Whitehall News

Police officer recovering following Nov. 30 crash

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A Whitehall police officer continues to recover from injuries sustained in an early morning automobile accident Nov. 30 that claimed the life of a 78-year-old man en route to work.

A Whitehall man whose actions led to the fatal collision was arrested Dec. 4 and arraigned Dec. 5 in Franklin County Municipal Court.

Whitehall police arrested Matthew S. Jones, 29, of Collingwood Avenue, Dec. 4.

Officer Enrique Ortega was seriously injured, and 78-year-old Vernon L. Lightle was killed in a collision while Ortega was responding to back-up for other police who had pursed Jones from the residence of a woman he allegedly was harassing, police said.

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

"We didn't know exactly where he was," Whitehall Sgt. Dan Kelso said, only that he was believed to be in the immediate area.

Police arrested Jones at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, following a short vehicle pursuit and foot chase.

Police observed Jones in a parking lot, allegedly engaged in what was believed to be drug activity, Kelso said.

Police had followed a tip the previous day that Jones was at a trailer park, but they missed him by about 10 minutes, Kelso said.

An undercover Whitehall officer observed Jones and another person meeting 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.

Jones did not resist arrest when taken into custody. He had a lock-blade knife on him when he was arrested and was driving the same vehicle that he was driving on the morning of Nov. 30. However, the license plates that were on the gold Mazda that morning were in the trunk of the vehicle and replaced with different license plates.

The new plates were not entered as stolen, but police said they would investigate.

"We had been looking for him nonstop," Kelso said, adding that the area where Jones was believed to be and eventually found had been "saturated" just prior to his arrest.

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 observing her Washburn Street residence when Jones arrived, and police pursued him from the scene at 4:30 a.m. Nov. 30.

Ortega, a four-year veteran of the department, was responding to backup officers pursing Jones from the residence.

Ortega was westbound on East Main Street with lights and sirens activated when he collided with Lightle, who was northbound on Beechwood Avenue, driving a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt.

Lightle was en route to his job at Jolly Pirate Donuts.

Ortega was admitted in serious condition at Grant Hospital. Within 24 hours, Ortega had been upgraded to stable condition but remains hospitalized with multiple bone fractures and other internal injuries. He is expected to make a full recovery.

Lightle, who lived on Collingwood Avenue in Columbus, was pronounced dead at an area hospital, police said. He is survived by his wife of 48 years and three children.

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

According to Municipal Court records, a judge set a $10,000 bond for Jones at his Dec. 5 arraignment. No preliminary hearing was immediately set, according to records.

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