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WILLOUGHBY, Ohio (AP) — A police officer responding to an emergency call has died after his cruiser collided with a pickup truck and smashed into a tree, authorities said Saturday.
Patrolman Jason Gresko was on his way to provide backup for a fellow officer in northeastern Ohio on Friday night when the crash occurred, police said at a news conference. A preliminary investigation indicates that the pickup truck turned in front of Gresko's cruiser in Willoughby, Willoughby police Chief Jack Beckwith said.
The 32-year-old Gresko was a part-time Willoughby police officer and a full-time officer with Cleveland Clinic police. He's the first Willoughby officer to die in the line of duty in more than a half-century.
"He made us all better people," Cleveland Clinic Police Chief David Easthon said. "We're truly going to miss him."
Shirley Kraft said Gresko's car struck a tree in her front yard.
"This tree took about half of the car off, on the left-hand side. And spun it out," Kraft told WJW-TV.
She said she came to the officer's aid, but he wasn't breathing.
"He wasn't responding to the cops' commands, talk. We tried to talk to him, he wouldn't talk," Kraft told the station.
Police photos show the driver's side of Gresko's cruiser ripped open and mangled. The truck had little damage, and no one inside was hurt.
Mourners set up a memorial at the tree Saturday, adorning it with flowers and American flags in Gresko's honor.
Gresko was named Willoughby Special Officer of the Year in 2009, Easthon said. He had been with the Willoughby Police Department since 2003 and had worked six years for the Cleveland Clinic.
Gresko was married with a 2-year-old daughter.
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