Ohio officer struck, killed while clearing debris from highway

BOSTON HEIGHTS, Ohio — Patrolman Jarod Dean was killed doing his dream job. He loved being a police officer – patrolling the midnight shift and making his fellow officers howl with his self-deprecating humor.

“He loved doing the job,” Boston Heights Police Chief Joseph Varga said. “He couldn’t get enough of it. He always wanted to work more and more and more.”

Dean, 24, was killed Monday when he was hit by a truck on Ohio 8 as he cleared debris from the roadway. He became the first officer in the Summit County village to die in the line of duty.

No charges have been filed in the crash. Authorities said it was too early in the investigation to speculate on fault. But the county medical examiner ruled the death an accident. Dean, who had been on the force for six months, suffered multiple blunt force injuries.

Lt. Eric Sheppard of the State Highway Patrol said Dean was driving south on Ohio 8, which has two lanes in each direction and a left-turn lane, when he stopped his cruiser in the left-turn lane at Boston Mills Road about 5:30 a.m.

The trooper said Dean put his overhead flashers on and got out to clean up debris, possibly from an earlier accident, from the adjacent left lane.

He was near the rear of his cruiser when a 2003 box truck, driven by John Gavelek, 51, of Garfield Heights, struck him.

Gavelek was driving for Cuyahoga Vending Co. of Cleveland and heading to Akron. He told troopers that he had been in the right lane but moved to the left lane to let a tractor-trailer coming off the Ohio Turnpike ramp merge.

Gavelek saw the cruiser and its overhead flashing lights, but not Dean – until he struck the officer in the left lane, Sheppard said.

James Variglotti, president of Cuyahoga Vending Co., said Gavelek has worked for the company for three years without any problems. It is unclear how fast he was driving. The speed limit on the road is 50 mph. The accident occurred just before the Ohio 8-Boston Mills Road intersection.

“It is such a tragedy,” Variglotti said. “I feel terrible for the family.”

Dean’s family declined to comment Monday afternoon. He was single.

Varga said Dean appeared to follow procedure by telling dispatch about the debris, but the chief said he won’t know for sure until after the investigation is completed.

Dean was a part-time officer, working 36 hours a week. His brother, John, is a police officer in Hudson.

Jarod Dean had been a police officer for about 2½ years, according to published reports. He had worked in Windham in Portage County and in Waynesburg in Stark County, before joining Boston Heights.

“Jarod was a good officer; he was young and needed some experience,” said Edward Perdian, Windham’s police chief. “He always wanted to work at a larger department. I think Jarod was trying to find that anchor where he would be able to catch on, and he was hoping that Boston Heights might be it.”

In Windham, Dean patrolled streets in a cruiser and on a bike. He also worked in the schools.

In Boston Heights, he did whatever he could. He pestered Varga, the chief, to learn as much as possible.

“He was just a great kid,” Varga said. “He had a great sense of humor. We called him our Cookie Monster because he loved cookies.”

The accident marked the second time a Boston Heights officer was struck on Ohio 8 while outside a cruiser.

In February 2000, a driver plowed into Patrolman Edward Carlile near Ohio 303 after a traffic stop.

The crash shattered his elbow and nearly took his leg. He was out for months.

Carlile has since joined the Northfield Police Department. He declined to comment Monday.

The accident is the latest tragedy to highlight a road that has had its share of troubles.

Traffic congestion and accidents are among the reasons Ohio 8, from Interstate 271 in Macedonia south to Boston Heights, is undergoing a $91 million transformation from a divided four-lane road with traffic lights to an interstate-style freeway.

While the project in Macedonia is scheduled to be completed by this fall, work has just begun by the Ohio Turnpike interchange. That’s where the turnpike exit to Ohio 8 south merges into the two lanes of the state route, just before Boston Mills Road.

Drivers coming off the turnpike have to cut across two lanes to get to the left turn lane onto Boston Mills.

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