Neb. Police Officer Killed when Pickup Truck Rear-Ends Cruiser

April 14, 2024
Ceresco Police Officer Ross Bartlett was parked on the shoulder of the road for a traffic stop when a pickup truck crashed into his cruiser from behind.

A Ceresco police officer who died in a crash Friday night during a traffic stop will be remembered as someone who "served with his whole heart."

Ross Bartlett, 54, was performing a routine traffic stop at around 7:37 p.m. Friday near the intersection of U.S. 77 and Little Salt Road when a truck struck his cruiser from behind, Nebraska State Patrol Maj. Jeff Wilcynski said at a news conference Saturday morning.

"Officer Bartlett was highly respected for his dedication to public service," Wilcynski said Saturday surrounded by about a dozen local law enforcement agencies at the State Patrol's Headquarters. "Many of our troopers and investigators knew Ross and his family personally."

Bartlett's patrol vehicle and a Nissan Altima were parked on the shoulder of U.S. 77 on Friday night about 2 miles south of Ceresco. While both Bartlett and the driver of the Nissan were seated in their own vehicles, a southbound Ford F-150 struck the Ceresco police cruiser from the rear, causing it to hit the Nissan.

When first responders arrived on the scene, bystanders were attempting life-saving measures on Bartlett, the State Patrol said. Bartlett was life-flighted to Bryan Health West Campus by Star Care. He died at the hospital Friday night.

Ke'vion Hill, 27, from Lincoln, was injured during the traffic stop and was transported for serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. Tony Pierce, 49, of Crete, was driving the Ford F-150 but was not seriously injured.

No arrests have been made in the crash.

Traffic was shut down for about four hours on U.S. 77 Friday in both directions while emergency responders worked at the scene. The investigation into the crash is ongoing.

'A civil servant'

Bartlett's 30-year career in law enforcement began as a police officer with the Valentine Police Department. Bartlett's other agencies of employment include Boone County Sheriff, Madison Police Department, Madison County Sheriff and Newman Grove Police Department.

For the past seven years, Bartlett has worked for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and the Ceresco Police Department. He also volunteered for the Ceresco Fire Department.

"His personality was outstanding," Ceresco Police Chief Tony Hernandez said at the news conference Saturday morning. "I am going to miss him dearly and am blessed our paths crossed."

Corrections Department Director Rob Jeffreys said Bartlett had helped with recruiting staff members and was committed behind the scenes.

"It's not just a loss for us standing behind this podium. It's going to be a loss to a lot of lives that he's touched as they've been part of the NDCS family," Jeffreys said.

Jeffreys extended his condolences to Bartlett's wife and daughter, along with all those impacted by his death.

"He was loved. He will be missed, but he will be forever eternally loved by all," Jeffreys said. "God bless the family and our law enforcement community."

A procession that stretched about a mile was held Saturday afternoon to escort Bartlett from Omaha to Lincoln. The route started at Omaha's Leavenworth and 42nd streets intersection. It ended at Lincoln's Roper and Sons Funeral Home, 4300 O St.

A few dozen gathered along O Street to watch as local law enforcement arrived at the funeral home.

Jill Edelman, from Lincoln, saluted outside the funeral home as her former co-worker passed by. Edelman worked with Bartlett at the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services for about five years.

"He was very funny, very caring," Edelman said. "He'd give you the shirt off his back. He would make sure you were okay before he cared about himself."

Edelman is a safety coordinator at the Corrections Department and often worked with Bartlett, who was an investigator. As Bartlett was a man who showed up for others, there wasn't a doubt in Edelman's mind to show up for the procession.

"It made sense to come out here and show our support for him and his family," Edelman said. "The best way to do that is stand in solidarity and let him know that we're here, let his family know that we're here."

Caralea Strayer, from Lincoln, also worked with Bartlett at the Corrections Department and watched the procession. Strayer described Bartlett as a candid and hilarious individual who she had gotten to know during the past six years.

"He was very fair and honest. He honestly served with his whole heart," Strayer said. "Whether he was at NDCS or in the field, he was definitely a civil servant."

To Strayer, he was always a man who would say "hello" and checked in with those around him.

"He cared a lot. He was very intentional about his work and he was very serious about making sure that he kept people safe," Strayer said.

Gov. Jim Pillen ordered that flags will be flown at half-staff starting immediately Saturday until 5 p.m. on the day of Bartlett's burial. Funeral plans have not been announced.

Sens. Pete Ricketts and Deb Fischer along with Reps. Mike Flood and Don Bacon released statements expressing their condolences for Bartlett's friends, family and the Ceresco community. The statements also expressed their gratitude to his service in law enforcement.

"Ross' service in law enforcement took him to multiple communities in our state, including Madison, where I personally worked with him and respected him. In addition to his career as a peace officer, he loved being a volunteer fireman and had a great sense of humor," Flood said.


(c)2024 Lincoln Journal Star, Neb.

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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