Hancock County, OH – A Hancock County grand jury has indicted three suspects in connection with the line-of-duty death of Bluffton Police Officer Dominic Francis.
Officer Francis was attempting to deploy a tire-deflation device during a multi-jurisdictional high-speed chase at approximately 2:30 a.m. on March 31 when the suspect vehicle slammed into him on Interstate 75.
The vehicle was traveling at speeds topping 130 miles per hour by that time, WHIO reported.
The three suspects bailed out of the car after the crash and took off on foot, but were later apprehended.
They have since been identified as 20-year-old Emin Johnson, 21-year-old Zachary Love, and 19-year-old Dante Tate, WTVG reported.
A Hancock County grand jury incited all three suspects on Monday.
Johnson is facing charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, involuntary manslaughter, failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer, receiving stolen property, possession of criminal tools, failure to stop after an accident, tampering with evidence, having weapons under disability, and improper handling of firearms in a motor vehicle, WTVG reported.
Love was charged with improper handling of firearms in a motor vehicle, having weapons under disability, tampering with evidence, and receiving stolen property.
Tate faces charges of improperly handling of firearms in a motor vehicle, complicity to receiving stolen property, receiving stolen property, and grand theft of a motor vehicle, WTVG reported.
The suspects’ preliminary hearing has been set for April 18.
The series of events leading up to Officer Francis’ death began at approximately 2 a.m. on March 31, when Ohio State Highway Patrol (OHP) troopers spotted a black Infinity traveling at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour on Route 23, WKYC reported.
They attempted to stop the vehicle, but the suspects fled.
Another trooper located the speeding vehicle on Route 15 in Hancock County approximately 20 minutes later, WKYC reported.
The suspects then got onto Interstate 75 southbound traveling at speeds topping 130 miles per hour, according to police.
Officer Francis, 42, was trying to deploy a tire-deflation device on the interstate near Route 103 when the speeding suspect plowed into him at approximately 2:30 a.m., killing him.
After fleeing the scene on foot, Tate allegedly stole a Toyota Prius from a nearby location and led police on yet another high-speed chase, WTVG reported.
He was ultimately apprehended in Elyria.
Johnson was located hiding inside a boat in a homeowner’s shed several hours after the deadly crash, WTVG reported.
It is unclear where Love was apprehended.
Officer Francis, a 19-year law enforcement veteran, had been with the BPD for nine years, WTVG reported.
Bluffton Police Chief Ryan Burkholder described him as a community hero and an “outstanding police officer,” WKYC reported.
“Not only was he a police officer, he was a schoolteacher. He was a bus driver. He was a coach to the youth in this community,” Chief Burkholder added. “He had a heart of gold. He will be sorely missed.”
Officer Francis leaves behind his wife, son and daughter, according to WTVG.
RIP. Ohio Police Officer Dominic Francis was killed when he was struck by the suspect vehicle while attempting to deploy stop sticks during a pursuit. #rip #hero #endofwatch #PoliceOfficerDominicFrancis #BlufftonPoliceDepartment #lawenforcement #thinblueline #bluelivesmatter pic.twitter.com/SBZVArmjIx
— Protecting the Blue (@protectingblue) March 31, 2022
Bluffton Mayor Rich Johnson offered his condolences to the fallen officer’s loved ones during a press conference on April 5, WKYC reported.
“This is a very sad day for not only the residents of Bluffton and his family, but the brotherhood of law enforcement,” Johnson said. “We’d like to thank the family, let them know that the village will do everything we can to help the family out.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued a statement saying he was saddened to learn of the veteran officer’s death, WHIO reported.
“We are grateful to him for his selfless service to Ohio, and our hearts go out to his family and his colleagues at the Bluffton PD,” DeWine said.
The governor ordered flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of Officer Francis, WHIO reported.
“A hero has died and a community is shaken,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement. “The bravery of the men and women that wear the badge is astounding. Officer Francis’ valor will live on and never be forgotten.”