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Slain student tried to stop fight

Springfield police chief call’s shooting death ‘cowardly act.’

Police are searching for the person who shot and killed a standout high school athlete who reportedly tried to stop a dispute among others in a parking lot early Sunday.

Springfield Police Chief Stephen Moody described the killing of 17-year-old Jeff Wellington as a “cowardly act” and asked for the public’s help in finding the shooter.

Springfield High School will resume classes today with 25 to 30 crisis counselors available for students, staff and parents, according to David Estrop, the Springfield City Schools superintendent.

“I think it’s going to be a very sad day at Springfield High,” said Estrop, who added that Wellington was well known and well liked. “He was very involved in school life, so I think we will have a lot of students who may well need to take advantage of our conseling and grief services.”

Wellington, a 17-year old junior and a Wildcats varsity running back, was visiting friends in the Coventry Village apartment complex in the 2300 block of North Limestone Street when a dispute erupted about 2:45 a.m., according to Moody. When Wellington tried to resolve the dispute, which he was not involved in, someone shot him once and left the scene.

Wellington was transported by helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, according to police.

Autopsy results were not available on Sunday, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

Police declined to say whether the suspect had been identified at this time.

On Sunday, the school district started preparing to help students by putting together a plan for the crisis team and having teachers meet early to learn how to assist students throughout the day, Estrop said.

“The death of a student or staff member under any set of circumstances is difficult on the school community and anyone associated with it,” Estrop said.

Michael Cooper, a social studies teacher at the high school and an assistant football coach, said Wellington was a key football player who was going to be relied on heavily next season.

“He was one of the finest young men walking the halls at Springfield High,” Cooper said. “Jeff was a really good kid. In the truest sense of the word, he was a very respectful young man as well as very respected by his peers and adults alike.”

Wellington, who has played on the varsity football team since he was a freshman and was a member of the track team, was considered one of the team’s star athletes, according to Eric Gillespie, the former Springfield High School football head coach.

“He had outstanding talent,” Gillespie said. “Just a great combination of athleticism, strength, power, natural ability and instinct. Everything you wanted in a football player.”

Gillespie said several colleges were interested in recruiting Wellington.

“He had a world of potential on and off the field,” Gillespie said. “It’s sad to see all that get cut short.”

Ronnie Walker, a Springfield senior and a fellow track team member, called Wellington a “monster” on the football field who was known for his positive attitude.

“He could make you smile on your worst day,” Walker said.

Friends, family and school faculty said most people will remember Wellington for his smile.

“He was a light,” said Renee Montgomery, Wellington’s aunt. “… He was always laughing and joking. He had a good heart. He was a good person. I just wish we had more time with him.”

Anyone with information about the murder is asked to call the Springfield Police Division at 937-324-7716.

Reporters Natalie Jovonovich and Andy Sedlak contributed to this report.

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