Attorney General William Barr delivered a eulogy on Sept. 11 at the funeral service for slain Cleveland Detective James Skernivitz, who was killed while undercover as part of the Justice Department’s “Operation Legend” crime fighting task force.
Skernivitz was shot to death on Sept. 3 in Cleveland while sitting in an unmarked car in what investigators said was an attempted armed robbery.
“Two weeks ago I had the honor of visiting the gang impact unit where Jim served as part of the FBI task force and Operation Legend,” Barr said. “As a veteran officer he didn’t have to take on that dangerous mission. He could have let someone else do it, especially given the risks to police officers nowadays. Once again he volunteered, and once again he made a difference.”
Operation Legend, the federal initiative to drive down violent crime in major inner cities, has had an impact on violent crime, Barr said at a press conference in Chicago on Sept. 9. He credited the initiative for reducing rates of homicide and shooting incidents in recent weeks. The Justice Department said in a recent update that the work of the task force has led with more than 2,000 arrests, including 592 individuals who were charged with federal crimes.
Speaking at Skernivitz’s funeral service, Barr said Cleveland was one of the cities where the operation was having an impact.
“I witnessed first-hand the superb work that he and his colleagues were doing to get violent criminals off the streets,” the attorney general said. “It was only a few days after my visit that Jim was killed in the line of duty, making the ultimate sacrifice by laying down his life for the community he served.”
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams also honored the slain officer.
“The reasons for becoming a police officer? His answer was: I wanted to protect the city that I grew up in and make it safe,” Williams said.
“What he did out there for our city was to try to lift not individuals, not neighborhoods, not groups, but an entire city, to a higher and more noble life,” the police chief added.
Three teen suspects have been charged in connection with the incident, in which another man was also killed, reportedly an informant, according to local station WKYC.
Operation Legend is the latest major law enforcement program by the Justice Department to crack down on violent crime across the country. It was launched to combat a surge in crime rates in major metropolitan areas.