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On Thursday, March 15, Yellow Springs Police, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations and law enforcement officials from surrounding jurisdictions responded to a fatal shooting at a South High Street residence. YS Police Chief Paige Burge officially confirmed on Monday, March 19, that 22-year-old Springfield resident and 2020 YSHS graduate Jackson Bleything was arrested Sunday night in connection with the homicide. (Photo by Matt Minde)

EXTENDED COVERAGE | March 14 homicide upheaves Yellow Springs

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A 22-year-old man with ties to the village has been arrested in connection with a fatal shooting that occurred in Yellow Springs on Thursday, March 14.

Following a four-day manhunt, and amid an ongoing investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, or BCI, Jackson Isaiah Bleything, a Springfield resident and 2020 graduate of Yellow Springs High School, was taken into custody Sunday, March 17.

According to documents from the Xenia Municipal Court, Bleything is the “primary suspect” in Thursday’s fatal shooting. 

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Bleything, who is currently being held in Xenia’s Greene County Jail, was arrested in Springfield by Clark County deputies and BCI agents on charges of felonious assault, a third-degree felony; tampering with evidence, another third-degree felony; and possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony — all charges stemming from a separate, but related incident that occurred Sunday.

Jackson Isaiah Bleything, 22, was arrested on Sunday, March 17 in connection with a homicide that occurred on Thursday, March 14. The 2020 Yellow Springs High School graduate is currently being held in Greene County Jail on charges of felonious assault, tampering with evidence and possession of criminal tools. (Submitted photo)

In a press conference Monday, March 18, Yellow Springs Police Chief Paige Burge declined to share the name of the shooting victim “out of respect for the family,” though a family member was able to confirm for the News that the victim was a 71-year-old woman and village resident. No other injuries were incurred.

The situation, Burge said, began late Thursday, March 14, when the Yellow Springs Police Department responded at 7:45 p.m. to a report of an assault at a residence in the 600 block of South High Street.

A lone on-duty officer was dispatched to that call along with Miami Township Fire-Rescue. En route to the South High Street residence, dispatch relayed additional information to the responding officer that the victim of the alleged assault had possibly suffered a gunshot wound.

Burge said that when the officer responding to the incident learned of the shooting, they issued a “signal 99,” a distress call, which spurred over two dozen law enforcement officials from surrounding jurisdictions to respond to the scene.

By 9:35 p.m. that evening, the surrounding area was being treated as an active crime scene by BCI.

Burge said that, although a suspect had not been apprehended Thursday night, she and other law enforcement, including BCI, determined that neighboring residents were not in danger.

“The incident … appeared as an isolated event and it was determined at that time that no further threat to public safety ensued,” Burge said.

“An initial statement was released to the public [via social media], explaining the escalated police response, and informing residents that an ongoing investigation existed,” she added. “This is standard practice for law enforcement agencies and also came at the direction of BCI to ensure ample time was given to properly investigate.”

That investigation continued through the weekend, Burge said. In a joint effort, BCI and Yellow Springs Police worked to establish an “investigative timeline to proceed” and “draft a statement to further update the public.” Burge said officials worked for more than 20 hours collecting evidence and interviewing neighbors and potential witnesses.

Though the investigation is ongoing, it culminated Sunday, March 17.

At approximately 6:15 p.m. Sunday, Yellow Springs Police received a 911 call from a West South College Street resident who reportedly answered their door to a man identified as Bleything pointing a gun at them. Xenia Municipal Court documents state that Jackson was observed “ringing the doorbell several times” and “hiding himself behind a covered area of the [resident’s] porch.” Police commenced their manhunt with fervor.

Later, at 9:31 p.m. — over three hours after the 911 call — the Village notified local residents via its Facebook page to “be on the lookout” for a person considered to be “armed and dangerous,” to “stay in place” and to “refrain from answering doors,” as BCI and Yellow Springs Police conducted their search. At 9:58 p.m., parents and guardians of YS school district students were notified schools would be closed Monday, March 18, “out of an abundance of caution.” The Antioch School and Yellow Springs Community Children’s Center also decided on Sunday night to close on Monday.

At 10:19 p.m. a Hyper-Reach emergency notification with text identical to the earlier Facebook post was also issued to area residents.

At 10:59 p.m., the Village canceled its warning via Facebook and Hyper-Reach, and notified the public that there was a “subject in custody.” Investigators had found Bleything in an apartment on Willowdale Road — about 16 miles from Yellow Springs.

By 2:34 a.m., Monday, March 18, Bleything was booked at Greene County Jail.

The State of Ohio is requesting a $1 million bond because “the defendant is the prime suspect in the fatal shooting of an elderly female,” according to the prosecutor’s office.

“The prosecutor’s office believes a sufficient bond is necessary to protect public safety,” Burge said.

On Monday, March 18, the Village of Yellow Springs held a press conference during which Police Chief Paige Burge, center, confirmed that Jackson Bleything had been arrested the previous night in connection to a homicide that took place Thursday, March 14. Joining her at the podium were Village Council President Kevin Stokes, left, and Village Manager Johnnie Burns. (Video still)


Police response criticized

Several local residents, as well as reporters from the News and other area news outlets, were present at Monday’s press conference, and asked questions following Burge’s prepared statement.

Chief among the concerns of local residents: Why didn’t the YS Police Department release more information after the initial March 14 incident, including the information that a resident had been killed that evening?

“I respect and appreciate that the community is concerned,” Burge said. “While it’s important to maintain public safety — and we felt that we had done so in that [March 14] situation — it’s equally as important to make sure we maintain the integrity of any investigation to ensure that justice is received for victims in this case.”

She later added that it’s “standard procedure” for both the BCI and YSPD not to release “details about any ongoing investigation until [there is] more definitive information to release.”

Those present also questioned why a Hyper-Reach message with instructions on how to remain safe, like the one issued on March 17, was not issued following the March 14 shooting.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” Burge replied. “If we were able to know then what we [knew] on Sunday, I would absolutely have been able to give that notice. However, again, we believed that this was an isolated incident [and] … did not believe there was a threat to public safety.”

Burge went on to attribute the delay in issuing a Hyper-Reach alert to local residents on March 17 to an influx of “2[00] to 300 phone calls from the public” following the initial posting of the alert to the Village of Yellow Springs Facebook page.

Responding to a question regarding why the police force amassed on South High Street on March 14 did not remain in the village until a suspect was in custody, Burge said the YS Police Department was approaching the situation with “the best possible outcome in mind.”

Victim’s Family statement

The following statement was sent to the News on Tuesday, March 19, from the homicide victim’s family:

“We are mourning the immense loss in our family, but we also want to send our love to the Bleything family. We just want them to know we care for them, and we know this is a hard time for them. We are a community and we just feel everyone needs to come together in times like these and show support and love to all those involved. We would also like to thank the community for their support during this hard time.

Although we feel there could have been more done on March 14, we are happy that a suspect was apprehended and is no longer a danger. We hope to have justice for our beloved family member, the enormous community that loved her and our community of Yellow Springs.”

—Shannon Stireman, Nathan Larson and other members of the Stireman family

“We were making efforts during that time frame to reach out to this individual to try to make contact to see if we could find a peaceful resolution,” she said, adding that police spent the time between the two incidents attempting to “definitively establish” Bleything’s connection to the March 14 shooting.

Citing the ongoing investigation, Burge said she could not comment on whether the person killed Thursday or the person approached at gunpoint the following Sunday were known to Bleything, nor whether Bleything had been identified Thursday, but was not considered “armed and dangerous” until Sunday.

When asked whether charges related to the March 14 homicide will be added to Bleything’s record in the future, Burge said the investigative goal is “to have someone held accountable for what happened on Thursday evening.”

Later Monday night, at the regularly scheduled Village Council meeting, more Yellow Springs residents aired their concerns over the police response and a perceived shortcomings of communication from the Village.

“There was a colossal lapse in judgment from Chief Burge,” villager Pan Reich told Council, regarding the Village’s decision to notify residents of a potential threat three-and-a-half hours after Bleything pointed a gun at the West South College Street resident.

“We should have been told to turn our lights off, lock our doors, stay out of the yard and don’t walk down the street no more than 10–15 minutes after [Chief Burge] found out [about the threat],” Reich said. “We need an apology from her and a statement saying this will never happen again.”

“My trust has been completely effaced,” villager Art Boulet said, echoing Reich’s concerns.

Boulet lambasted Village government and the police department for an alleged “lack of communication” regarding Bleything being at large for three days.

“This past weekend, I did a lot of things around the village with my family,” Boulet said. “I did all those things on the fundamental premise that there was not a suspect who just committed homicide at large in my community.”

Boutlet asked Council: “Do we, as villagers, have any reasonable expectation that we are safe? If that safety is jeopardized, do we have any reasonable expectation that we will be notified?”

Local resident Jeff Campbell agreed with Reich and Boulet, but added that the Village ought to bolster its police department and hire additional officers.

“The way things are going in this country, it’s not going to get any better,” Campbell said.

Villager Dino Pallotta lauded the police response to both Thursday and Sunday’s incidents, and asked for more patience from his fellow villagers when an active investigation is underway.

“Let’s put things in perspective,” Pallotta said. “When BCI comes here, they run the show. We’re a small village. We don’t have the resources of Columbus or Cincinnati. They’re going to run it their way. Whether we agree with it or not, they got to an end result, which is good. We’re safe as a village.”

Council Vice President Gavin DeVore Leonard said he appreciated hearing citizens’ concerns.

“These pieces of feedback are heard,” he said. “I have no reason to believe that there won’t be a serious look at how this was handled.”

Both DeVore Leonard and Council President Kevin Stokes reminded local residents of the importance of signing up for Hyper-Reach to receive future emergency alerts via email or voice and text messages; to do so, go to bit.ly/43FLJOF.

“Sign up so you can be more easily informed about all things regarding emergency or urgent issues,” Stokes said. “We found out just a few weeks ago, when we had the storms, just how valuable of a tool this can be.”

As more information is made available, the News will continue to report on the March 14 homicide, Bleything’s arrest and the ongoing criminal investigation, as well as community concerns regarding the response from law enforcement.

*Lauren “Chuck” Shows contributed to this article.

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