Jeff Simpson / The Lantern
Nick Mernedakis was in his room on Sept. 7 when he heard six loud bangs that sounded like someone beating on the door. He walked downstairs at his North Fourth Street apartment to ask his roommate about the noise.
Through a window, both men saw police officers taking cover behind vehicles. Then they heard the noise again — a noise that they later learned came from a nearby apartment where 37-year-old Jason Farnsworth was shooting into the street with a high powered rifle.
The police shootout with Farnsworth began earlier that afternoon when 911 dispatchers received a call about an erratic driver on northbound Route 71. Suspecting that the driver was drunk, officers pulled Farnsworth over between the Hudson Street and North Broadway exits, said Sgt. Rich Weiner, spokesman for Columbus Police.
Before officers could check his driver’s license, Farnsworth fled the scene, taking I-71 south to the Hudson Street exit. Police followed as Farnsworth reached an alleyway just north of his apartment. Upon exiting his car with a gun Farnsworth immediately shot officer Wesley Hurley in the chest.
After breaking into his apartment at 1919 N. Fourth St., Farnsworth went to a window and turned an AK-47 on officers who had followed him on foot.
“Shots were just raining out like we were in a war zone,” Mernedakis said.
Shots were exchanged between Farnsworth and police officers for about 20 or 30 minutes, Weiner said. Witnesses who were stranded nearby said one of the exchanges included 15 to 20 shots.
During one of the volleys, a bullet shot by Farnsworth went through the cruiser windshield of Officer Joshua Wagner, who was responding to reports of officers in distress. The bullet struck Wagner in his cheek, below his left ear. He survived and is still recovering, Weiner said.
After the gunfire stopped, officers established a perimeter around the area to contain Farnsworth in his apartment.
“Our main concern was for the safety of citizens around him,” Weiner said.
North Fourth Street, 18th Avenue and Summit Street were all blocked in a three-block radius of the apartment. An armored vehicle from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was used to rescue officers and bystanders who were pinned downed during the gunfire.
From his basement, Mernedakis said he and his friends heard Farnsworth get shot by a stray bullet. Minutes later, they heard Farnsworth shoot himself,
When police were unable to establish contact with Farnsworth within his apartment, police sent in a bomb-squad robot with a camera.
“Our goal is to get a response, make contact and communicate with the suspect,” Weiner said. “If we cannot establish communication, then we will use other tools at our disposal. At the time, we had the bomb robot so we decided to use that.”
The robot detected a body with no movement in the front room of the house. Police entered the building and discovered Farnsworth’s body at 6:30 p.m., and he was pronounced dead at 6:57 p.m., Weiner said.
Mernedakis and his roommates had moved in a just a little more than a week before the shooting, and didn’t know him well. They recently moved out of the apartment.
Dave Rogers, 27, is an OSU graduate who lives in apartment on the corner of 18th Avenue and North Fourth Street that backs up to Farnsworth’s duplex. Rogers was getting ready to leave for a cookout when the gunfire started.
He said he and his wife have lived in the apartment for almost three years while she attends veterinary school at Ohio State and vaguely recalls a shooting occurring nearby right after he moved in. Rogers said he “never had any problems” with safety in the area.
“It definitely scares you,” he said.
Rogers said some neighbors who moved in shortly before the shooting have asked about the safety of the neighborhood.
“It makes you rethink how good of a neighborhood it is,” Rogers said.