KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio (WCMH/AP) — An armed man gunned down a new village police chief on a street and then killed two employees in a nearby Kirkersville, Ohio nursing home, where he was later found dead, a sheriff said. No nursing home residents were injured.
The slain police chief, Steven Eric DiSario, headed the Kirkersville Police Department for only about three weeks, Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp said. DiSario was shot on a street near the Pine Kirk Care Center, and the two employees and the gunman were found dead inside, Thorp said.
Family members identified Thomas Hartless, 43, as the shooter. His cousin, who did not want to go on camera, said Hartless did not live in Kirkersville. His girlfriend worked at the nursing home where the shooting happened.
NBC4’s Courtney Yuen confirmed Marlina Medrano — one of the workers killed — was Hartless’ girlfriend.
DiSario, 36, was a father of six children, with a seventh on the way, the sheriff said.
Thorp called it a hard day for all.
“We’ve lost a police officer. It’s just a tragic event,” he said. “I guess the only peace of mind is that the threat is over.”
Besides Medrano, officials identified nurse aide Cindy Krantz as the other victim.
By early afternoon, flowers and flags appeared in an impromptu memorial outside the village police hall.
DiSario was responding to a report of a man with a gun, and his last radio communication said he had the man in sight, Thorp said.
Responding officers found DiSario on the street and then investigated a report of a gunman at the nursing home, Thorp said.
Some nursing home residents barricaded themselves during the shooting, but none were injured, he said.
Police weren’t immediately able to identify the gunman and were trying to determine what, if any, relationship he had with the nursing home, Thorp said.
The shooting closed down the main street in the village, which was flooded with ambulances and police officers from several surrounding agencies. The village of about 500 residents is roughly 25 miles east of Columbus.
Kasich orders flags at half-staff
In response to the news, Ohio Governor John Kasich ordered that all flags be flown at half-staff upon all public buildings and grounds throughout Licking County and at the Ohio Statehouse. The order goes into effect immediately through sunset on May 16, 2017.
Kasich’s order reads:
In honor of the lives lost in the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on May 12, 2017 in Kirkersville, Ohio, I hereby proclaim, by the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Ohio by the Ohio Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flags of the United States of America and the State of Ohio shall be flown at half-staff upon all public buildings and grounds throughout Licking County and at the Ohio Statehouse effective immediately through sunset on May 16, 2017.”
Area schools on lockdown
Kirkersville Elementary School was on lockdown while police investigated.
“It was scary because I just put my kid on the bus and I didn’t know where he was going,” one parent said. “They didn’t call us till like 15 to 20 minutes later.”
“Anytime, even if it’s not your school, just for it to be so close, you know, they have to be pretty vague on what it is, just let you know that everything is locked down. So that was a little alarming because all schools are locked down, so you’re not really sure what’s going on,” another parent said.
About the nursing home
The Pine Kirk Care Center is located on East Main Street. According to the Ohio Department of Health, the facility holds 24 beds, which are certified for both Medicare and Medicaid.
The owner of the facility is listed as Living Care Alternatives of Kirkersville, Inc. As of May 3, 2017, there were 23 residents at the facility.
This facility also houses elderly sex offenders. These are individuals who molested juveniles, were incarcerated, and are no longer mentally or physically able to care for themselves.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.