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Dillinger Robbery PDF Print E-mail

At 11:55 a.m., Monday, August 14, 1933, John Dillinger and his gang robbed the Bluffton Citizen National Bank. Four armed and unmasked gunmen entered and proceeded to rob the bank. There were three workers and one civilian in the bank at the time.

The robbery took less than five minutes to perpetrate and was partially thwarted when an alarm sounded from the bank. The town's whistle began to sound, and the robbers became nervous and retreated. It is estimated that between twenty and thirty shots were fired during the robbery, mostly in the air to ward off curious onlookers and to facilitate the escape. Marshal Gideon Luginbihl was at home for lunch at the time and arrived shortly after the robbers escaped.

Not satisfied with the $2,100 they had already grabbed, one of the bandits demanded more, but a time locked safe prevented further loss.

Dillinger was later apprehended and held in Sheriff Jesse Sarber's jail in Lima. A daring jailhouse break on October 12, 1933, led to Sheriff Jesse Sarber's death as he tried to thwart the escape.

 
Navajo Drive Shootout PDF Print E-mail

At 4:48 a.m., October 23, 1988, Bluffton patrol officer H. Reid Foust was patrolling Navajo Drive, which runs close to Interstate 75. Officer Foust noticed two vehicles along the dead end roadway and became suspicious. As he attempted to stop the vehicles, one of them sped away at a rapid speed. However, the car struck a guard rail and the passenger was ejected from the car. The car ran over the passenger's leg, leaving him wounded on the road.

A second passenger jumped from the vehicle and began shooting at the police cruiser, disabling it at the scene. The shooter and another passenger disappeared in the field for a short time. As backup officers arrived and cordoned off the area, the shooting suspect was seen, but escaped into a corn field. the other occupant was apprehended.

A short time later a call was received that there was as hostage situation on nearby County Line Road. The caller described the suspect, and the description matched that of the man earlier shooting at police. As police were responding to the hostage situation, it was learned that the man seriously wounded the female and stole her car.

Police spotted the car, and a pursuit began. The pursuit led from Bluffton, through the country roads, to Columbus Grove. When the car was finally stopped in downtown Columbus Grove, multiple shots were fired. The suspect was ultimately apprehended in Columbus Grove. In all, four men were charged with various crimes ranging from Felonious Assault to Breaking and Entering.

 
Other Bank Robberies PDF Print E-mail

On Saturday, January 25, 1991, the First National Bank was robbed. A lone robber entered the bank and got away with an undisclosed amount of money. Police and FBI officials converged on the area and were able to follow his trail to a nearby business, where the trail went cold.

Several months later FBI officials apprehended a suspect in the Western United States. The suspect was convicted in Federal Court for the robbery.

At 9:38 a.m., March 10, 1999, the Citizen National Bank drive thru location was robbed. An unidentified male entered the pedestrian door and demanded money from the tellers. The man fled on foot, and remains unidentified.

 

On October 21, 2014, Brian J. Matheny entered the Chase Bank on Main Street and demanded money from a teller.  Matheny fled the scene but was discovered 12 minutes later traveling on I-75 headed toward Toledo.  Ohio State Highway Patrol pursued his vehicle into Findlay, where Matheny set fire to himself as they attempted to arrest him.  He was found to be incompetent to stand trial and is in a secure facility.

 
Circle K Shootout PDF Print E-mail

The date was Saturday, March 25, 2006, and it was just twelve days after Rick Skilliter was formally sworn in as Chief of Police.  Most of the Bluffton police officers were participating in a self defense training course, when patrol officer Charles “Ed” Montgomery received a radio report that the State Highway Patrol was in pursuit on Interstate 75. Officer Montgomery responded to lend any necessary support. Unbeknownst to him, this pursuit would turn out to be anything but routine.

The fleeing vehicle was wanted in Bowling Green, Ohio, because the driver had attempted to obtain an Ohio Identification card using suspicious documents from out of state. The worker contacted Bowling Green police for assistance, and when the officer arrived a fight broke out. The officer felt that the man had a gun in his belt and backed away for cover when the man pulled the gun and fired into the ceiling.  A female was waiting in a get-away car.  As the car entered the Interstate, with police pursuing, the driver stopped and let the female out.

Sheriff’s deputies from Wood and Hancock Counties and State Patrol Troopers from Walbridge and Findlay Posts joined the pursuit at various times. The pursuit speeds exceeded 100 miles per hour, with the fleeing vehicle either striking or trying to strike several police and civilian vehicles.

With the tires having been flattened by police spike devices, the fleeing vehicle exited at the Bluffton State Route 103 exit. The driver attempted to drive through several business parking areas, striking cars as he proceeded. Eventually, the driver stopped under the canopy at Circle K and fired multiple rounds at State Troopers and police.  

The man attempted to carjack a vehicle sitting at the gasoline island, but the driver had taken his keys into the business. A female passenger in the waiting vehicle crouched down to avoid being struck by the flying bullets. Police fatally wounded the driver, bringing the shootout to a conclusion. Police would later learn that the suspect was wearing body armor and had a stockpile of ammunition in the vehicle with him.  

In all, two State Highway Patrol Troopers were wounded, the female in the waiting vehicle received minor injuries, and the suspect was fatally wounded.  Over 50 rounds of ammunition were fired during the 37 second gun battle. The incident drew local and national media attention.

Cruiser camera video of this pursuit and shoot out has appeared on a variety of reality police television programs.

 

 
Bluffton Floods PDF Print E-mail

Bluffton has two small creeks running through portions of town that meet in an area known as the “Forks of the Riley.”  These creeks would periodically overflow their banks, usually with spring rains when the ground was still frozen.

While there have been several instances where the Riley Creeks have overflowed their banks, Bluffton’s most recent flooding events that were significant enough to cause raging waters to flow into a local stone quarry, were in 1981 and again in 2007. 

On June 13, 1981, Bluffton received 3.69” of rain.That rain would not have had such a tremendous effect had it not rained almost 3” in the preceding days. 

Emergency services personnel rescued a bus load of travelers on Interstate 75 after their bus slid off the roadway into a ditch filled with 6’ of water. A weakened bank, some thought to be caused by groundhogs burrowing holes, collapsed into the stone quarry.  The 40 acre quarry pit was filled with roughly 4 ½ feet of water on one side, and 27’ of water in the much smaller pit located on the south side of the interstate highway. 

Residents were displaced and businesses shut down for several days following the storm to clean out the debris. Damage estimates at the time were $200,000.

On August 21, 2007, the national weather service predicted a 2” rainfall event as the result of a tropical depression that was coming up the central United States from the gulf states area. It rained throughout the day, and most people thought the bulk of the rain had passed. However, during the night the storm stalled essentially over the Bluffton/U.S. 30 area. Continued downpours of rain pounded as people slept.

Calls for emergency assistance began at 6:01 a.m. Bluffton police officers worked jointly for over six hours with the fire and EMS departments, as well as over 18 other emergency services departments, to evacuate stranded residents, people trapped in cars and trucks along Interstate 75, and people traveling country roads who unsuspectingly drove into dangerous waters. 

Bluffton, along with Findlay and Ottawa was included in a Major Declaration of Disaster Area by President George Bush. Federal resources responded to the region, and Police Chief Rick Skilliter coordinated local recovery efforts. 

In all, over 12” of rain fell in an 18 hour time frame, ten dwellings were permanently abandoned, several businesses had to rebuild, and over 4 million dollars damage was done locally during this flooding event. The event grew local and national media attention.

 

 
University Tragedy PDF Print E-mail

Friday, March 2, 2007, will be a day that lives tragically in the hearts and minds of many Bluffton residents. A charter bus carrying baseball players from Bluffton to an annual spring baseball event in Florida crashed while traveling through Atlanta, Georgia. Four players, the bus driver, and the driver’s wife were initially killed in the tragic crash, and another player died a few days later.

The Bluffton community was instantly thrown into the national media spotlight as news reporters from throughout the nation descended on Bluffton to capture stories of mourning, support, and recovery.

Officers provided security, planning, and logistics and played supportive roles over the next two weeks as our small campus and larger community dealt with the tremendously emotional event.  News reporters accustomed to “getting their story” were challenged with a much slower and respectful pace of small town living and adjusting to the tragic event.    

Police officers found themselves not only providing necessary safety and security in the community, but also having to support their own family members who were concerned and grieving because they, too, followed the happenings of the baseball team.  

The resources of the police department continued to be directed to assist the university in the weeks, and even years to follow as various remembrance services were held.

 

 
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