Ohio officer killed trying to stop fleeing car on highway; 3 arrested

Authorities in Ohio say a police officer has been killed by a fleeing car on Interstate 75.

BLUFFTON, Ohio (AP) — A police officer in Ohio was struck and killed by a fleeing car on Interstate 75 during a high-speed chase through multiple counties Wednesday, authorities said.

The officer, Dominic Francis of the Bluffton police department, was struck around 2:30 a.m. while he was setting up tire deflation devices, said Sgt. Brice Nihiser of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The chase had reached speeds up to 120 mph (193 kph).

Three suspects inside an Infiniti sedan drove away for a short distance before they jumped out and ran. One was found nearby while a second one was arrested in a stolen car in Elyria, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northeast of Bluffton, Nihiser said.

The third suspect also was reported in custody Thursday afternoon, but details on the arrest were expected to be released later.

The search caused schools in the nearby village of Bluffton to cancel classes, and Bluffton University told students to stay in their rooms and advised employees to stay home. I-75 also was shut down while authorities looked through barns, farm fields and around houses.

The chase first began near Marion when authorities saw the car going more than 100 mph and continued across several counties, Nihiser said.

Francis, 42, had been an officer in Bluffton the past nine years, said Police Chief Ryan Burkholder. He also worked as a school teacher, bus driver and as a football and softball coach with Cory-Rawson schools.

“He had a heart of gold,” Burkholder said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered that U.S. and Ohio flags be flown at half-staff on all public buildings and grounds throughout Allen and Hancock counties and the Ohio Statehouse through sunset on the day of his funeral.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost extended sympathy to the officer’s loved ones and the community and issued a statement: “A hero has died and a community is shaken. The bravery of the men and women that wear the badge is astounding. Officer Francis’ valor will live on and never be forgotten.”