By Holly Zachariah The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ohio — What began as a traffic stop Saturday evening ended with a shootout in front of a West Side gas station, and it left a suspect dead and a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy shot and in the hospital following surgery.
Authorities did not release either of the men’s names Saturday night, but sheriff’s office spokesman Marc Gofstein said the deputy was in stable condition at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center and was expected to survive. Sheriff Dallas Baldwin was at the hospital with his deputy, who he said works second-shift patrol and is a seven-year veteran of the force.
The sheriff said the man is a good deputy, “well-trained and well-respected by his peers.”
BREAKING: Deputy critically wounded, suspect killed in officer-involved shooting after chase https://t.co/1gMV02CZY8 pic.twitter.com/oCRIYqMI3e
— WTTE FOX 28 (@fox28columbus) May 12, 2018
The whole incident started at 6:34 p.m., Gofstein said, when the deputy attempted to stop a man in a black pickup truck near Clime Road and Harrisburg Pike. The driver didn’t stop, and a pursuit went on for five or six minutes, ending with the truck crashed into a pole in front of the Shell gas station at Harrisburg Pike and Hopkins Avenue.
The suspect’s body remained at the scene late Saturday night, covered with a sheet and in the grass next to his pickup near the road.
Gofstein couldn’t say why the deputy was trying to stop the man in the pickup, or who fired first or how many shots were fired. It all remains under investigation, he said.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation was on scene to process evidence. The sheriff’s office’s mobile command center arrived about 9 p.m. and authorities were prepared for a long night ahead.
A man who gave his name only as Josh was with authorities for several hours after the shooting. He said later that he was in his own pickup at the light on Hopkins Avenue when he heard the commotion behind him.
He said he saw the black truck clip a red car — it remained sideways in the road Saturday night — and then crash into the pole. He saw the deputy approach the black pickup.
“The officer told him, ‘Get out, get out, get out,'” Josh said. Then he heard the gunfire. He described it as maybe 20 shots but, clearly still shaken, admitted he just couldn’t be sure.
#NEW: @OhioAG’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation has just shut down Eakin Road to begin investigating last night’s fatal officer shooting of a chase suspect. The Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy who was involved was also shot, and is stable at Grant Medical Center today. pic.twitter.com/rS6TZ8NKaa
— Geoff Redick (@GeoffWSYX6) May 13, 2018
He said he just got down inside his truck. “When you hear gunshots, you duck for safety, you know.” When it was over, he ran from his vehicle and straight to the injured deputy. He and another good Samaritan who stopped, Josh said, helped the deputy, who was awake and talking.
“We just told him it’s OK, to calm down,” Josh said.
Josh’s friends and family came to the scene to help him because his pickup was trapped inside the crime scene tape in the middle of Hopkins Avenue.
The entire business district was blocked off as an active investigation scene into the night. People gathered in every parking lot — at the Walgreens, a CVS and the Home Town Motel. Neighbors walked up from several blocks away and gathered to see what was going on.
“This is crazy, just crazy,” said Joe Robinson, who lives a couple of blocks away. “I hope the officer will be OK.”
Several people were in the back of cruisers but authorities said they were witnesses, not other suspects.
Tasia White lives just down the street, and was in line at the Walgreens across the street from where the fleeing pickup crashed when she heard several loud booms.
FOX NEWS: Ohio deputy shot after police chase ends in shootout; suspect killed pic.twitter.com/tduhp8EsG0
— Noel Pereira (@champcash1964) May 13, 2018
“I thought someone had a flat tire,” she said, still obviously shaken about 45 minutes later. “I mean, why would I think it was a shootout?”
Then someone came running in the store’s front door. “He said a cop got shot. I was like, ‘Oh, no. Oh, no.'”
For his part, Josh said he feels badly for everyone involved. The man who died, he said, has family, too.
“I just pray for everybody,” he said, the flashing red and blue lights from nearly a dozen sheriff’s cruisers and police cars still at the scene reflecting in his glasses. “I pray for all the families.”
Sheriff Baldwin, at the hospital late Saturday, thanked Columbus and Franklin Township police and all the other departments who swarmed the shooting scene within minutes of the call of a deputy down. He reminded folks that Saturday was the one year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Kirkersville Police Chief Eric DiSario in Licking County and that this is National Police Week, a time when attention is showered on law enforcement officers for what they do and the risks they take.
What happened Saturday was, Baldwin said, “a reminder of how dangerous police work is. It just seems like it gets worse continually. We just ask for your support and prayers.”
Deputy in critical condition, suspect killed in west #Columbus #Ohio https://t.co/CCKVgjQDQj https://t.co/ihMOLxwDZl
— NBC4 Columbus (@nbc4i) May 12, 2018
©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)