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Kirkersville Police Chief, Two Employees And Suspect Killed In Nursing Home Attack

Esther Honig
A shooting at a Kirkersville nursing home left two employees and a police chief dead, as well as the suspected shooter.

Ohio State Highway Patrol has confirmed that Kirkersville police chief Steven Eric Disario was killed along with two female employees of Pine Kirk Care Center during a shooting at the nursing home on Friday morning. The suspect was also found killed. 

Authorities have identified the shooter as Thomas Hartless, 43, and the two employees as Marlina Medrano, a nurse, and Cindy Krantzat, 48, a nurse's aide.

Our original story continues below.

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorpe said the suspected shooter was found deceased inside the nursing home along with the two employees, but did not identify the shooter or provide any details on his connection to the center. 

"It is a secure facility," Thorpe says of the nursing home. "How he particularly got in, we don't know at this time."

Brad Casto, a 15-year resident of Kirkersville who lives next to Pine Kirk, says the nursing home included people with mental disabilities as well as the elderly. For a shooter to get into the locked facility, Casto says a person would need someone to let them in or have access to the code.

Thorpe says two hostages were held captive at the nursing home for a short time, but were left unharmed. They apparently fled when the shooter fired at Disario.

Law enforcement's final dispatch with Disario was a confirmation the chief had visual contact with the suspect. They do not believe there was any fire exchanged between police and the gunman, so it's suspected he took his own life.

Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine, in a second press conference around 3:45 p.m., says a search warrant will be executed for the suspected shooter's home in Utica. A joint investigation is being conducted by the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Adams County and Pike County sheriff's offices.

Officials say Disario, 36, had only been police chief for three weeks. He was a father of six, and his wife is expecting another child.

The other residents of Pine Kirk have been taken to local hospitals where they will stay for the night.

In a press release Friday afternoon, Governor John Kasich ordered that all flags in Licking County and at the Ohio Statehouse be flown at half-staff through May 16 "in honor of the lives we lost in the senseless acts of violence." 

On Friday morning, Kathy Rogers, who owns The Depot Thrift Shop in downtown Kirkersville, said she heard multiple gunshots.

"I heard the first shot. I thought it was a tire blown out," Rogers said. "I went back in the house, and I heard another one, and that's all I know. Then I heard sirens. It got crazy."

Rogers says she heard several other gun shots, then a man "yelling and screaming."

Kirkersville Elementary School was placed on lockdown, according to librarian Sue Keller. She said all elementary students were taken to Watkins Middle School, where they could be picked up by their parents.

In a tweet,Kasich said he was "shocked & pained by the horrific shooting in Kirkersville." Other elected officials, including Senators Sherrod Brown and Portman, tweeted out their support of law enforcement as well.

Ohio's Department of Transportation has closed Route 40 in the area for the remainder of the day.

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the name of the police chief. We regret the error.

The Associated Press contributed to the reporting. This story will be updated with more details as the story develops.

Story updated May 13, 10:01 a.m.