Clark County grand jury: Man killed mother and deputy, then died in fire

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

A 27-year-old man with mental health problems shot and killed his mother, then killed a Clark County sheriff’s deputy before he died in a fire that engulfed his mobile home hours later, a prosecutor explained Wednesday in the first in-depth public detailing of the tragic events of July 24.

A special grand jury this week took information gathered by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and presented by Clark County Prosecutor Dan Driscoll and concluded the following in the deaths of three people more than six months ago:

—Cole White of South Vienna shot and killed Jodie Arbuckle, 47, of Springfield, after the mother went into his trailer to check on her son;

—White shot and killed Deputy Matthew Yates when Yates and other deputies responded to 911 calls for help;

—White died from smoke inhalation from a fire that engulfed his Harmony Estates mobile home after SWAT members went inside to retrieve Yates, and

—The cause of the fire could not be determined, but if law enforcement measures caused the fire, the efforts were justified by White’s actions.

White had no evidence of gunshot wounds.

“There was nothing that kept him from coming to the door, kept him from ending this,” Driscoll said of the hourslong standoff.

Chief Deputy Gary Cox said in a statement: “The grand jury found the Clark County Sheriff’s Office was not culpable for any of the deaths. The Sheriff’s Office appreciates the hard work from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the grand jury members who served in the case as we continue to mourn the death of our fallen hero, Deputy Matt Yates.”

The BCI spearheaded the review of events of July 24.

Ohio Attorney General Office’s spokesman Steve Irwin confirmed that the investigation was referred to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office on Jan. 17.

“BCI investigations are criminal, not administrative, meaning they do not address any policy or procedural violations,” he said in an email.

Driscoll shared findings from the BCI review, playing 911 calls and footage from body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Arbuckle had contacted the sheriff’s office two days before the shooting and fire, expressing concern for the safety of her son and requesting a wellness check. She told dispatchers then that two of White’s friends had dropped in at his trailer to check on him, only to find him lying on the floor in his home with a gun in his hand.

When deputies arrived that day to check on White, he would not answer them, and they could not see him through the windows, according to a July 22 incident report.

Arbuckle went July 24 to check on her son because of concerns about mental health issues. She could not get him to answer the door and used a stepladder to climb through a window about 11 a.m.

“She was a mother doing what mothers do,” Driscoll said Wednesday.

White shot Arbuckle shortly after that, prompting 911 calls.

A neighbor of White told dispatchers he did not see the woman exit the trailer after four to five shots were fired and believed she was still inside. Another woman was outside, calling for her, the neighbor told the 911 dispatcher.

Clark County deputies arrived around 11:04 a.m., and they made contact with the fiancée of Arbuckle, who was outside the mobile home and heard the shots through an open cellphone line with Arbuckle. She said Arbuckle was not responding after shots rang through the trailer.

Yates, wearing a helmet, was in front of other deputies who were responding, pleading multiple times for White to come out and eventually kicking in the door.

At 11:09 a.m., he entered the mobile home, followed by a sergeant.

Two shots rang out after, and Yates immediately fell. Other deputies called for additional help.

Three attempts were made to retrieve Yates. The final attempt occurred after a Springfield Police Division armored vehicle struck the back corner of White’s trailer several times in an attempt to distract White, Driscoll said.

Upon retrieving Yates after 2:30 p.m. that day, an officer noticed a fire in the kitchen and attempted to extinguish it. They were met with gunfire again and retreated.

The investigation found that law enforcement agents only discharged bullets during their first attempt of retrieving Yates.

Officials on July 24 determined it was too dangerous for fire personnel to immediately fight the flames because White’s location was unknown, and munitions were exploding inside the trailer.

The State Fire Marshal was called to investigate the blaze. That investigation found the source of the fire was the kitchen, but it could not determine the cause of the fire.

Arbuckle was shot multiple times. Law enforcement did not locate her before the fire, according to the investigation.

Three guns were located in the remains of the trailer: two handguns and a rifle. Driscoll said there’s no evidence that suggests the weapons were illegally purchased.

He expressed condolences to the families of Yates, Arbuckle and White.

“My hope is that at this point this closes out this sad chapter,” Driscoll said, adding he hoped the families could begin their healing process.

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