VAN WERT — The driver of a stolen semi-truck repeatedly threatened to hurt people Tuesday before officers killed him as he led a multi-county chase, including driving the wrong way on U.S. 30, Allen County Sheriff Matt Treglia said Wednesday.
Treglia identified the man as Terry Pierce Jr., 46, of Spencerville.
“I, 100%, stand behind these officers and this administration for the way this was handled,” Treglia said. “I can honestly tell you, this guy had bad intentions of hurting citizens in Allen County, and there was no way I was going to let that happen. He was not going to get himself into a village or municipality with that truck because of things he was saying on the phone to our hostage negotiators. He repeatedly threatened to kill and run over people,” Treglia said.
According to a Wednesday news release from Treglia, Pierce stole the truck from GLM Transport in Van Wert. Authorities have not yet determined why he stole the truck.
He was seen driving the truck in Spencerville just after 8 a.m. Tuesday, when a Spencerville police officer tried to pull him over. Pierce fled, leading law enforcement from several departments on a high-speed chase that lasted nearly two hours and ended with Pierce heading westbound in the eastbound lanes on U.S. 30, two miles from the Ohio-Indiana border.
The Allen County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team was conducting a training assignment at a nearby location and was deployed to handle the pursuit.
Deputies tried to negotiate with Pierce over the phone, but officers judged he was a danger to himself and others. The SWAT team opened fire and killed him.
“There’s not any one person that makes that call (to open fire),” Treglia said in a phone interview Wednesday. “He (Pierce) dictated what had to end this as far as his rationale and pulling into ongoing traffic on U.S. 30. He kept escalating the situation to the point where we had no opportunity but to do anything else at that point.”
The SWAT officers involved in the fatal shooting have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
The investigation is in the hands of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The shooting itself was referred by the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office to the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office. Once the investigations are complete, the Van Wert County grand jury will consider what, if any, charges to file against the officers involved in the shooting.
“There’s three agencies kind of running on this, and we’re not one of them obviously,” Treglia said. “So as their investigations come back chronologically, that’s when we’ll bring certain ones back at certain times. I can’t tell you how many are actually off, but there’s more than one (SWAT officer) off.”
In the press release, Treglia acknowledged SWAT team members were involved.
“I am still unable to release the number of officers involved in the shooting and the number of rounds fired,” Treglia wrote in the news release, “but I can confirm that Allen County SWAT Officers were the only officers that discharged their weapons during the incident.”
Treglia said Pierce called 911 and was patched through to a hostage negotiator. He said he supported the actions of his SWAT team.
Treglia also noted that the incident was separate from a two-truck crash a few miles farther down U.S. 30 on Tuesday afternoon.
A check of the Allen County Common Pleas Court database indicates no criminal charges against Pierce, only civil, including a divorce in 2018. In Lima Municipal Court, in July 2018, Pierce was charged with domestic violence. In August of 1991, he was charged with assault. He also had various traffic violations, including driving under suspension.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.