MOUNT VERNON — Sunday night events, which ended with the death of William E. Myers, 51, of Centerburg, began about 10 p.m. when Deputy Lee Eppich parked his cruiser outside the Centerburg village offices and went inside for a few minutes, Knox County Sheriff David Barber told the News. When he came outside shortly after 10 p.m., the cruiser was missing and there was broken glass where it had been parked.
The keys were in the cruiser. Barber said it is not unusual for officers to leave the keys in their cruiser and operate the locks with the key fob.
Witnesses told Eppich they had seen a man break a window in the cruiser and drive off. The car was last seen heading toward Delaware County.
About 11 p.m. the car was spotted at the McDonald’s in Sunbury and a Sunbury officer and a Delaware County deputy tried to confront the man, but he took off, with the Delaware County deputy in pursuit.
Barber said the pursuit at times reached more than 100 miles per hour and the suspect would shut off his lights while still traveling 90 to 100 miles per hour.
The pursuing deputy lost the suspect in the area of Ohio 656, which branches off Ohio 61 and runs to Sparta in Morrow County.
“It turned out he hit a deer, which was still laying in the middle of 656, and caused extensive damage to the front of the car,” Barber said.
About midnight, Morrow County Deputy Clifford O’Connor found the stolen cruiser near a church a Sparta. Barber said he was on Trimmer Road when he heard the report of the shooting having occurred.
“No shots were fired by the suspect,” Barber said. “And the rifle he was carrying (an M16 assault rifle) was from the cruiser.” The weapon was stored in the trunk of the cruiser, he said.
Myers was spotted in the cruiser at a church on Ohio 314 by Morrow County Sheriff’s Deputy Clifford O’Connor. According to Morrow County Sheriff Steven R. Brenneman, O’Connor exited his cruiser and observed Myers, who was armed with a rifle. Myers continued to approach O’Connor even after being told several times to stop and drop his weapon.
“The subject continued to approach the office with rifle in hand,” Brenneman said in a press release. “The deputy, being in fear of his own safety, fired at the subject with his patrol rifle striking him. At this time, it is not known how many times the subject was hit.”
O’Connor called for backup and medical personnel, then began to administer first aid. Myers was transported to Knox Community Hospital where he died from his wounds.
O’Connor, who was not injured in the incident, has been with the MCSO for eight months.
At least seven police agencies were involved in the case, Barber said, including the Knox, Morrow and Delaware County Sheriff’s offices, Sunbury Police Department, Mount Gilead Police Department, the Mount Gilead and Delaware Ohio Highway Patrol posts and the Columbus Police Department helicopter.
An autopsy was to be performed Monday at the Licking County morgue. When Barber was interviewed Monday afternoon he had not yet seen that report and toxicology results will take four to six weeks to receive, he said.
He had no information on the motives of the suspect and said Lt. Gary Rohler had been in Centerburg interviewing people.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification spent Monday afternoon going over the damaged cruiser, which had been hauled to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
The cruiser is actually owned and insured by the village of Centerburg, but is marked and equipped as a sheriff’s cruiser under the terms of the agreement in which the village contracts with the sheriff’s office for police protection.
Joe Porter, Central Ohio Joint Fire District chief, said that Myers is the same man who was injured in an apartment fire on Centerburg’s Main Street on Jan. 3.
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