BLUFFTON, Ohio (WCMH) — The Bluffton community is in mourning after one of its own officers was hit and killed by a speeding vehicle Thursday.
Outside Bluffton townhall sits a small memorial featuring a photo of Officer Dominic Francis surrounded by flowers and a police patrol vehicle in black bunting.
Francis, a Bluffton police officer, was placing stop sticks on Interstate 75 when he was fatally struck Thursday by a speeding vehicle that the Ohio State Highway Patrol was attempting to pull over, according to the OSHP. The officer’s death marked the first line-of-duty death for the city since the 1920s, Bluffton Police Chief Ryan Burkholder said.
Burkholder said he has known Francis since high school, and the officer’s impact on the city of Bluffton was community-wide.
“Dominic was a hero to this community,” Burkholder said while holding back tears.
Burkholder said Francis lived to serve his community, including as a part-time educator at Cory-Rawson High School.
“He’s been a teacher on the side, helped out during COVID when they needed teachers to sub in the school; he’s been a coach so he’s there to mentor and inspire the youth,” he said.
Francis even stepped up outside of the classroom, Burkholder said.
“He was a bus driver for the schools as well and he was a firefighter — so his calling he did it all,” he said. “He had a heart of gold.”
Burkholder said it’s a loss that his team will struggle with for some time.
“We’re a small department and this is going to take a toll — we definitely need some time to grieve, and his family is in my thoughts and prayers every day.”
Burkholder said Francis, who also served in Findlay and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, dedicated 19 years to his calling: law enforcement.