BLUFFTON, Ohio (WJW)– A police officer was hit and killed in Northwest Ohio while authorities were trying to apprehend three suspects.

It started at about 2 a.m. Thursday when Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers spotted a car speeding on state Route 23. Troopers found the vehicle on state Route 15 in Hancock County and started a pursuit.

Bluffton Police Officer Dominic Francis was putting down stop sticks on Interstate 75 when he was hit by the vehicle. He died of his injuries, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“Today is a sad day. This community lost a hero… His heart was big. He was a teacher. He was a bus driver. He was a coach to the youth in this community. He had a heart of gold,” said Bluffton Police Chief Ryan Burkholder. Francis, 42, coached softball and football in the Cory-Rawson School District.

It’s the first line-of-duty death for Bluffton since the 1920s, Burkholder said.

Dominic Francis photo
Dominic Francis (Photo courtesy: Blufftonicon.com)

The highway patrol said the three suspects fled on foot after the crash. At about 3 a.m., they stole a car from a house on County Road 29, the patrol said. One suspect was apprehended in the area.

A trooper saw the stolen car on Interstate 71 north in Medina County. It fled west on state Route 82 before the suspect was arrested at state Route 57 and Chestnut Ridge Road in Elyria.

The third suspect was arrested just before 1 p.m. Thursday, according to the state patrol. No additional information was released.