Daniel Ficker was shot and killed at his home in Parma on July 4, 2011, when two Cleveland police officers, one off duty, both out of their jurisdiction, came calling after Ficker was allegedly fingered as a suspect in a theft incident at a party earlier in the night. (The story was covered at length in a 2012 Scene feature story.)
Officer Matthew Craska shot the bullet that ended 27-year-old Ficker's life that night on his front lawn. Tiffany Urbach, Ficker's girlfriend and the mother of his two children, called 911 in the moments after the incident, and when EMS and Parma police arrived, wailed "You shot him!" The other officer involved, Dave Mindek, was off duty and had called Craska, based in the city's Second District, to help him confront Ficker.
Why did two Cleveland police officers go to a home in Parma to confront a suspect in an incident that happened in Parma?
There was a party at Mindek's house earlier that night. Urbach, Ficker's girlfriend, is cousins with Mindek's wife Kimberly. Kimberly had discovered her purse and thousands of dollars in jewelry were missing during the party. She reported the theft in a phone call to Cleveland police and identified Ficker as the likely suspect. She also told her husband, Dave Mindek.
Whatever drove Mindek to call Craska and head to Ficker's home, the events that transpired after that decision and Ficker's death are the subject of competing narratives. The officers claimed Ficker was the aggressor; Ficker's family claimed the officers showed up belligerent and quickly escalated the situation.
Craska was cleared of all wrong doing by a grand jury. Mindek was charged with dereliction of duty before being acquitted.
Ficker's family and girlfriend filed a civil lawsuits against the officers and the city in 2012. The officers and the city, naturally, sought to dismiss those charges. Yesterday, a U.S. District judge ruled against their motion
in a decision that pushes the case toward a trial, stating at various times that there's ample evidence for a jury to decide whether Ficker's rights were violated.