Northwood police identify woman killed in overnight gun battle

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NORTHWOOD (13abc Action News) - A gun battle with Northwood and Oregon police turned deadly early Friday, but no officers were hurt in the shootout.

Oregon police Chief Mike Navarre said at a news conference the officers “performed admirably. They were very lucky. Clearly these officers were defending themselves.”

Erica Michelle Lauro, 22, from Florida shot at police. She was killed. A companion, Jack Welenski, 30, of Illinois was shot in the leg and arm. Another suspect identified as Kenneth Maldonado of Florida was taken into custody. Welenski faces several charges including attempted murder of a police officer. Chief Navarre said “these are some bad folks” and added the suspects were armed with weapons including a sawed-off shotgun.

The incident began at 1:09 AM when officers were called to Icons Eatery in Oregon following a report of a disturbance. Three suspects, including a woman, got into a confrontation with other patrons which led to an argument outside in the parking lot. One person sought treatment at a local hospital after being struck, according to police.

When police arrived, they pursued the suspects in a vehicle which led to a home in the Aztec Subdivision in Northwood where police believe the suspects tried to steal a license plate. Police said they believe the suspects attempted an ambush on police with two of the suspects hiding behind a car while firing at officers. Five of six officers exchanged gunfire and two suspects were hit.

According to Chief Navarre, during the shooting, one bullet pierced the garage door on a home in that Northwood neighborhood. He said one bullet penetrated a wall inside that home. Chief Navarre said this incident could have been worse because there were residents living inside that home.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is the lead agency investigating the fatal shooting while Northwood and Oregon police conduct internal reviews of the officer-involved shootings.

Chief Navarre said there will be police dash-cam video released at a later time. No body cameras were used.

The Oregon police department released this statement from Chief Navarre Friday afternoon:

"Early this morning, we all received a stark reminder of just how dangerous the job of a police officer can be. A verbal dispute in the 3100 Block of Navarre Avenue escalated into a felonious assault. Oregon police officers were dispatched to the scene and arrived moments later. A suspect vehicle was spotted fleeing the scene and was pursued by Sgt. Ken Reno. The pursuit continued into the City of Northwood and ended in a quiet neighborhood with a gun battle involving 3 suspects and police officers from both Oregon and Northwood. Officer Tim Stecker came within inches (literally) of being struck by a rifle slug fired from a sawed off shotgun through his open driver’s door window by a suspect who had hidden behind a parked vehicle in a driveway. Officer Stecker, along with Sgt. Reno, Sgt. Jeffrey Martin and police officers from Northwood Police engaged in a gun battle. All performed admirably. We are all extremely grateful that no police officers were hurt during this exchange of gun fire. All 3 suspects were armed and it is believed that at least 2 of the 3 fired at the officers. One of the suspects was killed and another was wounded. As this investigation continues, we will learn more about what these 3 individuals were doing here in Northwest Ohio. A police officer’s job is not an easy one. When they leave home and their families at the beginning of each shift, there is no guarantee that they will return safely. Thank you."

Three veteran officers from Oregon and two from Northwood were involved. The two surviving suspects were expected to be arraigned in Perrysburg Municipal Court on Friday.