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Local man shot, killed in theater shooting

Published: Friday, July 20, 2012 @ 10:30 PM
Updated: Saturday, July 21, 2012 @ 6:50 AM


            Shooting victim Matt McQuinn and girlfriend Samantha Yowler.
            Facebook
Shooting victim Matt McQuinn and girlfriend Samantha Yowler.(Facebook)

In the chaos of one of the largest mass shootings in U.S. history, one local woman’s brother and her boyfriend shielded her. She suffered a bullet wound to the leg, her brother escaped physically unharmed but her boyfriend was killed.

Siblings Samantha and Nick Yowler — both former St. Paris residents — were watching The Dark Knight Rises at a theater in Aurora, Colo., with her boyfriend Matt McQuinn when James Eagen Holmes reportedly kicked in an exit door, released canisters of pepper spray and opened fire.

At least 58 people were injured and 12 were killed, including McQuinn, a Vandalia-Butler graduate whose Springfield family agonized for hours Friday without knowing if he had survived or where he was.

He and Nick Yowler tried to shield Samantha Yowler with their bodies, according to the Yowlers’ grandmother, Elsie Windle of St. Paris. Nick Yowler called his mother, Ann Massie, at 3:30 a.m. to tell his family about the shooting.

“It’s been a difficult morning,” stepfather Scott Massie, the St. Paris fire chief, said Friday morning, his voice shaking before his wife boarded a plane to fly to Colorado.

Scott Massie said he spoke to his stepchildren while they were at the scene.

“Just total chaos,” he said of the reports they gave and what he heard. “Disbelief. Shock.”

Samantha Yowler underwent surgery and was reported in fair condition Friday.

Matt McQuinn’s family tried all Friday to find any information about his condition.

Springfield resident Stacie McQuinn, Matt’s stepmother, said the hospital would not confirm to Samantha Yowler what happened to him because they are not related.

“It’s minute by minute,” said Stacie McQuinn as she waited on a telephone update from his mother, Jerri Jackson, who traveled to Aurora Friday to find out what happened.

By Friday evening, the families retained attorney Rob Scott to speak for them.

“Both the Yowler and McQuinn families thank everyone for their concerns, thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” Scott said. “The families ask for everyone to be patient and respect their wishes during this very difficult time.”

Samantha Yowler is a 2004 graduate of Graham High School, where she was in National Honor Society, earned a KTH Scholarship, was a blood donor and was involved in the high school’s Special Wish program. She attended Ohio State University until 2007.

She met Matt McQuinn, a member of Maiden Lane Church who graduated from Vandalia-Butler High School in 2004, at the Springfield Target store. Target officials declined to comment.

The two transferred to a Target in Denver, Colo., in November last year. Nick Yowler had already lived in Colorado for several years, said his grandmother, Windle.

“Samantha had moved out there last November” after her brother’s divorce, she added.

At Vandalia-Butler, Matt McQuinn was part of the Occupational World Experience program, where students attend classes for a minimum of three periods a day, then work the rest of the day at a job.

“I learned how to hold a job,” he said in his 2004 senior yearbook.

Before she left, Samantha Yowler was well known in the St. Paris neighborhood where she grew up.

“She was just very, very caring. She has a lot of friends,” said Talia Kauffman-Diaz, who grew up with Samantha and lived next door to the family as a child.

Diaz, who lives in St. Paris, was with Samantha Yowler from elementary school through high school graduation in 2004. Diaz said their families were very close, and a group of friends from the neighborhood all spent time together.

“She was there for me when my parents divorced, and I was there for her when she needed me,” said Diaz, who said she didn’t know Matt McQuinn well.

Diaz said there’s nothing organized yet, but she has been trying to get in touch with other childhood friends and with the Yowlers to determine what to do to help.

“It’s just, how shocking it is to come from this small town and have someone so loving and caring have something so tragic happen,” Diaz said.

Samantha Yowler and Matt McQuinn are popular in their new home in Colorado as well. Her Facebook page was full of wall posts wishing the best for the couple from people in Ohio and Colorado.

“They’re really fun people, we always go out together,” said Melissa Downen, a Colorado co-worker and friend to the couple. She said they’ve worked at Target for about six months. Downen added that everyone working there is consumed with worry over the couple.

“Everyone here is really close, and they really integrated well with the Target family,” she said.

People in the village of St. Paris reacted with shock to the news and reached for note cards to offer comfort to the family.

“You don’t feel a connection to this area, and then it really hits you,” Teresa Roberts said while having lunch with husband, Ken, at C.J.’s Pizzeria on Main Street.

“Another maniac out there,” said a customer in the Howard’s IGA in St. Paris, where store manager Mike Townsend said that before learning of the local connection “the one thing was worried was it was a terrorist.”

“This is awful and scary,” said Cheri Howard, who was treating two grandsons to ice cream at Howard’s Dairy Barn. “All these people did was go to a movie. It could have happened in Springfield. It could have happened in Urbana, I suppose. It makes you afraid to let your teenagers go to a movie,” she said.

Springfield, following a presidential proclamation released by the White House from President Barack Obama, will fly flags at half-staff until sunset on Wednesday to honor of the victims of the tragedy.

“It’s a very tragic event that’s taken place in Colorado, and we wanted to show our support as a community,” said Springfield city manager Jim Bodenmiller.

Wire reports and staff writers Michael Cooper, Marc Katz and Mark McGregor contributed to this story.

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Retired Centerville police chief focus of investigation

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 4:01 PM
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 4:23 PM


            Bruce Robertson
Bruce Robertson

Centerville police chief Bruce Robertson’s recent retirement came amid an ongoing investigation into allegations of criminal conduct, according to city officials.

“There were allegations of criminal conduct, therefore we’re following up with conducting an internal investigation into those allegations,” City Manager Wayne Davis said in response to questions from the Dayton Daily News/WHIO I-Team.

“At this time there’s no evidence of criminal activity, however our investigation is not complete,” Davis said.

RELATED: Centerville police chief retires after nearly 40 years

Robertson retired on Feb. 9 after working for the city nearly 40 years. His two-page letter of resignation cited “a serious medical condition” for the reason he decided to retire.

When asked if the investigation was connected to Robertson’s decision to retire, Davis said: “Not from what was shared with me.”

Davis said the internal review is being conducted by the law director and started sometime after Jan. 24.

Robertson couldn’t be reached for comment.

The city of Centerville released a statement Friday saying, in part, “the city is not at liberty to discuss the details of the investigation at this time. The city will continue to cooperate with providing information as it becomes available.”

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The chief’s personnel records do not indicate the reason for the investigation.

Records from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London, Ohio, show Robertson has been paid $32,294 to teach classes there since 2010, including $5,600 for seven training sessions in 2017. Davis confirmed the city is looking into whether Robertson was reimbursed for the same days he worked as police chief, getting paid twice for the same hours. He would not say whether those allegations are part of the criminal probe, however.

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His most recent performance review in 2016 included positive reviews.

“He cares deeply about the men and women of the Centerville Police Department and strives to maintain the high professional reputation of the organization,” the review says.

But he was also given a formal, verbal warning in December and told to attend a course on harassment in the workplace because of an incident last August, according to the records. While talking with officers about preparations for a rally supporting transgender issues, Robertson jokingly asked a police officer “How’d your surgery go?” The officer complained and the comment was determined to be inappropriate by the city, the records show.

Robertson retired and was rehired in 2014. His employment contract in June 2017 was extended to January 2019.

Robertson was paid $127,501 in 2016, according to the I-Team Payroll Project.

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Teen accused in Springfield school threat makes court appearance

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 2:33 PM
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 5:22 PM

A Springfield High School student was in Clark County Juvenile Court because of alleged threats posted on social media

The Springfield High School student charged in connection with a school threat that caused local schools and schools across the country to take safety precautions made her first court appearance Friday.

The 17-year-old junior stood before Clark County Juvenile Court Judge Robert Vaughn and cried as the judge told her she was being charged with inducing panic, a felony in the second degree.

READ: Springfield-Clark CTC investigates social media threat

“(The threat) was tracked to the phone of the suspect,” Vaughn said, reading her charging document.

The potential penalty, if she is convicted, is between one year to until she is 21 years old in the Ohio Department of Youth Services, Vaughn said.

The student’s next court date will be Wednesday.

“The court finds given the seriousness of the offense that the defendant be held at this time,” Vaughn said.

The defendant will make her way through the juvenile court system and not be moved to adult court, Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson said.

The juvenile court system can handle incidents like these, he said.

MORE: Springfield student arrested in Facebook threat: 4 things to know

“This case will remain in juvenile court for adjudication and the State of Ohio will not seek to have this defendant bound over to adult court,” Wilson said.

What the suspect allegedly did was serious, Wilson said, and it will be prosecuted.

“The actions of this defendant caused serious public inconvenience and alarm,” Wilson said. “This defendant and any other person who posts or issues these kinds of threats will have to answer for their actions in front of a judge.”

He said no one should make threats against a school.

RELATED: Attendance ‘light’ at schools across Clark County after threat

“Local law enforcement will continue to take these threats seriously and anyone caught making these types of threats will be arrested and charged,” he said.

Clark County had a strenuous week with school threats and security. On Tuesday, an unloaded gun was found in an 8-year-old Simon Kenton student’s backpack. And there had been rumors that a gun was found at Springfield High School on Wednesday. Superintendent Bob Hill said the rumors, which concerned many parents and community members on social media, was not true.

Also on Friday, Clark County deputies investigated a supposed threat towards Northwestern Local Schools.

The Northwestern student was arrested at the start of school Friday morning, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and a one-call sent to parents by the district.

“There was another threat and another arrest was made,” Clark County Chief Deputy Travis Russell told the Springfield News-Sun.

Northwestern School Superintendent Jesse Steiner said a student made an online post that was perceived by some to have threatened the school, but that student did not mean to.

READ: Springfield student arrested in Facebook threat: 4 things to know

Steiner said the online post was taken out of context, and the student did not intend to harm anyone.

“At no point was anybody in danger,” Steiner said. “People could have misinterpreted the post. The kid did not threaten anyone.”

The post is a reason why it might be a good idea to talk to kids about what they post online, Steiner said.

“This is a great time to talk about what they post online and how they say it,” he said. “Have that conversation so they can keep their kids safe.”

The status of the student’s case was unknown Friday afternoon.

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Organ swap program saves more than 1 life

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 4:32 PM


            The Jordan and Popp families including (from) Elizabeth Jordan, Diane Popp, Brian Popp, Chris Jordan, and DJ Jordan, meet for Thanksgiving with much to be thankful for. CONTRIBUTED
            CONTRIBUTED
The Jordan and Popp families including (from) Elizabeth Jordan, Diane Popp, Brian Popp, Chris Jordan, and DJ Jordan, meet for Thanksgiving with much to be thankful for. CONTRIBUTED(CONTRIBUTED)

Dayton native Douglas (“DJ”) Jordan knows all too well how important organ donations are, since a liver and two kidneys saved his life.

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A Patterson Cooperative High School grad, he went to Ohio State University to study dentistry. Instead of going into practice, however, he joined the Air Force.

He was stationed in North Dakota, then Germany, and, in Tokyo, he was reassigned from personnel to a vocalist with the band. “I’d been in every choir Patterson had, and even made it to state competitions,” he said.

Back in Washington, D.C., until 2008, DJ had no noticeable physical problems. “Then, I started getting bloated; I kept growing and knew something was wrong, so went in for tests.”

When tests showed that he had a nonalcoholic cirrhosis and needed a transplant, he was in shock. “I was put on medication, and fluid had to be drained every other week while I waited for a liver,” he said.

As he deteriorated, DJ stopped visiting his family’s Harrison Twp. home. “I didn’t want them, especially my mother, Elizabeth, to know what I was going through.”

His secret was discovered when, in 2013, he unknowingly drove from his home and office in D.C. to Richmond, Va., where he roamed the streets for two days, disoriented, before being located and taken to a transplant center in Baltimore, where he received a liver and kidney transplant.

“The next day, the kidney failed. My sister Michelle, who works at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, was notified and called my brother, Chris, and sister Tracey, both in Atlanta — and the family drove to D.C.

“Chris was tested, but wasn’t a match; then, the doctor told us about a swap program, where he could donate a kidney and it would be swapped for a kidney that was compatible.” After five months on dialysis, a match was found.

Ironically, Chris’ kidney went to another Dayton native, Brian Popp, a chemist and professor at the University of West Virginia. Brian’s mother and father, Diane and Vince Popp, still live in the Shroyer Park home where Brian, a ’97 Chaminade-Julienne grad, grew up. “We didn’t find out until Brian’s senior year that his kidneys hadn’t developed correctly,” said Diane.

By the time DJ was in desperate need of a kidney, so was Brian. “Brian rejected the kidney that Vince had given him and so was on dialysis,” said his mother. “Everyone in the family was getting tested, and our son-in-law’s matched someone in New York, who had a donor that matched DJ.

“Howard Jordan, DJ’s older brother, is a Dayton police officer and told my husband that Brian’s kidney was coming from his brother Chris. Everything lined up so perfectly. All three transplants happened in one day, an amazing journey.”

The Jordan and Popp families met for Thanksgiving, 2016 in Dayton. “It was so touching,” said DJ. “We met his mother and his fiance. They’ve married since, and now have a child.

“Chris is the hero of this story. His kidney donation saved not only my life, but Brian’s.”

“Meeting DJ’s family was a magnificent moment,” recalls Diane. “All I could say to their mother was ‘Thank you for raising such wonderful sons,’ and I couldn’t let go of Chris.”

DJ, 57, is retired from the Air Force and will start traveling and speaking out for organ donations in April, National Donate Life Month. He said, “I plan to spend a year hitting military bases, churches and organizations wherever I go, informing people about donor programs and encouraging them to become donors.

“There are so many people in dialysis centers who know nothing about the swap programs, some of which work for organs other than kidneys.

“There are over 115,000 people waiting for lifesaving organs, and I want to decrease that number,” DJ said.

DJ recommends that interested readers research the following organizations for more information: United Network for Organ Sharing; Kidney Paired Donation; the National Kidney Foundation; and Living Kidney Donor Network.

Contact this contributing writer at virgburroughs@gmail.com.

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Role of police in school questioned

Published: Friday, November 27, 2015 @ 3:00 PM

Video of a police officer violently arresting a student who wouldn’t leave her desk last month in South Carolina has intensified the debate over the role of police in schools — with at least one local group seeking their removal.

A survey of 22 local school districts found that most large districts have local police regularly serving as School Resource Officers in their buildings. Several other districts without SROs cite an open-door policy with their police departments.

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Local police and national safety experts say the key to avoiding confrontations like the South Carolina case is choosing the right officers to work in schools and specifically training them how to de-escalate tense situations with teenagers.

But Racial Justice NOW!, a local parent organization that has worked closely with Dayton Public Schools on a variety of issues in the past year, argues that role is better filled by non-police intervention workers, suggesting that students would be more open with them than with police.

Zakiya Sankara Jabar, director of the group, cites trust barriers between police and black communities stemming from shootings in Ferguson, Mo.; Chicago, Cleveland and Beavercreek. She said the national Dignity in Schools campaign is currently crafting a letter to federal education officials, calling for the removal of police from schools.

“There seems to be an (out-sized) need to have security measures in urban schools, instead of a more holistic positive school climate,” Jabar said. “Things are too punitive and younger children internalize that. That’s a big reason why a lot of children become disengaged in schools.”

National flashpoint

South Carolina sheriff’s deputy Ben Fields was fired in October after throwing a non-cooperative student and her desk to the ground, then forcefully dragging her across a classroom floor.

Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said Fields wasn’t trained by his organization, adding that the brief video shows the importance of training and technique.

“There really is not a national standard and there needs to be to some degree. This is probably the most unique assignment in law enforcement and it’s not for just anybody,” Canady said. “We train officers that if they’re in a setting like that where there are other students, you need to remove the audience. In many cases, that opens communication, and the student feels less motivated to act out without their peers present. You can get them talking to you and de-escalate the situation.”

School by school

Dayton-area schools take a variety of approaches, largely depending on the size of the district. The 10 largest districts in the area all have school resource officer or security officer programs, according to district officials.

Kettering and Huber Heights schools each have two SROs, supported by private security guards at the high school. Centerville and Northmont have three SROs, in part because their school districts straddle multiple police jurisdictions. Springboro, Miamisburg and Xenia each have one SRO. Beavercreek has an SRO program but was the only district to refuse to answer questions about it, citing “security protocols.”

Huber Heights Superintendent Susan Gunnell said the goal at her district is for SROs to help provide a safe school environment, but also to build positive relationships with students and teach safety-related classes.

“Our SRO’s have conducted classes on women’s self-defense for both staff and students,” Gunnell said. “They have provided information in classes on internet safety, anti-bullying and teen violence. And they have conducted parent meetings on internet safety.”

Mid-sized and smaller districts are less likely to have a formal SRO program, with Bellbrook and Trotwood-Madison among the exceptions. (Trotwood just restarted its program this fall.) Many districts, including Vandalia-Butler, Tipp City, Northridge and New Lebanon, have no contracted agreement but refer to an “open door policy” with their local police departments.

“They can come into the buildings anytime they want,” Vandalia-Butler Superintendent Brad Neavin said of local police. “They check in with the office, and they may want to walk the halls or come in during lunchtime and interact with the kids in a positive way.”

Dayton’s approach

While most school districts contract with local police, Dayton Public Schools hires its own security officers, with 26 currently on staff, including two full-time at each high school.

Those officers must complete the 143-hour Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy’s private security basic training course and pass the test. That training — much less than what’s needed to become a police officer — earns them the city of Dayton’s Special Institutional Police License, which gives them arrest powers. They carry handcuffs but not firearms.

Richard Wright, associate director of safety and security for DPS, said none of his officers has made an arrest at school in the past few years. He said the approach is “hands-off” unless a student is harming himself, a classmate or a staff member.

“Our main objective is to discourage disruption to the educational process,” Wright said. “We’re not there to make arrests. Nobody’s there who’s gung-ho on trying to get a child in trouble.”There are hiccups, but I try to call the police as little as possible. If we can’t handle it, let’s ask what’s really going on? What’s the root problem, and let’s try to rectify that.”

DPS students interviewed about school security had few complaints other than questioning some morning metal detector procedures. Ponitz CTC senior Virginia Nsabimana said she hasn’t seen any DPS officers step over the line.

Thurgood Marshall High freshman Christian Peoples said the security officers are respectful, even when students don’t return the favor. Thurgood junior Justice Sheppard said officers get involved when there are fights, drug issues or students roaming the halls.

“They don’t try to use force — they just try to talk to us first, like with a warning or something,” Sheppard said.

David Johnson is in his 20th year as a DPS security officer, currently at Thurgood, and he said Wright and safety director Jamie Bullens, both former local police officers, require significant ongoing training even for veteran officers. But he agreed with Canady that it takes the right kind of person, with patience.

“When you go into a classroom to get a student — and I’ve gone in hundreds of times — you have to have a rapport,” Johnson said. “I don’t embarrass a student. I say, ‘Come on with me; whatever happened is over with.’ I’ve never had to drag a student out, and I’ve never felt unsafe. The students have to really trust you … that you’re not just trying to get them suspended.”

But Jabar said her Racial Justice NOW! group is concerned over how often students are suspended at DPS, and she pointed to a significant rise in August and September of this year, compared to the same period in 2014.

DPS officials said suspension decisions are made by principals and other administrators, not security officers, and have declined since 2012-13.

Kettering’s model

Two Kettering police officers serve as School Resource Officers, and SRO Wendy Miller said the officers take a three-tiered approach — investigating crime and enforcing the law when necessary, educating students on topics like drugs and alcohol or internet safety, and also serving as mentors.

“You’re dealing with children and some of them are very young, so you take that into consideration,” said Miller, who works primarily with middle school and elementary school students. “Just because something’s happened doesn’t mean we have to charge them and send them to court. We try to use other options besides arresting.”

Miller supports having designated SROs because they develop knowledge and trust with students and staff that other officers just visiting the building may not have.

“We’re also more up-to-date on training and legal standards relating to schools and juveniles,” Miller said. “A detective might have special training in violent crimes, so they’re the appropriate specialists there. We’re the specialists in schools.”

Kettering’s two SROs are traditional armed officers funded by the city, and Lt. Dan Gangwer said the police department hopes to have Miller and SRO Carla Sacher train more officers so they can fill in effectively when needed. A third position previously funded by the schools was discontinued.

The expense of staffing SROs has led to cutbacks in some districts. Valley View eliminated its SRO position because of cost, and Huber Heights temporarily cut one position in 2012-13 due to budget cuts. Fairborn hopes to be able to add a second SRO, and Trotwood’s city and schools are splitting the cost of their newly assigned SRO.

Kettering senior Erika Brandenburg said she appreciated the presence of SROs in the high school, and junior Dominic Moore called them “very respectful of the students.”

He credited resource officers with helping calm a potentially explosive situation earlier this year after controversy erupted when a group of students were flying Confederate flags from their trucks.

“The police have enforced those rules, but (students) respectfully said OK and took the flags down,” Moore said. “It could have gotten a little out of hand, but we ended up working it all out with them without too much tension.”

Junior Travis Malone said he’s talked to a few SROs, and he said the officers don’t intimidate students, adding that it gives him a “protected feeling. That’s nice to have around school, given all that goes on these days,” he said.

Suspensions a concern

Jabar said data is difficult to find on school-based arrests, but Racial Justice NOW and others worry about zero-tolerance policies and high rates of discipline in general in urban public schools.

From 2009-13, Dayton Public Schools averaged 6,634 suspensions per year in a district with roughly 14,000 students.

Jabar also pointed to federal data from the Schott Foundation report for 2015, which found that black male students in Ohio are suspended almost four times as often as white male students — a gap that is slightly above the national average.

The foundation, which advocates for equity in education, argues that schools continue to use out-of-school suspensions as a disciplinary tool even though research suggests they serve only to reinforce negative student behavior.

Canady, of NASRO, countered with Department of Justice data showing that juvenile arrests on the whole dropped almost 50 percent in the 1990s and 2000s.

Local School Resource Officers said the key is building relationships and being proactive so a situation doesn’t escalate and a suspension or arrest isn’t necessary.

Johnson said those efforts at Thurgood Marshall mean students will often confide in him if they hear a fight is brewing.

And Miller told the story of a middle schooler in Kettering who endured serious family turmoil and “could have gone either way.” After getting support from her and others at school, the girl is getting good grades, made a school team and now emails Miller regularly.

“It’s important that kids see you not as the bad guy, so to speak,” said Sacher, Kettering’s other SRO. “If you come into a situation where you’ve built a relationship and can communicate with them, anything that goes wrong is easier to work through.”

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