Police Chief, two nursing home employees, suspect killed in Kirkersville shooting

New Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario was shot and killed while responding to a man with a gun at a nursing home Friday morning. (Courtesy: Facebook)

The new Kirkersville Police Chief and two nursing home employees were killed during a shooting in the small Licking County community Friday morning.

The Licking County Sheriff says the suspected shooter, 43-year-old Thomas Hartless, was also found dead.

Sheriff Randy Thorp said Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario was shot and killed while responding to a 911 call at the Pine Kirk Care Center, a nursing home on East Main Street. The last report from DiSario was that he'd spotted the suspect.

The nursing home employees were identified as Cindy Krantz, a nurse's aide from Pataskala, and Marlina Medrano, a nurse from of Newark. Investigators and the nursing home owner said Medrano was in a relationship with Hartless.

DiSario was transported for an autopsy on Friday evening. Medrano and Krantz will have their performed on Saturday. Hartless' autopsy is scheduled for Sunday.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the accused shooter took two hostages in an alley behind Pine Kirk Care Center and that Disario was shot near that location. Neither hostage was harmed.

Investigators were also executing a search warrant on a car found at the Flying J Travel Plaza at Interstate 70 and Ohio 158, a mile from the scene of the shooting.

The Sheriff said other authorities responding to the reports of a shooting later found three people dead inside the nursing home.

The remaining patients at the facility were taken to nearby hospitals as authorities conducted their investigation.

DiSario had only been on the job as Kirkersville Police Chief for three weeks, according to the Sheriff. DiSario was married and a father of six, with a seventh child on the way. Before his most recent job, he'd worked as part of the police departments in Millersport and Lithopolis. Law enforcement and lawmakers offered their condolences as word spread about the deaths.

The first reports of the shooting came in shortly before 8:00 a.m. Friday.

A Kirkersville resident said that he heard multiple gunshots just a block off of East Main Street, while he was dropping his kids off at the babysitter's house nearby. A friend rushed the children inside the house while the neighbors tried to figure out what was happening.

As reports of an officer down came across scanner, other law enforcement departments from across the county responded to the scene.

Kirkersville Elementary, about two blocks away from the scene, was placed on lockdown, then the school was closed for the day. The kids were bused to the middle school where parents were able to pick them up early.

The Licking County sheriff said a motive behind the shooting is still unknown. That makes it tougher to deal with the tragedy.

"Obviously this is a very sad day for out town and the county and the community," said Thorp. "But I think we can reflect a little more deeply once we find a motive and find what set this off."

The Licking County Sheriff's Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation are investigating the shooting. Part of State Route 40 , which is East Main Street in Kirkersville, is blocked for the remainder of the day while authorities work at the scenes.

ABC 6/FOX 28 will continue to update this breaking news story.

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