Whitehall News


Police nab suspect connected with deadly Whitehall crash


Whitehall police Dec. 4 arrested a man in connection with a Nov. 30 accident that claimed the life of an east Columbus man and seriously injured a Whitehall police officer.

Acting on tips, Whitehall police had spent the past several days on the South Side of Columbus, searching for Matthew S. Jones, 29.

Whitehall police arrested Jones at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, following a short vehicle pursuit and foot chase, Whitehall Sgt. Dan Kelso said.

Police were within about 10 minutes of arresting him the previous day but arrested him Dec. 4 after observing him in a parking lot engaged in what was believed to be drug activity, Kelso said.

“We didn’t know exactly where he was,” Kelso said, only that he was believed to be in the immediate area.

Police had followed a tip Dec. 3 that he was at a trailer park, but they missed Jones by about 10 minutes, Kelso said.

An undercover Whitehall officer observed Jones and another person meet in a parking lot shortly after 10 a.m. Dec. 4 and followed Jones.

The undercover officer called Columbus police, who attempted a traffic stop on Jones.

Jones fled for a short distance before running away from the vehicle and into a neighborhood.

A Whitehall officer caught Jones on the porch of a residence in the 400 block of East Woodrow Avenue.

“He ran onto a porch and was pretending to talk on a cellphone. He was trying to act like he lived there,” Kelso said.

Whitehall officer Enrique Ortega, a four-year veteran of the department, was admitted in serious condition at Grant Hospital following a crash at 4:30 a.m. Nov. 30 at East Main Street and Beechwood Avenue.

The accident claimed the life of 78-year-old Vernon L. Lightle, of Collingwood Avenue in Columbus. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital, police said.

Within 24 hours, Ortega had been upgraded to stable condition but remained hospitalized Dec. 3 with multiple bone fractures and other internal injuries. He is expected to make a full recovery.

Whitehall police had issued a warrant for Jones in connection with the fatal crash.

Jones is charged with felony fleeing, aggravated menacing, violation of a protection order, domestic-violence threats and failure to comply with the order of a police officer.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 30, Jones allegedly called an ex-girlfriend and threatened her. Police were at the woman's Washburn Street residence when Jones called and police advised him not to call. Jones later arrived at the woman's residence, and police pursued him from the scene.

Ortega was driving westbound on East Main Street with lights and sirens activated, and Lightle was northbound on Beechwood Avenue, driving a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt, when the accident occurred, Kelso said.

Ortega was struck on the driver's-side door.

The Columbus Division of Police is investigating the accident.

According to Franklin County Municipal Court records, Reynoldsburg police arrested Jones in 2008 and again in 2009 for violation of a protection order.

Jones resided in Pataskala in 2008 and in Newark in 2009, records show.

Whitehall police arrested Jones in June for theft and felonious assault. Court records for the June arrest show an address on Barkley Place East, in Whitehall.