DANVILLE, Ohio – Residents of the tight-knit community of Danville are remembering Police Officer Thomas Cottrell as a devoted family man and Little League coach who cherished his opportunity to serve on the small police department.
Even those who only knew him in passing regarded him as a friend and protector.
Cottrell was on duty late Sunday when the Knox County Sheriff’s Office reported getting an ominous 9-1-1 call from a woman who said her ex-boyfriend had left her home with weapons and was out to kill an officer.
His body was found less than a half hour later on the ground outside the Danville Police Department. Cotrell’s service weapon and cruiser were missing.
Investigators immediately began an intense search for Herschel Jones III.
Many in the community of only about 1,000 residents were awakened by the sounds of helicopters overhead and as news of the officer’s shooting started to spread, sentiments ranged from fear to heartbreak and rage.
“It’s just a very close community. Everybody looks out for everybody else and their children and you feel really safe because they know you by name and they are interested in your family,” said Betty Durbin.
“We are all really close to all of our cops. I mean I didn’t know him personally but I know a lot of them, so it’s just; it’s hard for all of us,” said Lydia Addair.
Less than two hours later, Jones was taken into custody running from a home about two blocks away from where Officer Cottrell was killed.
The motive for the killing was still not clear on Monday but court records show Jones had an extensive record.
Documents obtained by Fox 8 News from the Knox County Clerk of Courts show arrests and convictions dating back to 2008 when he was sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of breaking and entering.
Records from the Ohio Department of Corrections show Jones was released from prison in April of 2015 after serving 3 years and 11 months on convictions of Burglary and Receiving Stolen Property.
Court records show in September of 2011 he entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for the same case, but changed his plea to guilty in January 2012.
He was being held Monday at the Knox County Jail while investigators with the sheriff’s office and the Ohio B.C.I. were continuing their investigation.
On social media Monday, law enforcement agencies from around the nation were honoring the memory of Officer Cottrell while friends and supporters in the community were offering to help raise contributions for his family.
In Danville, flags were being flown at half staff in the officer’s memory.
“I mean especially a cop. Why would you take a life where somebody has family to think about and just everybody else to think about when he was helping you and you just care less?” said Addair.