CANTON – Richard J. Nelson is accused of walking into the Bob Evans at 9:30 a.m., going behind a counter and opening fire, shooting waitress Rebecca Jean Rogers, 38, multiple times in a back hallway.
Authorities say it was a domestic-related shooting. Nelson and Rogers had been in a relationship, but recently separated, Police Chief Jack Angelo said Friday.
Nelson previously had been charged with felonious assault and domestic violence several times, but grand juries opted not to indict him in those cases.
Rogers was taken to Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital where she later died from her injuries.
Nelson, 54, fled the scene but was arrested around 8:30 p.m., southeast of East Canton. Angelo said a police dog nabbed Nelson following a foot chase. The U.S. Marshals Service, Stark County Sheriff’s Office and an air unit from the Ohio State Highway Patrol assisted in his capture.
What happened at the Bob Evans in Canton?
A Bob Evans employee who dialed 911 can be heard telling people to “get down, tell them to get down.”
When the dispatcher asks whether anyone has been shot, she says she doesn’t know. She and the others are hiding under tables.
“We can’t get out. We’re scared.”
She says she’s worried about another employee who ran into the back. She thinks the gunman is that employee’s boyfriend.
“Just stay calm and stay quiet,” the dispatcher says.
About a half dozen customers and six to eight employees were inside the restaurant when the shooting occurred.
In one of the 911 calls, a customer reported hearing four or five shots. “All of us just went running out. There were some older people and my husband just made sure they got out.”
And in yet another call, a woman tells another dispatcher that she is with another waitress, who can be heard in the background. The waitress tells her that the gunman “aimed for” Rogers.
Police were called to a report of multiple shots fired with multiple victims, Angelo said at the scene.
“As tragic as this is, it could’ve been far worse,” he said.
Domestic violence often turns deadly
Rogers had filed a police report against Nelson in March 2017 after he entered her home. Nelson was charged with stalking by menacing and burglary and taken to the Stark County Jail, according to court records.
But later, Rogers was found guilty of filing a false police report in the case.
Angelo described Nelson as “clearly a dangerous person” before he was located.
Domestic violence has soared during the COVID-19 pandemic across the United States and around the world as survivors are more often trapped at home with their abusers.
NON-PROFITS: Paying for hotel rooms for women seeking shelter
If you are a victim of domestic violence, The National Domestic Violence Hotline allows you to speak confidentially with trained advocates online or by the phone, which they recommend for those who think their online activity is being monitored by their abuser (800-799-7233). They can help survivors develop a plan to achieve safety for themselves and their children.
Safe Horizon’s hotline offers crisis counseling, safety planning, and assistance finding shelters 1(800) 621-HOPE (4673). It also has a chat feature where you can reach out for help from a computer or phone confidentially.