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SHOOTING SPREE: Suspect Killed, Officer Wounded in NE Columbus Shootout

COLUMBUS (Ken Hines) -- A suspect was killed and a police officer was wounded during a gun battle that followed the shootings of a woman and a young boy on Friday morning.

SWAT officers shot and killed Danny Thornton in the parking lot of Walmart on Morse Road following a manhunt that began at the Grove City home of the mother of one of Thornton's children at approximately 7:30 a.m.

The wounded SWAT officer, Steve Smith, underwent surgery at Grant Medical Center for a stomach wound received during the shootout. Columbus Police Department reported he was in serious but stable condition.

The violent chain of events began at 2716 Independence Way in Grove City when Thornton allegedly shot 9-year-old Jaiden Dixon in the face. Dixon is listed in critical condition at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Thornton has an 18-year-old son with Jaiden's mother. They were both inside the home when Dixon was shot, along with the woman's 17-year-old son.

After shooting the boy, investigators believe Thornton traveled to Mark A. Pitts D.D.S. at 4409 Crossroads Center, where he shot employee Vicki Vertin in the office's lobby. Vertin was taken to Grant Medical Center in critical condition.

A relative of Vertin told ABC 6/FOX 28 the victim was the mother of one of Thornton's children.

Several Columbus and Grove City schools were locked down as police searched for Thornton, 47, who was traveling in a Toyota Camry. That car was eventually spotted in the Walmart parking lot, at which time SWAT officers were sent to the area.

Investigators said they recovered Thornton's gun, which will be tested to confirm shots were fired at Walmart as well as the other locations.   

Customers were allowed to enter and exit Walmart after Thornton was declared dead, but drivers were prohibited from removing their cars from the parking lot until police completed their examination at approximately 2 p.m.

Police have not released a possible motive for the alleged shooting spree. Thornton's criminal record includes a 1985 charge of felonious assault, and a 1992 indictment for carrying a concealed weapon. He spent four days in jail in 2007 after failing to appear in court.

The wounded officer is a 24-year veteran of the Columbus Division of Police. His wife, daughter, and mother were with him at the hospital.

 
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