YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — It’s been 20 years since Youngstown police Officer Michael Hartzell died in the line of duty.
At 2 a.m. April 29, 2003, Youngstown police Officer Michael Hartzell was shot and killed as he sat in his police cruiser at West Federal Street. He was 26 years old.
Officer Robert DiMaiolo was on duty that night with Hartzell when they responded to a shooting at a West Side bar.
“We were done doing the report, the victim went to the hospital,” DiMaiolo said. “[Hartzell] was just going on station, coming down Mahoning Avenue. He came downtown and got behind the suspect.”
The suspect, later identified as Martin Koliser, then got out of his car and shot Hartzell, who was sitting in his cruiser, three times, murdering him.
DiMaiolo said he was on his way to the South Side following the bar shooting, but then heard the call for help.
“I think our first thing was just anger. We got down there, and we see him in the car, murdered. And everyone just went chaotic,” DiMaiolo said.
DiMaiolo got a tattoo of Hartzell’s badge number — 1085 — following his death.
Youngstown’s chief of detectives Jason Simon said at the time he was working as a patrol officer for Youngstown Police Department. He also worked part-time as a patrol officer for Youngstown State University.
“Dispatch from Youngstown State had advised that there was a shooting downtown, so naturally, I’m going to respond, being just blocks away,” Simon said. “I swung back around and saw Officer Hartzell murdered in his patrol car.”
Simon said the image of his friend will forever be stuck in his mind.
George McKelvey, Youngstown’s mayor at the time, said the incident left him feeling shattered and cold. He remembers speaking at Hartzell’s funeral.
“I just thought of what I was going to say to his parents, and I just sensed Michael talking to me and speaking to me — that might sound crazy, but that’s just the feeling I had,” McKelvey said. “He was speaking to me from the cruiser, saying, ‘Tell my parents I’m OK.'”
Those who knew Hartzell said his laugh was contagious and his heart was kind.
Shooting suspect Koliser was found and arrested at a motel in Florida about two days after after Hartzell’s death. He was eventually convicted of the shooting and sentenced to death. He later committed suicide in his jail cell.