Grove City Record

Boy killed in gunman's rampage

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A 9-year-old boy is dead after being shot in Grove City Friday morning, Nov. 22.

The attack on the child Nov. 22 began a shooting spree by the suspect, Danny Thornton, 47, who soon after shot a woman in southeast Columbus, then was killed in a shootout with SWAT officers just before 10 a.m., in a Walmart parking lot in northeast Columbus.

Grove City police said at Thornton at approximately 7:30 a.m. came to the residence of his former girlfriend Nicole Fitzpatrick at 2716 Independence Way, and shot her son, Jaiden Dixon, 9, when Jaiden opened the door.

Jaiden was a fourth-grade student at Monterey Elementary School in Grove City. He died at Nationwide Children's Hospital Saturday, Nov. 23.

After shooting Jaiden in Grove City, Thornton reportedly drove to the dental office of Mark Pitts at 4409 Crossroads Center, off Hamilton Road in southeast Columbus, where another ex-girlfriend, Vicki Vertin, 42, works. He greeted her in the lobby before shooting her and walking out of the office. Vertin, 42, was in critical condition at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center but expected to survive.

Police say they don't know Thornton's motive for the attacks. But he reportedly called two friends between the second shooting and being located by police in his car in the parking outside the Easton Walmart at 3900 Morse Road, confessed to killing two people and said he would not be taken alive by police.

A Columbus police officer reportedly was hit in the shootout at Walmart, whether by a shot fired by Thornton or fragments ricocheting off the vehicle fired by police. He also was hospitalized at Grant but was expected to be released over the weekend.

Grove City Police Capt. Jeff Pearson said the case is "still evolving."

The South-Western City School District's crisis team, which includes counselors, teachers and psychologists, has been at Monterey Elementary since Friday to provide assistance to students and teachers, said Sandy Nekoloff, the district's executive director of communications and community relations.

"They are there in case anyone feels a need to talk about things," Nekoloff said. "My understanding is that there have been a few students who have felt the need to come in and talk to them."

After the shooting, three schools located near Dixon's home -- Monterey, Highland Park and Richard Avenue elementary schools -- were put on a "stay put order," meaning no students could leave the school, she said.

Dixon attended Monterey but lived in the Highland Park attendance area, Nekoloff said.

The Monterey PTA and Dixon's aunt, Shannon Fitzpatrick-Magana, have set up a memorial fund to raise money to offset the family's expenses and "provide opportunities for Jaiden's siblings" at youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/jaiden-dixon-memorial-fund/109964.

The fundraiser's web page describes Jaiden as being "a sweet, compassionate boy who always had a smile and a hug for anyone (especially animals) who met him. More than $17,000 toward a goal of $50,000 had been raised through Monday morning.

"He was a loving son, brother and friend who lit up every room he entered," the site said.

--with reports from The Columbus Dispatch

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