VICKERY, Ohio (WJW) – We’re learning more about what appears to be a random and deadly stabbing spree at a service plaza on the Ohio Turnpike.
One man was killed, another seriously hurt and the suspect was shot and injured by a sheriff’s deputy who arrived on the scene.
Investigators in Sandusky County, about 85 miles west of Cleveland, say the randomness of the attack is terrifying. Innocent travelers, stopping for a bite to eat, were attacked by a man with a knife.
Now, sheriff’s deputies and Ohio state troopers are trying to figure out why it happened.
Authorities released cell phone video taken by a bystander around 5:25 p.m. Tuesday at the Erie Islands Service Plaza on the westbound side of the Ohio Turnpike in Sandusky County.
It shows the aftermath of a man, identified as 51-year old Thomas Conner of Beloit, Wisconsin, randomly stabbing people in the parking lot, killing one and injuring another before he was shot by a sheriff’s deputy.
“We have not been able to ascertain through the investigation his reason or being at the service plaza or his reason for his attacks on other patrons… We are trying to see if there is any nexus between the three of them and at the moment, we have not been able to connect them in any way,” said Sandusky County Sheriff Chris Hilton.
A 66-year-old man from LaPorte, Indiana died at the scene.
A 53-year-old man from Delavan, Wisconsin was injured and later released from the hospital.
Sheriff Hilton relays what the surviving victim said happened.
“He was sitting in his work van with his window down, he was eating. He said the suspect, Mr. Conner, approached him, made a stabbing motion to his chest area right here, stabbed him… the victim thought he had actually been punched by the suspect until he pulled back and saw the knife,” said the sheriff.
The cell phone video, released by police, appears to show Conner charging toward Deputy Evan Ely, who has been with the department since May, but has 15 years of experience with two previous police agencies.
Investigators say the deputy tried to use less lethal methods to bring the suspect under control, but that didn’t work.
“Deputy Ely continued to verbalize to drop the knife, drop the knife, drop the knife,” Hilton said.
The sheriff says the suspect refused, so the deputy shot Conner twice, hitting him in the hip and waist.
“He will be held when released from the hospital at the Sandusky County Jail with no bond, pending further indictments and charges,” said Sandusky County Prosecutor Beth Tischler.
“The turnpike and the service plazas are generally very safe areas. We obviously, obviously encourage people to be very aware of their surroundings, but I don’t know that either victim could have avoided what happened. This man was seemingly intended on harming,” said the sheriff.
The suspect is in stable condition at a Toledo hospital, under police guard.
He and the victim from Wisconsin live about 25 miles from each other, but police say they can find no connection between the suspect and any of the people he’s accused of stabbing.