LINCOLN–(AP Apr. 13)–A veteran police officer was killed when his cruiser was struck by another vehicle after he made a traffic stop in eastern Nebraska, authorities said Saturday.

The Nebraska State Patrol said in a news release that Ceresco Police Officer Ross Bartlett, 54, stopped a car about a mile south of Ceresco on Highway 77 about 7:30 p.m. Friday. Both vehicles were parked on the shoulder, and the driver and officer were both seated in their vehicles, when a pickup truck rear-ended the police cruiser, pushing it into the stopped car, the State Patrol statement said.

First responders arrived a few minutes later and found bystanders attempting to help Bartlett and the others involved in the crash. He flown to a hospital in Lincoln, where he was pronounced dead.

The driver of the car, a 27-year-old Lincoln man, suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries. The pickup driver, a 49-year-old man from the city of Crete, was not seriously hurt.

Bartlett had served since 2017 as both an officer with the Ceresco Police Department and as an investigator for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, the State Patrol said. He also served with the Ceresco Volunteer Fire Department. He left behind a wife and daughter.

“He really brought a lot to our department,” a shaken Ceresco Police Chief Tony Hernandez said at a news conference. “He wrote a lot of our grants. … He was a really, really really professional officer. And his personality was outstanding. I’m going to miss him dearly, and I’m blessed that our paths crossed.”

Funeral services were pending. Gov. Jim Pillen ordered that flags be flown at half-staff until 5 p.m. on the day of the officer’s burial.

“This is a terrible loss for those who worked with Officer Bartlett through NDCS and those in the community who knew him through his law enforcement work,” Pillen said in a statement. “He was a dedicated public servant who answered the noble call to serve in various communities throughout his 30-year career.”

The governor’s office said Bartlett started as an officer with the Valentine Police Department and went on to serve with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, Madison Police Department, Madison County Sheriff’s Department and Newman Grove Police Department.

The State Patrol said it would present its findings from the crash investigation to the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office for a charging decision.

Ceresco is about 20 miles north of Lincoln.

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