By Linda Dillman
An emergency situation prompted Canal Winchester Schools officials to close down schools on Dec. 10.
During the early morning hours of Dec. 10, deputies from the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Department were dispatched to Canal Winchester High School on a report of a motorist operating recklessly on a softball field and causing damage.
According to the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office: the deputies located a red pick-up truck, which had been allegedly stolen in Columbus, that had crashed into a set of bleachers and sustained heavy front end damage. While deputies were inspecting the truck and searching for the driver, they heard what they perceived to be gunshots coming from an area behind them. The deputies turned toward the sound and saw a male standing near their parked cruisers. The male then fled the area on foot.
Additional police officers from Lithopolis, Franklin County, Columbus, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Madison Township, and Obetz responded to the scene to assist in the search for the male.
Canal Winchester Schools Superintendent James Sotlar said he was notified of the incident at 6:25 a.m. and classes in all buildings were canceled for the day. No students were involved in the incident.
According to the sheriff’s department, later, during the ensuing investigation, deputies found and apprehended the male as he hid in a wooded area south of the Westchester Golf Course.
The male, identified as Joseph Brown, was taken into custody and transported to the Franklin County Jail where he was booked on a charge of criminal trespassing and a probation violation.
Sotlar said in emergency situations his main goal is always the safety and security of students and staff.
“The individual involved in the situation was on the loose and hiding somewhere in the area. Until the person was found, I did not believe it was safe for us to have school,” said Sotlar in stating his justification for canceling classes for the day districtwide.
There are no plans at this time to change the district’s response to crisis incidents.
However, Sotlar said he and his team always engage in an after-action review to assess what went well and potential changes that need to be made.
According to the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, early reports that there was more than one suspect involved in this incident were determined to be inaccurate by investigators and there is no known threat to the community stemming from this incident.
The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office’s Investigations Bureau is continuing to investigate the incident.
A 22-year-old man and two children, ages nine and six, were murdered on the evening of Dec. 7 while they sat in a vehicle on Kodiak Drive in Columbus near Canal Winchester.
According to Columbus Police, two suspects fired gunshots into the vehicle killing the man and the two children. The suspects then fled in a nearby waiting vehicle.
The children were students in the Canal Winchester Schools.
The case remains under investigation.