BOTKINS — Schools in Botkins and Anna were locked down Wednesday after three suspects in a jewelry store robbery led law enforcement on a high speed chase from Beavercreek to Botkins.
According to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, all three suspects are in custody.
Initially, four suspects were reported to have been involved.
“When these things kick off you get a lot of people reporting various things,” said Piqua Post Commander Lt. Joseph Gebhart of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. “It takes awhile for us to sort through it all. At this time everything is consistent that there were three suspects and we have three in custody.”
The incident began Wednesday morning when the suspects allegedly robbed Jared Jewelers in Beavercreek. The Beavercreek Police Department issued a broadcast to local law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for the suspects’ vehicle.
According to Gebhart, an OSP trooper was on Interstate 75 and observed the vehicle, a 2019 dark gray Dodge Caravan bearing Michigan registration, moving north.
“(The officer) called out to the Sidney Police Department and Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, tried to initiate a traffic stop, and they took off,” Gebhart said.
The suspects exited the highway onto County Road 25A and continued north, prompting OSP to request additional units from Botkins to aid in the pursuit, which reached speeds of more than 115 mph.
According to Botkins Police Chief Tom Glass, officers had attempted to set up spikes in order to slow the suspects, but the vehicle fled past before the spikes could be put in place, and Botkins PD then joined the pursuit, continuing north on 25A.
The suspects made a right turn at high speed onto Warren Street, in Botkins, causing the vehicle to crash into the curb, nearly rolling the vehicle and braking an axle, Glass said.
The suspects then abandoned their vehicle and fled on foot.
“We had a plane in the area, along with Sheriff’s Deputies and local police officers from Anna, Botkins, and OSP,” Gebhart said. “The plane directed us right to each suspect.”
According to Glass, the first apprehended suspect told officers there were four suspects in total.
“They were all giving different stories,” Glass said. “Patrol confirmed with Beavercreek how many suspects there were.”
Both Anna and Botkins Schools were notified of the situation by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
“We were notified by Sheriff (John) Lenhart around 11:45 a.m. that there was a situation going on in the village and that we should go on lockdown,” said Botkins Superintendent Jeff McPheron.
Once the notification was received, an announcement was made over the loud speaker that the school was on lockdown,” said McPheron.
“Our staff has ALICE training,” said McPheron and the staff implemented their training.
“We used bolo sticks, which are barricading devices, to barricade the doors as well,” he said.
The lockdown was lifted just after 1 p.m.
“When I called Botkins to notify them of the situation, they were already on a soft alert because of a situation in Auglaize County,” said Lenhart. “Once I called them, they went to a hard alert.”
McPheron said he was pleased with the way the staff and students handled the situation.
“Our kids were safe,” said McPheron. “The teachers and staff operated like they were supposed to. Because of the ALICE training, they knew how to do in this situation.”
McPheron said the staff constantly trains for situations like Wednesday’s lockdown. The situation will be discussed, he said, and evaluated.
Anna Local Schools Superintendent Andy Bixler said the school district was also placed on lock down.
“Our HS office received a call a little after noon from the Sheriff’s Office asking that we lock down the buildings as a precautionary measure as law enforcement was in pursuit of a suspected criminal in the Botkins area,” said Bixler. “School administrators acted quickly to secure students in the buildings. Students had to come in from recess, outdoor band practice, etc.
“A little after 1 p.m., we received word that the situation was no longer a potential threat and the lock-in place was lifted,” said Bixler.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, the three suspects, who range in age from 27 to 23 years old, have been transported to Beavercreek.
Troopers are working in conjunction with detectives from Beavercreek Police Department to positively identify the suspects, process evidence collected, and charge all three suspects.
“(The pursuit charge) is minor compared to the armed robbery,” said Lenhart. “Armed robbery would be a felony two.”
For fleeing the police, the suspects will face a misdemeanor charge of pursuit.
In Auglaize County, the Wapakoneta Police Department was searching for a 15-year-old boy who left his residence on foot and was allegedly carrying a rifle. No threats were made according to the department’s Facebook page. It was updated that the rifle might be an air-soft rifle.
Reach Speicher at 937-538-4822. Reach Hancock at 937-538-4825.