TOLEDO, Ohio (ChurchMilitant.com) — A man suspected of vandalizing a cathedral in Ohio died after fatally shooting one of the police officers attempting to arrest him.
Christopher Harris, wanted for vandalizing Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in Toledo, killed Officer Brandon Stalker in a shoot-out Jan. 18. The attempted arrest of 27-year-old African American Harris followed an investigation into the vandalism, which involved spray-painting "Jesus is Black" on the building. It also included the pouring of a flammable substance onto the Cathedral door and setting it on fire.
The Cathedral released the following statement: "We are alarmed and heartsick by what occurred at the mother church of the diocese of Toledo, a sacred building, a house of worship and a historical, architectural and spiritual treasure."
The statement continued, "We are very grateful for the vigilance of our neighbors and the rapid response of our first responders, and that no one was injured."
Following the investigation, an arrest warrant was filed for Harris. Stalker was one of the officers attempting to arrest Harris at his home. After meeting police outside his home, Harris drew a gun and barricaded himself inside the home
Toledo police called a SWAT team for backup. After negotiations broke down, tear gas was launched into the residence. Harris then came out of the home shooting indiscriminately.
One of his rounds hit Stalker, who was on the perimeter keeping bystanders from entering harm's way. Stalker was struck in the head and transported to Mercy-Health St. Vincent Medical Center, where he subsequently died.
The investigation is ongoing into possible motives for Harris' alleged involvement in the vandalism. Chief of Police George Kral has said he would release more details in the coming days.
Stalker died at the age of 24, leaving behind a three-month-old son, a seven-year-old daughter and a fiancé. The officer was a respected member of his community as an assistant coach to Whitmer High School's baseball team. The team remembered him fondly and took to Twitter to express their condolences.
"Words cannot express the sadness felt with loss of former Whitmer player and coach Officer Brandon 'O.J.' Stalker. Prayers to his family," the team tweeted. "Rest in peace O.J."
Responding to the vandalism, Toldeo's Bp. Daniel Thomas requests "ongoing prayers for protection, healing and forgiveness."
Complicit Clergy documented 100 known cases of vandalism against Catholic churches in North America during 2020.