Toledo, OH – Toledo Police Department (TPD) Officer Anthony Dia died in the line of duty on Independence Day after he was shot in the chest by an intoxicated suspect outside a Home Depot store.
The fatal encounter occurred at approximately 12:30 a.m., after 26-year-old Officer Dia responded to the West Alexis Road business for a report of a disturbance, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
According to police, the parking lot is a popular place where people gather for informal car shows, The Toledo Blade reported.
When he arrived at the scene, he encountered a male who was holding a beer and walking around the Home Depot parking lot, Toledo Police Chief George Kral said during a Saturday morning press conference, according to The Enquirer.
“He was checking to make sure that this man was okay,” Chief Kral explained.
As the officers approached him, the suspect began walking away, then suddenly turned around and fired a handgun at them, the chief said.
Officer Dia was hit in the chest by the round.
Witness Shalene Houke told The Toledo Blade that the wounded officer managed to return fire as the gunman ran away, The Toledo Blade reported.
“Tell my family I love them,” Officer Dia said twice during his final radio call.
Houke said she and another witness ran over to render aid to the fallen officer, and that he desperately begged for help before he fell unconscious.
“He was young, and he was scared,” she told The Toledo Blade.
The gunman, later identified as 57-year-old Edward Henry, fled off into the woods as Officer Dia’s fellow officers rushed him to a local hospital in a patrol car, The Toledo Blade reported.
Police set up a perimeter around the wooded area where the suspect was last seen, Chief Kral said.
A single gunshot rang out at approximately 3:15 a.m., and police later found the gunman dead with a gunshot wound to his head, according to the chief.
Investigators later discovered that Henry had several misdemeanor warrants for his arrest, The Toledo Blade reported.
Officer Dia’s wife, 29-year-old Jayme Dia, said she had spoken with her husband less than a half hour before he was dispatched to the call at the Home Depot, according to the paper.
She said she initially thought there must have been a mistake when she received word he had been shot, so she dialed his phone.
When he didn’t answer, Jayme rushed to ProMedica Toledo Hospital.
“He bled out, pretty much,” the young widow told The Toledo Blade as she stood with her family near the site of her husband’s murder hours later. “They did what they could with lifesaving measures, but there was nothing they could do.”
Officer Dia leaves behind his wife of eight years, as well as his sons, six-year-old Maythem and eight-year-old Younes.
He is also survived by his parents, stepfather, sister, and many other family members, The Toledo Blade reported.
“The last thing he said over the radio was, ‘Tell my family I love them,’” Jayme said. “He lived for his family, and he loved, just loved, being a police officer.”
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said he immediately went to the hospital after learning about the shooting, The Toledo Blade reported.
“I arrived, and it was a horrific and heartbreaking moment,” Kapszukiewicz said. “And to my dying day, I will never forget the sight of Officer Dia being wheeled out of the hospital on a gurney, his body wrapped in an American flag, flanked by about 30 Toledo police officers saluting and weeping.”
Officer Dia served with the Mercy Health police for two years before he joined the TPD in July of 2018, the mayor said.
He noted that Officer Dia, who was Muslim, contributed to the diversity of the TPD and added different perspectives, The Toledo Blade reported.
“He was not only therefore one of Toledo’s bravest and best police officers, he’s also someone who contributes to the diversity that makes our country and our city so great,” Kapszukiewicz told reporters.
“Today is Independence Day. And as Americans gather today to celebrate their freedoms, many will reflect on the sacrifices that were made to provide that,” he added, according to The Enquirer.
Officer Dia will be laid to rest on Tuesday, WTOL reported.
A fundraising campaign established to help his young family in the wake of their loss has raised over $164,000 so far.
Officer responds to a call for an “intoxicated male.”
Moments later, he’s shot in the chest by that same male.
Before his death, he grabs his mic and says, “Tell my family I love them.”
— Derrick Levasseur (@DerrickL) July 4, 2020
— Sheikh Mateen Charbonneau (@Charbosomething) July 4, 2020
Graduation night, me and Officer Anthony Dia. pic.twitter.com/wHlgeIWbVz
— Chief George Kral (@gkraltoledo) July 6, 2020
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Toledo Police Department Officer Anthony Dia, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Officer Anthony Dia, your life mattered.