CLEVELAND — Veteran firefighter Johnny Tetrick responded to his last alarm Saturday night.
Tetrick, 51, spent 27 years with the Cleveland Division of Fire, most of it with Engine 22. Investigators said he was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while clearing debris from an accident on I-90 East near Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard around 8:15 p.m, and later died from his injuries.
Investigators said Leander Bissell, 40, drove away from the scene and was caught hours later. Bissell is now charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and failure to stop after an accident on public roads or highways.
Friends of Tetrick are mourning and honoring their fellow firefighter.
“It's just unbelievable that he's gone,” said Sam Livingston, a retired firefighter with the Cleveland Division of Fire. “He was the perfect fireman. He was the perfect guy to have around.”
Livingston said he had known Tetrick for 20 years and worked with him for 13 years. He described Tetrick as happy, selfless, competent and heroic.
“He was very calm. He knew how to calm other people,” Livingston said. “Always smiling, I was going through pictures and pictures and pictures that we have, that people have been sharing with each other on the job and off the job and there's no picture without Johnny smiling. And that really kind of sums up his personality. He's just a wonderful person to be around and to work with.”
Livingston said Tetrick made any situation better. He said you never had to ask Tetrick to do anything. If it needed to be done, he was already doing it.
“For the city to lose somebody like that. It's tragic,” Livingston said. “Plenty of good guys that are gonna go do good things. But when you get down to the individuals, no one's going to be able to fill those boots.”
There’s been an outpouring of support from the city of Cleveland in honor of Tetrick. Mayor Justin Bibb wrote in a statement, “I am saddened to learn of the death of Cleveland firefighter Johnny Tetrick and extend my sincere condolences to his family, friends, and fellow firefighters.”
Flags have been ordered to fly at half-staff until sunset on the day of his funeral and a fundraiser has been set up to help support his loved ones.
Tetrick leaves behind his family, including three daughters.
“He's a wonderful father. And I see the way he lived that part of his life was so parallel to the way he lived the Cleveland Fire Department life,” Livingston said. “And it's just a beautiful thing to know that, that those girls got, they had Johnny in their life, and my heart breaks for them. And I think about that, but the guy had more character than most anybody I've met.”
The man suspected in the hit-and-run death of Tetrick was arraigned Monday morning at the Cleveland Municipal Court. His bond is set at $500,000.
Tetrick’s calling hours will be Friday, Nov. 25, at Willoughby Hills Friends Church, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The funeral service will be Saturday, Nov. 26 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse Arena at 11 a.m.
Both the calling hours & funeral service are open to the public, for more information, click here.