Thomas Hartless was identified as the active shooter who took hostages in Kirkersville, Ohio, shot two female nursing home employees to death, and then murdered the village police chief in the street.
Although some media gave his name as “Tommy Heartless,” ABC6 reported the spelling was Thomas Hartless. He was also known as Tommy Hartless.
Hartless, 43, of Utica, Ohio, had been released early from prison by a judge after a conviction for abducting a previous girlfriend.
Ohio’s governor called the shooting which killed Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario and two employees of Pine Kirk Care Center “horrific.” DiSario, 36, leaves behind six children and a pregnant wife.
The shooting occurred in a tight-knit village of about 500 people located near Columbus, Ohio. The motive is not yet clear, but it may have a nexus to domestic violence. Hartless had a history of violence against women, according to The Columbus Post-Dispatch, and he was given several plea deals.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Gunman Shot Two Women Inside a Nursing Home Where His Girlfriend Worked
The call about the shooting came in early at around 7:30 a.m. May 12 at Pine Kirk Care Center. The situation was under control by 10 a.m., reported Fox 8.
Sarah Sims, 23, who works at the nursing home, told WHIO-TV that she was in the basement when she heard “loud bangs.” She barricaded the door, called 911, and was advised to stay “calm,” the television station reports.
Some of the nursing home residents also hid during the shooting, CNN reported.
Upstairs, the gunman had shot two women who worked for the nursing home, police said. According to NBC4i, Hartless did not live in Kirkersville but “his girlfriend worked at the nursing home where the shooting happened.” It’s not clear whether she was one of the victims.
“Two nursing home workers were…found dead,” NBC News confirmed.
Peter Van Runkle, who leads a state trade association representing nursing homes, told the Dispatch that the nursing home helps “the forgotten members of society.”
“They provide them with a small environment that’s less institutional than some facilities might be,” he said to the Dispatch. “They do a good job of taking care of a niche clientele.”
2. DiSario Was ‘Ambushed’ & Was a Father of Six Who Was New to the Job
DiSario was ambushed by the shooter, according to 10TV.
The police chief was killed when he responded to a call about the nursing home. However, investigators said in a news conference that they believe the gunman shot DiSario first, and then went into the nursing home and fatally shot the two workers.
“Sheriff’s deputies arriving to back up DiSario found the chief shot in the alley,” CNN reported. “When they entered the nursing home, the gunman and the workers were dead.”
According to NBC News, DiSario “responded to a report of a man with a gun around 7:45 a.m.” and then “engaged with the alleged shooter,” radioing that “he had the suspect in his sights.’
However, arriving officers found DiSario lying in the street.
He leaves behind a pregnant wife and a large family.
NBC reported that DiSario “was a father of six with a child ‘on the way,’ and had only been the police chief for three weeks.” DiSario was so new to the job that the police website still lists the outgoing chief.
According to The Dayton Daily News, DiSario and his wife, Aryn, “are a blended family each with kids from previous relationships. They have one child together and Aryn is pregnant, ready to give birth any day now.”
Both DiSario and his wife had photos of them as a couple as their profile pictures on Facebook.
The newspaper reported that Aryn DiSario called a relative “in fear because she knew her husband was on duty and couldn’t get any information on the shooting.”
According to WHIO, DiSario “engaged the gunman near the rear of the nursing home.”
A person who lives near the nursing home told ABC6 that he heard “multiple shots” ring out.
3. A Neighbor Wrote on Facebook That Hartless Was a ‘Violent Man’ Who Was Released Early From Prison on Domestic Violence Charges
One of Hartless’ neighbors wrote on Facebook that he was a “violent man” and expressed “grave fear for my life and that of my daughter.” It was not immediately clear when the message was left.
Kevin Landers, of 10TV, reported that neighbors said Hartless should have served more time for a past domestic violence incident. The Columbus Post-Dispatch reported that Hartless “had at least two felony cases…involving violence. They concluded with Hartless serving prison time, but he was released early by a judge and then successfully completed probation.”
WCLT reported in 2009 that Thomas Hartless, of Utica, was “indicted for kidnapping a woman during an incident in Knox County.” Then 35, he was accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend and binding her wrists and ankles with duct tape, according to WCLT. He was being held in the Licking County Jail on a probation violation, the story reported.
The Post-Dispatch reported that Hartless received a plea deal, in which “the most serious charge — kidnapping, that could have sent him to prison for up to eight years — and domestic violence were dropped.” He pleaded guilty to abduction and aggravated menacing in 2010, but two days before was accused of a separate felonious assault, the newspaper reported.
According to the Post-Dispatch, despite the new charge, Hartless received another plea deal and was ultimately sentenced on both charges to serve two years in prison (it would have been more but the judge ran some charges concurrently.” The newspaper reported that Common Pleas Court Judge Otho Eyste let Hartless out after eight months.
4. Hartless Took Random Hostages into the Woods During the Incident
Shortly after news of the shooting flew around Twitter, it was reported that the shooter was “neutralized” or down.
However, before that report, a tense situation unfolded in which the “gunman for a period of time prior to the shooting did have two hostages in a wooded area that were not harmed,” reported WHIO.
Attorney General Mike DeWine said Hartless “was hiding in some woods near the funeral home and took two passersby hostage for a brief time.” His car was found in a nearby truck stop, reported WDTN-TV.
Lt. Robert Sellers of the Ohio Highway Patrol told The Newark Advocate by late morning: “There is no threat to the public. The situation has concluded.”
John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, released a statement as the tragedy unfolded.
“Shocked & pained by the horrific shooting in Kirkersville, ask for prayers for those injured. Grateful for law enforcement’s quick response,” the Ohio governor wrote on Twitter.
Kasich posted again after DiSario’s name was released, saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”
According to his Facebook page, DiSario studied at DeVry University, went to Washington Senior High, and was born in Ohio.
5. The Local Elementary School Was Locked Down
Although it appears students there were never at actual risk, as a precaution, the Kirkersville Elementary School was locked down.
Parents were informed they could pick up their children at a middle school, Fox 8 reports.
The school spokesman told The Newark Advocate that “all the students at Kirkersville Elementary were on the buses when the situation started and diverted to Watkins Middle School.”
The school was closed for the day after the shooting.
According to CBS News, “The shooting closed down the main street in the village, which was flooded with police officers from several surrounding agencies and with ambulances.”