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On Thursday, March 14, 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 Monday, March 18, 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)

Man arrested in connection with March 14 homicide

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A man has been arrested in connection with a fatal shooting that occurred in Yellow Springs on Thursday, March 14. 

Following a three-day “manhunt,” and amid an ongoing investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, or BCI, Jackson Isaiah Bleything, 22, a Springfield resident and 2020 graduate of Yellow Springs High School, was taken into custody on Sunday, March 17. 

In a press conference on Monday, March 18, Yellow Springs Police Chief Paige Burge declined to share the name of the shooting victim “out of respect for the family.” She added that no additional injuries associated with the homicide were incurred between Thursday and Sunday nights. 

Bleything, who is currently in Xenia’s Greene County Jail, is charged with felonious assault, a third-degree felony; tampering with evidence, another third-degree felony; and possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony. 

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

An 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. 

When the “lone officer” responding to the incident learned of the shooting, a “signal 99” was issued, 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 on Monday 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 explained. 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 on Monday officials worked for more than 20 hours collecting evidence and interviewing neighbors and potential witnesses.  

Though the investigation is still ongoing at present, it culminated on Sunday, March 17, when the Village of Yellow Springs reported that a ”22-year-old, light-skinned Black male, 5/11”, 155 pounds, black hair, brown eyes” who was considered to be “armed and dangerous,” was spotted near Gaunt Park. 

At approximately 6:15 p.m. on Sunday, Yellow Springs Police received a 911 call from a W. South College Street resident who answered their door to Bleything pointing a gun at them. 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,” 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 Schools students were notified schools would be closed Monday, March 18,  “out of an abundance of caution.’ 

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 via that there was a “subject in custody.” By 2:34 a.m., Monday, March 18, 22-year-old 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. 

Local concerns voiced

Several local residents, as well as reporters from the News and other area news outlets, were present at the 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 we have 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- 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.”

“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 on Thursday or the person approached at gunpoint the following Sunday were known to Bleything, nor whether or not 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.”

As more information is made available, the News will continue to report on the March 14 homicide, the March 17 assault, Bleything’s arrest and the ongoing criminal investigation, as well as community concerns regarding the response from law enforcement.  

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