SOLON, Ohio – A police cruiser was parked in front of an Ohio middle school when it suddenly caught fire, igniting ammunition inside. Small explosions forced the school into a brief educational lockdown until the flames could be put out.
Around 8:30 a.m. Monday, near the start of the school day, dash cam video shows a police officer rushing to help a fellow officer whose cruiser was engulfed in flames in the parking lot of Orchard Middle School on SOM Center Road in Solon.
"Parked his car away from the building, went in the school, shortly thereafter a parent came up and said, 'Officer, I think your car is on fire," said Solon Police Lt. Jamey Hofmann.
The officer was doing a routine security patrol of the school grounds when the inside of the cruiser erupted in flames.
"He grabbed his personal items and bag. He had enough time to do that, and then just called for the fire department," Lt. Hofmann said.
The responding officer’s body cam video captured more of the incident.
Bystander: "I'm looking and all I see is smoke billowing and I'm like man, what's going on?”
Officer: “You're gonna want to stay away from it 'cause there's ammo in the car.”
Bystander: “Yea, that's what I'm saying, next thing you know heh, heh, heh, heh (pop) you got all those kids over there."
Solon firefighters arrived, but couldn't get close enough to put out the flames because a shotgun, rifle and ammunition were inside.
"The ammunition that went in them did pop. When it gets hot enough, it's gonna pop and go off, but it's not like a normal bullet where actually firing it, it's just kind of like a firecracker kind of thing," Hofmann said.
"All the students, fifth grade side of that building, have been cleared out and moved to the gym," a dispatcher can be heard saying on the bodycam video.
As a safety precaution, students were moved into the school gym and SOM Center Road was briefly closed, while small explosions continued to come from the cruiser.
Police said the flames were put out within 5 or 10 minutes, but the cruiser was destroyed.
"There was really no danger to anybody… But we just used an abundance of caution to keep everybody away and moved the kids away," Hofmann said.
Orchard Middle School sent parents an email about the situation.
Administrators said students entering the building at the time were quickly ushered inside and safely secured. They said the staff and students responded to the situation according to emergency plans they practice.
Solon police said they believe the fire inside the cruiser may have been caused by some type of electrical or equipment malfunction.