BLUFFTON — A Bluffton Police Department officer was killed in the line of duty Thursday morning while trying to stop a stolen vehicle on Interstate 75.
A massive manhunt centered near Bluffton for one of three suspects involved in the deadly incident ended early Thursday afternoon when the man was taken into custody. Two other suspects were apprehended earlier in the day.
The fatal series of events started with a high-speed chase involving a stolen Buick Infiniti which Bluffton PD Patrolman Dominic Francis was attempting to halt through the deployment of “stop sticks” along I-75 near the state Route 103 exit.
Francis, 41, was struck by the vehicle at approximately 2:30 a.m. Thursday and succumbed to his injuries, officials said at a press conference Thursday morning at the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
Ohio State Highway Patrol officials said the chase started around 2 a.m. when troopers from the Marion patrol post observed a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed on state Route 23. Troopers from the Findlay post subsequently located the vehicle on state Route 15 in Hancock County. The vehicle continued to flee, heading south on I-75 at speeds in excess of 120 mph toward Allen County, according to Sgt. Brice Nihiser, public information officer for the highway patrol.
Shortly after Francis was struck near Bluffton, three suspects exited the vehicle and fled on foot. One suspect stole a Toyota Prius from a residence on Hancock County Road 29. That person was arrested at around 8:15 a.m. in Elyria, some 100 miles from the scene of the fatal incident which claimed the life of Francis.
Another occupant of the vehicle was taken into custody earlier on Hancock County Road 29, close to the location where the Prius had been stolen, while the third person remained at large until early Thursday afternoon. None of the suspects have been identified.
The state patrol partnered with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, Bluffton Police Department and other areas law enforcement agencies in searching for the missing suspect. A police helicopter could be seen circling Bluffton late Thursday morning.
Allen County Sheriff Matt Treglia said a SWAT team from his office joined other special forces teams in assisting with the search for the third suspect. Treglia said the man was taken into custody early Thursday afternoon but had no additional information.
Patrol officials confirmed that the man was apprehended at 12:49 p.m. Thursday at an unspecified location.
The incident had shut down both northbound and southbound lanes of I-75 for several hours Thursday morning. Officials also locked down the campus of Bluffton University, and Bluffton and Cory-Rawson schools canceled classes.
Ada schools were placed on a precautionary external threat lockdown at the request of law enforcement, with law enforcement on site and patrolling parking lots Thursday morning.
Some area businesses closed for the day in response to the ongoing search.