COLUMBUS, Ohio – A woman whose ex-boyfriend is in custody suspected of killing a police officer called 911 before the officer’s death to warn police in an Ohio village that they were in danger, according to the dispatch call.
The body of Danville Officer Thomas Cottrell was found behind the village’s municipal building late Sunday night, about 20 minutes after the ex-girlfriend of Herschel Ray Jones called police, Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer said.
“Yes, I’m in danger,” the woman told a dispatcher at 11:20 p.m. in a 911 call obtained Monday by The Columbus Dispatch. “But the cops in Danville are in danger, too. My ex-boyfriend’s out in camo looking to kill a cop.”
The woman said Jones had already threated to kill her, and that he was armed.
The sheriff said dispatchers tried to make contact with Cottrell after receiving the tip, but couldn’t reach him.
Deputies then searched the village, about 60 miles northeast of Columbus, and found Cottrell’s body. His service weapon and cruiser were missing.
Jones was spotted around 1:30 a.m. running from a home. He was taken into custody following a short foot chase.
Officials have not said how Cottrell died. But Chief Jim Gilbert, the chief deputy of the Franklin County Sheriff’s office, tweeted early Monday: “Prayers for Ohio’s first fallen officer for 2016 a Danville PD Officer was shot/killed this evening in Knox County.”
The Columbus Dispatch reported Cottrell, 34, was an auxiliary officer in Danville, who mainly worked on the weekends. He was hired by the police department a few months ago. His full-time job was a mixer driver for Ellis Brothers Concrete in nearby Mount Vernon. He enjoyed community policing, said Chief Clifford Bigler, of the Utica Police Department, where Cottrell worked from April 2013 until August.
The newspaper said Cottrell had three daughters and was engaged to a local school nurse.
The man accused of killing him had a lengthy criminal history and in one case tried to claim he was legally insane, according to court records. Knox County court records showed Jones, 32, had multiple convictions for breaking and entering, burglary, receiving stolen property and carrying a concealed weapon dating back to 2001. In a 2011 case, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity before changing his plea to guilty.
Ohio prison records showed Jones served nearly four years for the 2011 convictions on charges of receiving stolen property and possession of chemicals for manufacture of drugs. He was released last April.
Knox County Prosecutor Chip McConville said he expected a murder charge to be filed against Jones, but he didn’t know how soon that could happen. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation was still collecting evidence Monday, and Cottrell was scheduled for an autopsy Tuesday in nearby Licking County.
Jones was being held Monday for violating the conditions of his release from prison last year. McConville said that’s enough to hold him until he’s formally charged.
Calls to numbers listed to Jones or family members in Knox County rang unanswered or were not in service Monday.
Danville Mayor Robert Dile told The Columbus Dispatch that it a “terrible, terrible tragedy.”
“This wasn’t a gun battle or robbery. This was what seemed to be a calculated thing, and he didn’t have a chance to respond,” Dile said.