Bluffton, OH – Bluffton Police Department (BPD) Officer Dominic Francis died in the line of duty Thursday morning when a fleeing driver crashed into him as he was attempting to deploy a tire-deflation device, according to police.
The incident 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 suspect fled.
Another trooper located the speeding vehicle on Route 15 in Hancock County approximately 20 minutes later, WKYC reported.
The suspect then got onto Interstate 75 southbound, according to police.
The vehicle was traveling at speeds topping 130 miles per hour by that time, WHIO reported.
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.
The three suspects then jumped out of the car and took off on foot.
Police said the suspects stole a Toyota Prius from a home on County Road 29 about a half hour later, WKYC reported.
Officers apprehended one of the suspects in the area where the vehicle theft occurred.
Police later spotted the Prius on Interstate 71, leading to another pursuit that ended near Chestnut Ridge Road and Route 57 in Elyria, WKYC reported.
They apprehended the second suspect at that location, according to WKYC.
Police said they are still searching for the third male suspect.
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.”
Bluffton Mayor Rich Johnson offered his condolences to the fallen officer’s loved ones during a press conference on Tuesday, 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.”
Officer Francis’ grandmother, Ann Francis, said she worried about her grandson working night shifts and handling incidents on the busy interstate, WTVG reported.
“Granny, it’s my job,” Ann Francis said he’d told her.
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
I cannot overstate enough how many police officers are in the are of SR 103 off I-75 in Bluffton. They are actively patrolling fields, searching yards, and sending K9s to look.
AVOID THIS AREA.
They are trying to find three suspects after a crash on I-75 this morning. pic.twitter.com/1kPSGf6cnx
— ARIYL ONSTOTT (@ariylonstott) March 31, 2022
This morning, Bluffton Police Officer Dominic Francis was killed in the line of duty during a manhunt in the Village of Bluffton. Our community sends prayers to the Bluffton Police Department in this time of grief. Our deepest condolences to BPD and the family of Officer Francis. pic.twitter.com/JCYR8hdoTa
— Bluffton University (@BlufftonU) March 31, 2022
In honor of Bluffton Police Department Officer Dominic Francis. pic.twitter.com/xUWKM9cItC
— Ohio State Highway Patrol (@OSHP) March 31, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Bluffton Police Department Officer Dominic Francis, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.