A truck driver for Werner Enterprises was injured but survived after being taken hostage by two suspects in his rig at a truck stop early Wednesday. The suspects were later killed after a shootout with Ohio state troopers following a lengthy pursuit and a seven-hour standoff that ended in Dayton.

Kent E. Harshbarger of the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office identified the suspects as Elaine Helman, 51, and Rodney Helman, 54. They died hours after being transported to Miami Valley Hospital on Wednesday morning. The Daily Mail indicated the suspects were married.

A spokesperson for Omaha, Nebraska-based Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN) issued the following statement to news outlet WHIO TV 7:

“A harrowing situation involving a Werner professional driver occurred this morning in west central Ohio. At this time, we know our driver is safe and out of respect for the privacy of our driver and his family, we will not release a name. The Werner driver sustained injuries, and we are focused on making sure he is receiving all the care and treatment he needs. Werner Enterprises thanks the state and local authorities who rescued our driver, and they have our full cooperation during this investigation.”

What happened?

During a press conference Wednesday, London, Ohio, Police Chief Glenn Nicol said one of his officers pulled over a vehicle driven by the Helmans around 1 a.m. after observing the vehicle had “no taillights and no visible registration. As the officer approached the vehicle, he obtained some information from the driver and passenger that was apparently bogus information.”

The officer later found a temporary registration from Colorado and was “attempting to return to his vehicle to check things out when the vehicle sped off,” Nicol said.

He said the officer pursued the suspects north out of London on U.S. Highway 42 to a truck stop, where the suspects abandoned their original vehicle and ran through the parking lot.

As the officer tried to approach the male suspect and deploy his stun gun, Nicol said, he saw that the male suspect had pulled a handgun and was pointing it at the officer.

He said the man and woman then entered the Werner driver’s semi-truck and “took the truck and fled from the truck stop,” with the driver inside.

Multiple law enforcement agencies joined the pursuit, including a London police officer, the Ohio state patrol and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

At the joint press conference, Lt. Nathan Dennis, spokesperson for the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said stop sticks brought the truck to a stop, ending the chase at around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Dennis said the state patrol’s Special Response Team, working with negotiators from the sheriff’s office, used cellphones “to speak with the suspects as well as the victim to try to get this to a peaceful conclusion.”

Around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, response team troopers “approached the truck to remove the victim from the truck. As they were making the entry into the truck, the suspects fired shots at troopers and the troopers returned fire on the suspects at that time, striking both of the suspects,” Dennis said.

Authorities did not specify the cause of the victim’s injuries but said they were minor.

Steve Irwin, press secretary for the Ohio attorney general’s office, confirmed that the Bureau of Criminal Investigation was asked to investigate the shooting.
“Our role is to provide an independent third-party investigation of the incident,” Irwin told FreightWaves. “Any decision about the use of force [by officers] will be up to the prosecutor and/or a grand jury.”

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