BLUFFTON, Ohio (WJW/WCMH)– A police officer was hit and killed in Northwest Ohio while authorities were trying to apprehend three suspects.

It started at about 2 a.m. Thursday when Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers spotted a car speeding on state Route 23. Troopers found the vehicle on state Route 15 in Hancock County and started a pursuit.

Bluffton Police Officer Dominic Francis (Photo courtesy

Bluffton Police Officer Dominic Francis was putting down stop sticks on Interstate 75 when he was hit by the vehicle. He died of his injuries, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“Today is a sad day. This community lost a hero… His heart was big. He was a teacher. He was a bus driver. He was a coach to the youth in this community. He had a heart of gold,” Bluffton Police Chief Ryan Burkholder said.

It’s the first line-of-duty death for Bluffton since the 1920s, Burkholder said.

The highway patrol said the three suspects fled on foot after the crash. At about 3 a.m., they stole a car from a house on County Road 29, the patrol said. One suspect was apprehended in the area.

A trooper saw the stolen car on Interstate 71 north. One suspect was arrested at state Route 57 and Chestnut Ridge Road in Elyria.

The third suspect was arrested at 12:49 p.m., the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has ordered that flags of the United States and the State of Ohio be flown at half-staff upon all public buildings and grounds throughout Allen and Hancock counties, the Ohio Statehouse, the Vern Riffe Center, and the Rhodes State Office Tower to honor Francis. The flags are to remain lowered until sunset on the day of his funeral.

NBC4 has a crew on the way to Bluffton. Stay with this us for the latest on the developing story.