High-speed chase leads to police officer’s death

By Pulse Staff

Police in Northwest Ohio have three suspects in custody as the Bluffton community mourns the death of Bluffton Police Officer Dominic Francis.  

Sgt. Brice Nihise with the Ohio State Highway Patrol stated in a news conference that Officer Francis was laying down stop sticks in response to a high speed chase on I-75 when he was hit by the suspect’s vehicle.

Initially the vehicle was going 100 mph by multiple units. Some pursuits reached 120-130 mph. Initial contact was regarding speed. 

The suspects’ car was first spotted doing 100 mph which is why the state patrol pursued it.

“The vehicle was identified sometime around 2 a.m. when troopers from the Marion post observed a black Infiniti sedan traveling at a high rate of speed on state Route 23 but were unable to make contact with that vehicle,” Nihise said. “That is when a Findlay post trooper identified the vehicle around 2:20 a.m. and got into a pursuit in Hancock County on state Route 15.”

Nihise says that pursuit then went from state Route 15 to I-75 south.

“Some speeds during the pursuit reached 120-130 mph,” Nihise said.

He said around 2:30 a.m. on I-75 near exit 142 Officer Francis was attempting to deploy stop sticks when he was hit by the suspects’ vehicle.

“Officer Francis subsequently succumbed to the injuries in the crash. The suspects fled on foot from that vehicle,” Nihise said.  

Nihise said around 3 a.m. on County Road 29 there was a Toyota Prius stolen from a home and police began searching for the Prius. One suspect was located near that location. He said a Medina trooper spotted the Prius and a pursuit ensued. That suspect was caught at state Route 58 and Chestnut Ridge Road in Elyria.

News reports say the police arrested a third suspect around 1 p.m.

Bluffton is located just 18 miles south of Findlay and is home to Bluffton University. Early this morning the campus went into lockdown as the police searched for the suspects.

The village of Bluffton has nine full-time officers and five part-time officers according to the Bluffton Police website. The Bluffton community straddles Allen and Hancock counties.

Hancock County Sheriff’s office, Bluffton Police, and the State Highway Patrol all worked together to find the suspects.

According to the State of Ohio Governor’s website, Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered “that flags of the United States and the State of Ohio be flown at half-staff upon all public buildings and grounds throughout Allen and Hancock counties, the Ohio Statehouse, the Vern Riffe Center, and the Rhodes State Office Tower. Flags shall remain lowered until sunset on the day of his funeral.” 

Chief Ryan Burkholder spoke briefly at the news conference visibly shaken by the death of one of his officers.

“Today is a sad day,” Burkholder said. “He had a heart of gold. He will be sorely missed.” 

Burkholder said that he was a teacher in the Corey-Rawson district as well as a school bus driver and coach.

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