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The chief of the Kirkersville Police Department was killed in a shooting this morning. Three other people, including the shooter, are dead.
The chief responded to a report of a man with a gun at the Pine Kirk nursing home at 7:50 a.m. in downtown Kirkersville in western Licking County.
He was shot after he entered the nursing home. When authorities entered the nursing home, they found three other people dead. Two victims were employees of the nursing home, and authorities believe the person was the shooter, Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp said.
Chief Steven Disario, 38, had only been police chief about three weeks, Thorp said.
In the last communication authorities received from the chief, he said he had the shooter in sight. Thorp said he assumes Disario had engaged the suspect.
Debbie Messer, who lives on E. Main Street, said she heard at least one gunshot. After that, her five dogs “went crazy,” making it difficult to know if there were more fired.
“I was in my driveway,” she said. “My neighbor told me that someone had shot a police officer and to go insideand lock my doors and call 911, and that’s what I did.”
Messer said others apparently called, too.
She said she didn’t see the officer.
“This is a really small town and everybody knows everybody,” she said. “These things don’t happen here.”
Chris Roush also lives on E. Main Street near the nursing home. About 7:30 a.m. he was getting his kids ready for school when he heard a shot.
“There’s a lot of hunting in this area, so I didn’t think much of it,” he said.
Shortly afterward, however, police cruisers started swarming the area and police were walking around with shotguns and automatic weapons looking for a suspect.
The family stayed in the house and followed the news. About 10 a.m., word came that the threat had ended.
But shortly after 11 a.m., the road in front of Roush’s house was still closed.
“I think at this point, we’re going to keep (the kids) at home today,” Roush said.
He said they were never ordered to stay inside, but they did “out of respect” for the situation.
Pine Kirk Care Center is a 24-bed facility in a converted residential residence, said Peter Van Runkle, executivedirector of the Ohio Health Care Association, a nursing-home industry group.
As of May 3, the facility was serving 23 Medicaid patients, according to the Ohio Department of Health. No one answered a phone call to the nursing home this morning.
“They cater to the forgotten members of society — folks that have, in addition to physical health care needs, behavioral health issues,” VanRunkle said. “They provide them with a small environment that’s less institutional than some facilities might be. They do good job of taking care of a niche clientele.”
VanRunkle said the the Ohio Health Care Association is aware of the risks nursing homes face and provides active-shooter training.
“Skilled nursing facilities are required to, and should, be open to the public so visitors can come and go and see their loved ones,” he said. “We’re not permitted to exclude people or lock down the facilities so no one can get it, which makes it challenging.”
Kirkersville Elementary School was closed for the day after sheriff’s office officials asked the district to put the school on lockdown, said Southwest Licking Local School District office secretary Cindy Pickering. Because the school was not yet in session, kids on their way were diverted to Watkins Middle School, and parents were notified to pick them up.
All other district schools were open.
Authorities were closing off more of the area as the investigation continues. At least some residents were moving out of the nursing home, authorities said.
Residents were told to stay inside their homes the situation was resolved
The Licking County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and agencies from around the area responded to the incident.