIA — North Ridgeville police officer Christopher Ody testified that moments before a shootout erupted during a standoff at the home of Martin Robinson on May 31, something felt off.
“They tell you in law enforcement that sometimes the hairs on the back of your neck will stand up when you don’t feel something’s right,” Ody said. “I was getting that feeling that day. Something just didn’t feel right.”
Ody was part of the Lorain County SWAT team that had been asked to aid in serving an arrest warrant to Robinson, 40, of Sheffield Lake, at Robinson’s home that day. As Ody held his assigned position, he said he could hear fellow SWAT team member and Amherst police officer, Eugene “J.R.” Ptacek trying to breach the front door of Robinson’s residence.
“I don’t know how many times he may have hit the door — two, three, four — I just remember in the back of my mind thinking, this isn’t going well,” Ody said. “I don’t know (why). I think it may have just been because of the concern with weapons being involved.”
Ody then said he heard a loud sound that he was sure was a gunshot.
“I think subconsciously I was trying to tell myself that wasn’t what I’d thought it was. It wasn’t a gunshot, I was hoping,” he said. “Soon after I was thinking that, I heard the second one, and then I remember gunfire erupting.”
Ody then saw Ptacek on the ground.
“I remember looking over to the right and seeing J.R. on the ground, and (SWAT team medic) Mike Rowe working on him,” Ody said. “I guess that’s when I realized this was bad.”
Ody testified during the fourth day of the trial of Robinson, who is charged with attempted murder in connection to the shooting of Ptacek along with other charges.
Brian Barens, another North Ridgeville police officer and member of the SWAT team, testified that from his position he saw Ptacek dive away from the front door of the home shortly after hearing gunshots. Barens said he watched Ptacek try to crawl for cover near the SWAT team’s mine-resistant armor-protected vehicle that was parked in Robinson’s front yard.
“I saw him bleeding profusely from his buttocks area. I could see shots coming through the bay window (in the front of the house),” Barens said. “Fearing for my life and thinking that J.R. was continuously getting hit, I engaged the area I believed was the threat, which was the bay window. As I did that, I left my cover and advanced up toward J.R. I was able to grab his rescue strap, drag him around the MRAP and tuck him in behind the passenger-side front tire.”
During opening statements in the trial last week, Robinson’s attorney, Reid Yoder, said his client wasn’t aware of why the officers had surrounded his home with guns drawn.
Another SWAT team member and North Ridgeville police officer, Calvin Cross, testified that he spoke to Robinson during the standoff when Robinson opened a backdoor of the home and yelled out to him.
Cross said Robinson opened the door, held his hands up and said that he was unarmed and injured. Cross said he told Robinson that the officers would get him medical treatment if he gave himself up. He also said he told Robinson that officers had warrants for his arrest, to which Robinson responded, “I don’t give a (expletive) what you got.”
Robinson then went back into his home.
Officers surrounded Robinson’s home that day for more than 12 hours in an attempt to serve an arrest warrant on Robinson out of Cuyahoga County for multiple charges including having weapons, violating a protection order and OVI.
Ody spoke about what waiting for Robinson to give himself up was like as the hours went by after the firefight.
“My phone was going off in my pocket,” Ody said. “I know our wives had started getting information that we were involved in a shooting, so they were trying to call. I can’t answer my phone because I can’t light myself up. I just wanted to get out of there; that’s what I was thinking.”
Robinson’s brother, Christopher Robinson, testified that he believed Martin Robinson thought he was going to die during the standoff.
Christopher Robinson said his brother called him hours before the shootout began and told him that “officers had surrounded his home.” Christopher Robinson said he encouraged his brother to go outside and give himself up, but Martin Robinson refused.
Martin Robinson then told his brother that Christopher Robinson and his two daughters were the beneficiaries of his estate. Christopher Robinson believes that was his brother’s way of saying he believed was going to die.
“He never specifically said those words, but when he ended the phone call, he told me he loved me and he loved the girls,” Christopher Robinson said, his voice wavering. When he had given me the financial information, I couldn’t understand why the hell he would give me that information at that point in time. It wasn’t until after I started thinking about it that I realized why.”
Christopher Robinson said his brother hasn’t been the same person since he was violently assaulted by four Cleveland police officers during an incident in 2009 while Martin Robinson was a correction officer. Since the incident, Martin Robinson has been withdrawn from his family, always late to family functions and often would abruptly get up and walk out on family, his brother said.
Christopher Robinson said his brother may have been considering committing suicide by cop during their phone conversation prior to the shootout with police.
Testimony in the trial will resume this morning.
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