A part-time Willoughby (Ohio) police officer was killed when his cruiser crashed into a tree Friday night responding to a fellow officer’s request for assistance with a combative individual.
Willoughby Police Officer Jason Gresko was pronounced dead at a local hospital after emergency workers extricated him from his cruiser which had struck a tree, according to a statement read by Willoughby Police Chief Jack Beckwith at a Saturday afternoon press conference.
Beckwith said Gresko was headed north on Harmony Lane, heading toward Lake West Hospital to assist another officer when a pickup truck turned left in front of him. The cruiser and the pickup truck made contact and Gresko’s vehicle slammed into a tree on the side of the road at about 9:35 p.m.
Responders found Gresko trapped in the vehicle and extricated him before transporting him to Lake West Hospital where it was determined that he had succumbed to his injuries, Beckwith said.
The details of the crash will not be available until a reconstruction team has completed an investigation, Beckwith said during the press conference. He added that none of the occupants in the pickup truck were injured and alcohol was not a factor in the crash.
Gresko, 32, joined the Willoughby Police Department in February 2003 as a part-time officer and was later hired by as a full-time officer with the Cleveland Clinic Police Department in Nov. 2006.
He is survived by his wife Sandy and a two-year-old daughter.
“He was an exemplary officer and very active in the community,” Beckwith said, adding that he had been the recipient of numerous awards and citations, including Willoughby Special Officer of the Year in 2009.
Cleveland Clinic Police Chief David Easthon said Gresko was “truly dedicated and profoundly professional.” Easthon said he was a member of the clinic’s crisis response team and honor guard.
Beckwith said Gresko’s death was the first Line of Duty Death since 1955 when an officer was electrocuted when he was investigating downed power lines. In 1919, the first officer was shot and killed during an encounter with car thieves.
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