top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoe Lyons

“Officer Down” The 1984 Shooting of Deputy Ed Ernsberger

UPDATE: R. Edward "Ed" Ernsberger, age 65, of Shelby passed away on October 21, 2022 at his residence with his beloved wife, Jane, by his side. RIP my friend.

R. Edward "Ed" Ernsberger

Warning: this story contains adult language and a graphic, detailed description of the events that transpired that night, starting on Friday the 13th of April, in 1984, at around 7:15 PM.

Ed Ernsberger started his career with the Richland County Sherriff’s Office in 1978. By mid-1982 Deputy Ernsberger became a K-9 Deputy. Deputy Ernsberger’s K-9 partner’s name was “Bear.” She was a 4-year-old Rottweiler, weighing in at 145-pounds, “a big baby with attitude,” Ed would passionately say.

Little did Deputy Ernsberger know, nor could he have imagined, that this particular Friday the 13th would change many things for Ed, his family, and Law Enforcement. Things that, to this day, affect everyday living for Ed. and his wife, Jane.

Talking with Ed, I asked, “What do you recall from that dreadful day?”

Taking a deep breath, Ed’s body tightens up, his eyes seem to glare as if they are looking into that horrible day years ago.

“Well Joe, I was sitting in the little Substation in Shiloh. At that time, I was the Shiloh resident Deputy, I just spent 15 minutes talking with Captain George Kyler. Captain Kyler was just leaving, heading back to Mansfield when dispatch came across the radio. I need you to start toward Free Road for a suspicious person. We walked out to the cruisers, and I told Captain Kyler, “see ya later,” and proceeded to drive to the Free Road area.”

What Deputy Ernsberger didn’t know, was that the suspicious person call was concerning Mark Manley of Bryan, Ohio, an escapee from the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, 3 days earlier.

As Deputy Ernsberger arrived on Free Road, he observed a white male, 6'3”, and 180 lbs., wearing blue jeans and a blue jean jacket with shoulder length hair and a full beard, wearing a dark knit cap, matching the dispatcher's description. Ed activated his overhead lights and slid the cage door open. He lowered the passenger window so Bear could get out if he needed her, a habit that would save Ed’s life.

As Ed exited his Sheriff Cruiser, he could see Manley had what looked like a white pillowcase. “I remember it appeared to have heavy objects in it,” Commented Ed, “not sure why I remember that.”

As Manley lowered the bag to the ground, he looked right at Ed and asked, “is there a problem?”

Ed told Manley that someone had called him in as acting suspicious. “Apparently,” Ed commented, “no one recognizes you on this road, where are you headed.”

Manley pointed to Shiloh and said, “Orange St.” (Being a resident Deputy Ed knew there was no Orange Street in Shiloh). Suspicion started to rise, Ed continued to ask questions.

“Do you have an ID?” Ed asked, in a suspicious tone.

“No,” Manley quickly responded. By that time, it was starting to mist heavily. Ed remembered he wanted to get out of the rain. Ed decided, at that point, he would pat his suspect down and continue this in the front seat of his cruiser.

Ed told Manley to place his hands on the cruiser, and that he was going to pat him down for his safety and place him in his cruiser to get them both out of the weather. Ed reassured Manley that he was not under arrest and this was just for his safety.

Ed’s facial expression furrowed, and the tone of his voice became distressed as he proceeded to describe what happened next. “Manley did as I told him, placing his hands on the hood of my cruiser. I started patting him down. I found an 8" screwdriver in his waistband that had been filed off to an icepick point. At that time, I told him he was under arrest. The fight was on!”

“During the fight Manley got a hold of my .357 Colt Python Pistol, remember this was before the Semi-Automatic issued for Law Enforcement today. He hit me in the chest (Hard) and pulled my revolver through my holster. We were standing in front of my cruiser when he hit me, and Bear was coming out the passenger window like a bat out of hell.”

Manley started screaming, “why are you F***ing with me?” “You know who I am!” Manley pointed Ed’s .357 Colt Python service weapon at Ed’s chest, with what could only be described as, a look of pure evil glaring from his eyes, hell bent on taking Ed’s life. An ear-piercing shot, BAM! went the first shot, the round striking Ed in the chest, knocking the wind out of him.

For a moment, the world seemed to stop at that point for Ed. Trying to catch his breath, Ed notice Bear had come around the front of the cruiser, and as Manley went to fire another round at Ed’s head, a terrible snarl caught Manley’s attention and distracted him just in the nick of time. As Manley started to fire his second shot, he was distracted by Bear charging toward him. Manley’s eyes were diverted, and the gun turned toward Bear as he fired.

The shot barely missed the left side of Ed’s head. Still focused on Bear, Manley continued in the same motion as he fired the third shot. That shot struck Bear in the chest. Bear immediately crumpled, dropping to the road.

By this time, Ed was already taking evasive action and had jumped across the ditch. Manley fired the fourth shot, striking Ed’s arm opening under his vest and bounced off his shoulder blade and exited through his collar.

Bear rejoined the fight, getting up, growling with a fervent hatred from being shot, and engaged Manley again. This gave Ed the precious seconds he needed; Manley then fired 2 more shots into Bear’s chest. Bear yelped in agonizing pain when the bullets hit.

Ed saw red, rage took over as Ed engaged Manley again. Later witnesses down free Road said they could hear Ed scream "You Son of a Bitch!” At that time, Ed was moving toward Manley hell bent on revenge! He had counted six shots, and knew Manley was out of ammo. Manley pulled the trigger. It clicked! He knew he didn't have any bullets left in the gun.

By then the fight moved Manley and Ed to the driver’s side of the cruiser. Ed desperately needed his shotgun, “whatever it takes,” Ed was thinking. While Ed held Manley against the cruiser, he heard Bear whimpering in pain and saw her climbing back into her cage.

Bear was ALIVE!

As Ed held on to Manley and fought to get control, Ed knew he had to get his shotgun. “I kept thinking,” Ed Said, “this son of a bitch ain't getting in my car because he ain't getting my dog."

Ed pushed Manley back and jumped into the cruiser. As Ed was reaching for the shotgun switch, Manley dove on top of Ed and started hitting Ed’s head with the gun barrel. In between the skull crushing blows, Ed was able to knock the gun out of Manley’s hand and smash him in the face with three powerful blows from his right fist.

With Manley being temporarily dazed, Ed was able to unlock the shotgun. Manley heard it snap open and the fight was on again with a renewed fury; both were fighting for their lives and they knew it. Manley was able to get control of the shotgun from Ed. Knowing it was now or never, Ed quickly put both feet in Manley’s chest and kicked as hard as he could.

Manley flew back and out of the cruiser. Ed knew Manley would shoot him again and needed distance between them now more than ever. Ed reached up, put the car in drive, and while still laying on the seat, hit the gas. With blood running down into Ed’s eyes, and barely able to see over the dash, the cruiser accelerated down the road.

Although Manley now had a loaded shotgun, Ed had some much-needed distance between him and Manley.

Ed picked up his glasses off the floor, and to his surprise, saw his 357-service-revolver on the passenger floorboard. Thinking, “this is great, I can get back into the fight,” Ed quickly picked it up and opened the cylinder talking out the spent rounds, putting them in his pocket. “Don’t know why but I was thinking evidence,” Ed said. Pulling his speedloader from his duty belt, Ed thought, “at least we can both shoot now.”

Grabbing the microphone, Ed yelled, “735!” (Ed’s unit number) “10-3!” (Officer in Trouble) “I've been shot! Bear's been shot!”

Much to Ed’s relief, Deputies were already enroute, Ed had missed several check-ins. Dispatch radioed everyone to Ed’s location. Mutual aid was dispatched from Plymouth Police Departments and Ohio Highway Patrol.

Ed swiftly updated responding units with a description of Manley and advised that Manley had Ed’s shotgun with 5 rounds 00 buckshot.

By this time Ed had pulled into the driveway of Pete Hayes, his original complainant. Pete came out to Ed’s cruiser and said, "Ed he is walking down the road."

Ed said, “Pete I know he shot me. Get back in the house!”

Ed, fearing for Bears life, contacted the Shiloh Fire Department and asked Fire Chief Chuck Huston to bring his Bronco, which had lights and sirens, to transport Bear to Dr. Wally Wright. Bear was still whimpering in the back of Ed’s cruiser.

Much to Ed’s amazement, a vehicle pulled up with two farmers carrying shotguns. The farmers had heard Ed’s call for help on the scanner and were there to protect him. “You know Joe, It took me 7 years of looking to find out who they were,” Ed Commented. “As soon as the first cruiser pulled up, they put the shotguns in the trunk and left.”

Chuck from Shiloh Fire Department arrived just after the first cruiser, which was a Plymouth Police Officer. Ed quickly got Bear out of his cruiser. Bear walked over to the Bronco and put her front paws on the tailgate and Chuck, and Ed lifted Bear in. “She was tough,” Ed said. “I told her, Bear heel, and she did, load, and she put her front feet on the back of the vehicle.” “All this is with three bullets in her chest,” Ed winced, “I knew she didn't want to leave me because she started to get out of the Bronco.”

Ed gave a brief rundown to Capt. Kyler who arrived on scene by that time. Capt. Kyler ordered Ed to get in the Shiloh Fire Department Emergency Squad. “They wanted me to lay down,” commented Ed. “Not going to happen, I thought. So, I sat up all the way to Mansfield,”

As the EMS were desperately trying to get the bleeding on Ed’s head under control, Ed sat on the cot. EMS screamed toward the ER at Mansfield General Hospital. “I remember seeing cruiser after cruiser going North on State Route 13. I saw cruisers from everywhere going North,” Ed said.

“When I arrived at Mansfield General Hospital,” Ed explained, “I walked from the squad carrying my vest, shirt and gun-belt under my left arm. When I walked in, they asked where the shot Deputy was? I said, ‘You are looking at him.’ I smiled, and said, Thank God and the DuPont Corporation for inventing Kevlar.”

Someone had called Jane, Ed’s Wife, from the Sheriff’s Dispatch and told her what had happened. Ed recalled, “all they told here was I was shot, Bear was shot, and they didn't know anything else. She drove to the hospital by herself,” Ed said disappointedly. “No one said for her to wait and they would come and get her. She brought me a change of clothes, because she knew that my uniform would be going into evidence.”

“Jane stopped at the vets to check on Bear, because she knew that would be my first question for her,” Ed said. “She told me Bear was still alive but hurt badly. Jane said she got to Dr. Wright's office before Chuck arrived.”

Jane said When Chuck opened the back of their Bronco, Bear was badly bleeding and didn't move. Jane said, “Come to Mommy,” and Bear crawled into her arms. Wally, from Dr. Wright’s office, took Bear inside. Jane then washed all of Bear's blood off her arms and started toward the hospital.

The doctor came in and looked at Ed’s chest first. Ed had a burn, about the size of a half dollar, on his chest, at the base of his sternum, from the kinetic energy of a 357 bullet. The back of Ed’s left shoulder had a 1.5" gouge and his head wound was still bleeding. He also had two broken fingers on his right hand.

By this time Sheriff Petty was there, Ed gave him a complete verbal account. Just as Ed finished, Jane came running into the ER room.

Ed kind of smiled and said, “A little back story for you, I had done a K-9 demo earlier in the day with Deputy Roger Casler at the Lucas High School. I had not worn my vest because it was going to be a long day. I stopped at the Sheriff Department for a Watch Meeting at 2p.m., and to pick up Jane and our paychecks. By then it was a little after 3 p.m. when I got home, I grabbed my vest and give Jane our paychecks. She was mad because the checks would not show up in our account till Monday. She refused to kiss me goodbye.” “Although, to be fair, she had not been sleeping since she was on third shift and was grumpy.”

They brought a gurney into the ER Exam Room and loaded Ed onto it, to go to X-Ray. Ed said, “Jane was walking beside the gurney holding my hand. I looked up and said I bet I get a G-- D--- kiss before I go to work next time, huh! Now you know the reason for the back story.”

“They x-rayed my head and found it empty,” Ed jokingly commented. “They took me back down to the emergency department and put me back in the exam room. I was really wanting a cigar by that time. Jane's mother, Irene and identical twin sister, Jean Murray arrived. Jean was a Greenwich police officer and was armed. No one was going to hurt either of us.”

Ed continued, “The Doctor told me he wanted to keep me overnight hooked to a heart monitor because they were worried about a heart attack due to blunt trauma. I told him I was not staying. The Sheriff walked into the exam room and the Doctor looked at him and said you tell that loudmouth SOB I am keeping him. Needless to say, the Sheriff ordered me to stay.”

Mansfield General Hospital had set Ed up in a private room in Cardiac Intensive Care, Jane had brought Ed’s portable radio so he could listen to the search. While lying there, the radio blared out a report of two shotgun rounds being fired in the area of Swartz Potato Farm, but nothing was found.

The ER room was a busy place, with friends and family. Ed remembered that everyone kept saying they didn't know who the suspect was. Jane kept insisting we get a photo of the escaped prisoner from the Ohio State Reformatory. Finally, I asked Jane to contact the Sheriff’s Office and have them bring me the picture of the escapee from the Ohio State Reformatory that had occurred 3 days earlier.

When the picture arrived, Ed started looking at the face of Mark Manley of Bryan, Ohio, however, the individual in the picture was clean shaven and had a buzz haircut. Ed saw that It was Mark Manley’s Intake Picture from 2 or 3 years earlier. “They were supposed to update the pictures every year,” Ed thought, “but they obviously hadn’t done that.”

Ed hadn't made the connection between the hairy person that attacked him and the no hair escapee, until he remembered they both had acne scarred cheeks. “Positive ID! Great!” Ed thought. Then he saw that Mark Manley was sent to prison for attempting to kill a Police Officer with his own gun, “that SOB did it again!”

Ed never slept that night, Jane stayed with him, right by his side the whole time. Ed listened to his radio and gave information to the responding units from his hospital room. When they released Ed the next morning, Jane took him home, but not before stopping to see Bear at Dr. Wright's Clinic.

Wally and a nurse had stayed with Bear all night. When Ed walked in, Bear lifted her head and looked at Ed, no words could express the joy he felt to see Bear alive. Ed just sat down and held her for a while.

After Bear came home from the Vet Office, we slept with her on the floor for 3 weeks, because she couldn’t climb the stairs. Bear meant the world to us.

“There is no way I can ever repay Wally,” Ed said. “Bear survived the incident and was left with all 3 bullets in her body till the day she died. The Vet said they would wall themselves off in the body and it would probably kill her if he tried to remove them. She never had any problems with them. Wally called her a "’super dog.’"

After Ed got home, he slept all day, but the following day, he joined the Manhunt. Ed was riding with Capt. Larry Faith and Lt. Jim Burch of the Sheriff’s Detective Bureau when they heard a call come in from the Willard area, of a possible sighting in the Celeryville area.

Ed immediately pulled his brand-new Stainless-Steel Colt Python and checked the load. Capt. Faith turned and asked Ed what he was doing? Ed responded, "I got shot by the bastard. I am not going to be caught off guard again." Looking back that was the first indication of PTSD, but back then they didn’t even think of that.

Mark Manley’s body was found dead on Swartz Potato Farm property, Monday March 15th, 1984 with a self-inflicted gunshot wound from the very shotgun that he had taken from Ed.

I turned to Ed’s wife Jane and asked, “what do you remember when they called you and said Ed was shot?”

“When I got the call, Ed and Bear had been shot, Jane started out saying, I didn't really know what to do. No one was coming to get me, so I knew I just had to take control. I called my family in Willard. They said they were going to meet me at the hospital Emergency Room in Mansfield.”

Jane continued, “Bear was a Police Dog, I knew she had been hurt, but I didn't know if she was alive. I was told Bear was on her way to Wally Wright's and I was so afraid she was dead. If not, then I knew she would be scared, and I had to go there for her and for Ed. It was the right decision and one I would not change. Bear was scared, but she walked. I knew Ed was being treated if he was alive. He would want me to check on Bear.”

Jane said, “the rest is as Ed has said. What Ed hasn't said was the hell that followed. After Manley was found, Ed received NO, counseling and NO treatment. No one recognized PTSD then. Sheriff Petty did everything he could to force Ed out of the career he loved. He did not want to work with an officer who had put his life on the line and was suffering from trauma. There was no support, no talking, nothing.”

“Sheriff Petty eventually won, Ed was forced out, and that is exactly what Sheriff Petty did,” Jane stated, “they didn't stop there either. Petty and his second in command at that time told me that they wanted Bear. This was after they came like thieves in the night, at 1 a.m., and took his cruiser. Ed didn't deal with Petty and his Chief Deputy. I did.”

They told Jane Sheriff Petty wanted Ed to come into the Sheriff's Office and sign papers to transfer ownership of Bear. Jane said that Sheriff Petty told her that If Ed did not come into the Sheriff’s Office, they would shoot Bear, “which I think would have caused a major meltdown for Ed, So I told them I would sign the transfer.”

“Sheriff Petty kept saying if Ed did not come into the office and stressed, they would have Bear killed. That’s no joke,” said Jane. “Thanks to Attorney Rolf Whitney, I did sign the transfer papers, and Bear was ours. The way Ed was treated by Sheriff Petty and his chief deputy just added to the emotional trauma that cost him the career he dearly loved. Ed still loves it to this day.”

“No officer shot in the line of duty should ever have to go through what Ed and I did. Once he was shot, I have protected him from that moment on, and will until the day we are called to God's House,” Jane pointed out.

Ed stressed, that he is not telling this to ask for sympathy, or to tick anyone off. “My reasons are that I have never really sat down and recorded this event. It has been 36 years and it is as fresh in my mind as the day it happened. I would love to say I retired from the Sheriff Department, but that didn't happen. I have lived the life I was dealt with few regrets. Jane and I just celebrated 38 years together, we could have had only 2. I have had a few careers and have enjoyed them. I still can say I was a Richland County Deputy Sheriff K-9 Specialist with pride. I can say I had the Best Partner you could ask for, together we were Guardians of the Night.”

Bear passed away on March 25th, 1989, she was buried with full honors and placed in the Ohio Police K-9 Memorial in Amelia, Ohio.

I asked Ed, “what was the most memorable case you and Bear had worked on during your time at the Richland County Sheriff’s Office?”

Ed’s facial expression changed again, like I had struck a nerve. “I was called to assist Ashland County Sheriff’s Office when Detective Sturgill was shot and killed, me and Bear tracked a suspect for over 3 miles if I remember right.

On Saturday, January 30, 2017, Former Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy, Ed Ernsberger was finally recognized for his service by The Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association.

Ed received the Medal of Valor in a ceremony by the current sheriff, Steve Sheldon.

It read as follows:

(For extreme and dedicated action taken on the 13th day of April 1984, when dealing with an escaped convict, from the Ohio State Reformatory. While being engaged in police activity at the time of his injury did sustain a serious injury (gunshot wound) in the line of duty that did result in a felonious assault by escaped convict Mark Manley.)

“Friday, the 13th of April 1984 was like any other night on patrol, until 7:15 PM. The events that followed haunt me to this day,” retired Deputy Ed Ernsberger said. “Being shot at point blank range is not an easy thing to get over.”

Sheriff of Richland County, Steve Sheldon attempted to present the award to Mr. Ernsberger, but quickly became choked up instead, opting for a big hug. “It was back years ago, when I was a deputy too,” Sheldon said. One could tell the memory was still fresh in their minds.

Retired Deputy, Ed Ernsberger started out by commenting, “I can say honestly, I don’t deserve this award, but I will accept it for Bear (his K-9). If it was not for her, this award would be presented to my wife Jane, because I would not be here.”

“Bear was family,” said Jane Ernsberger. “She was like our child. She was a 145lbs full blooded Rottweiler. She would hit like a tank.”

“First time I met her she ran to the cruiser with a flattened basketball in her mouth,” Ed concluded.

God Bless you Ed Ernsberger my friend and brother from another. I’m proud to tell your story.


bottom of page