Man shoots at deputies, then kills himself

Cary Ashby • Updated Jun 28, 2016 at 12:47 AM

Authorities determined a New London man used a handgun to commit suicide Friday night, but not before he fired nearly three dozen rounds at or near Huron County sheriff’s deputies.

The dead man has been identified as 45-year-old Rodney Clift.

“Obviously this was an extremely dangerous situation and stressful situation for the members of the sheriff’s office involved,” Sheriff Dane Howard said. “Deputies and command staff on scene used great restraint in this situation and responded in a very professional fashion.”

At 9:52 p.m. Friday, dispatchers received several 9-1-1 calls about a possibly suicidal man who was armed at 3610 Prospect Road in Fitchville Township.

“We received numerous calls — neighbors and family members,” Howard said.

(NOTE: To listen to the 9-1-1 call made by Clift’s son, click HERE.)

Sgt. Tod Wagner and Deputy Josh Kaufman were the first deputies to arrive at 10:07 p.m. and immediately called for assistance.

“We were fired upon as soon as we arrived,” said Howard, who arrived about the same time as Deputy John Vogel. “They (Wagner and Kaufman) were just turning into the driveway when they were fired upon.”

Dispatchers called for the assistance of other deputies. About 10 officers eventually were at the scene. According to the 9-1-1 call and Howard, dispatchers instructed the man’s family members to lock themselves in the basement and were told not to go outside.

The shooting happened at the Clift’s Prospect Road driveway, just west of Exchange Road.

“Deputy Vogel and I immediately began negotiating with the subject and issuing commands, which he refused to comply with and shortly thereafter the subject fired more rounds, with the final round taking his life,” Howard said.

Upon being shot at, deputies pulled back to a better position. Howard said he had deputies set up a perimeter. 

“We found 34 spent casings (at the scene),” said the sheriff, who noted none of his deputies fired their weapons. 

(NOTE: Pictures of the cruiser and bullet holes are posted on this website.)

One of the shots went through Wagner’s partially open driver’s side window, through the cage and broke the rear passenger window while Wagner was inside the cruiser, Howard said. The deputy wasn’t injured.

Wagner’s cruiser was hit three times, including a punctured tire on the rear passenger side. There also was a bullet hole on the panel between the driver’s and passenger sides.

“The rounds were directed at the driver’s door and frame,” Howard said. “They came perilously close to (Wagner).”

Within 30 minutes of deputies arriving, Clift shot himself, Howard said.

“It was a very fast evolving situation,” the sheriff added. “I literally thank God none of my guys were hit.”

Howard said he was about 35 yards from the shooter and he attempted to negotiate with the man to no avail.

“He wasn’t responding rationally at that point,” said the sheriff, noting the man had fired a .22 Magnum multiple times before the first deputies arrived.

“When the deputies arrived, he fired again. We saw muzzle flashes,” Howard said. “He wanted us to shoot him. He commanded us to shoot him — numerous times.

“The individual fired numerous rounds and then took his life,” the sheriff added.

In addition to the 34 spent casings collected at the scene, deputies seized a weapon from a pickup truck. Two agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation processed the crime scene. Howard said the agents arrived about an hour after the shooting and were at the property throughout the night.

Also at the scene were Firelands Ambulance Service and the New London Volunteer Fire Department. Firelands transported the man to Fisher-Titus Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

“With the death of the individual, they closed that part of the investigation,” Howard said.

Authorities initially declined to release the man’s name. However, Huron County Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Harwood confirmed it was Clift.

Deputies have interviewed some of Clift’s family members. 

“We sincerely offer our condolences to the family as they are also victims in this tragedy,” Howard said.

The sheriff’s office has offered crisis management debriefing to the deputies and dispatchers involved in the situation. Howard said the debriefing is vital to their well-being and can help them deal with any possible related trauma.

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