Bluffton Police Officer Killed During Early Morning Incident on I-75

Written by on March 31, 2022

UPDATE: The Ohio State Highway Patrol has confirmed in a release that the third suspect was arrested at 12:49pm this (Thursday) afternoon.

A Bluffton Police Department police officer was killed after being struck by a vehicle involved in a high speed pursuit that spanned multiple counties early this morning.

At a media briefing this morning, Sgt. Brice Nihiser from the Ohio State Patrol said a trooper from the Marion Post spotted a vehicle on State Route 23 traveling at a high rate of speed but was unable to make contact. A short time later, a trooper from the Findlay Post located the vehicle on State Route 15 and initiated a pursuit that traveled to I-75 and proceeded southbound.

Sgt Nihiser then outlined the tragic event involving the Bluffton Police Officer that occurred at around 2:30 on I75 near exit 142, “Officer Dominic Francis, of the Bluffton Police Department, was attempting to deploy stop sticks when he was struck by the suspect’s vehicle. Officer Francis subsequently succumbed to his injuries from the crash. The three suspects then got out of their vehicle and then fled on foot eastbound from that vehicle.”

Bluffton Police Chief Ryan Burkholder paid tribute to Officer Francis, ”Today is a sad day. This community lost a hero. He was an outstanding police officer. His heart was big. Not only was he a police officer, he was a school teacher, he was a bus driver, he was a coach to the youth in this community. He had a heart of gold, and he will be sorely missed.” 

Bluffton Mayor Rich Johnson also paid tribute to the fallen officer, “Obviously this is a very sad day for not only the residents of Bluffton, his family, but the brotherhood of law enforcement. We’d like to thank the family and let them know that the village will do everything we can to help the family out and we send our condolences to all those involved.” 

At that point, Sgt Nihiser said the three suspects then got out of the vehicle and left the area on foot. A short time later, a Toyota Prius was stolen. At around that time, one of the suspects was located near where the Prius was stolen and was taken into custody.

A pursuit was initiated on the stolen vehicle and that ended in Lorain County where the second suspect was arrested.

Sgt Nihiser said that they are still looking for A third suspect, “Members of the public are advised to look for a young African American male. At this time, we know that he is wearing black pants and a gray sweatshirt. If members of the public do see that individual, do see someone that matches that description in this general area, they’re encouraged to call the Findlay dispatch center at 419-423-1414.”

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