COLUMBIANA - A 16-year-old Union Street boy has been taken in custody by city police and is being considered a "ringleader" for the recent vandalism sprees around town.
Police Chief Tim Gladis released the information Wednesday, including a log of 60 related cases dating back one year.
Christian Gillespie was originally arrested by police on April 12 after a woman witnessed him vandalizing Youngstown and Southern Railroad property near East Friend Street and Fitzpatrick Avenue.
According to the report, the woman watched the boy through a window of her home as he was vandalizing the property and captured an image on her cell phone of him in the act.
Gladis said it was that image that was the "best break" for the department's investigation.
"For more than a year we have been investigating multiple reports of vandalism to city property, local businesses, signs and cars throughout Columbiana. Spray paint and permanent marker have been used to deface and damage property in over 60 reported cases since May of 2013. This has been a time-consuming and frustrating investigative process," Gladis said in a report to City Manager Lance Willard Wednesday, a copy of which was also provided to the Journal.
On April 12, Gillespie reportedly lied to police about vandalizing what was later discovered to be a ballast regulator for the railroad.
Patrolman Kevin Kloss was the responding officer that day and recognized Gillespie. He was wearing a purple shirt and black shorts, matching the description provided to him by the caller.
When Kloss confronted him about the call Gillespie denied any involvement and reportedly said he was walking down the Norfolk and Southern railroad tracks to get home. Kloss, who knew where Gillespie lived, advised him he was trespassing and not to be on the railroad property and sent him on his way.
Shortly after, Kloss met with the woman along Fitzpatrick Street and assessed the graffiti on the machine. She then showed him the picture she had taken on her cell phone, which showed Gillespie standing close to the machine. At that point Kloss called Patrolman Mark Edwards to find Gillespie and the two confronted Gillespie about the picture, who then admitted to it and provided the marker he had used.
The officers took Gillespie to the station where he was later released to his mother, who told police he was already on probation at that time.
At the station Gillespie admitted to the recent graffiti cases, and that the ink in the marker he was using was Indian Ink he took from the Columbiana High School art room, according to the police report.
After his arrest police requested charges be filed through the juvenile court, who later approved charging him with two counts of criminal mischief and one count of criminal trespass.
"Despite his arrest, ringleader Gillespie and his associates continued to vandalize properties in the city until he was remanded to the custody of the Tobin Center on May 19," Gladis said in his report.
Police responded to six reports that were linked to Gillespie since April of 2011, with three relating to vandalism or criminal mischief to property.
Of those, charges were only filed once, which was April 12 of this year.
Of the 60 vandalism or related reports investigated by police over the last year 13 involved local businesses, while others involved Firestone Park and vandalism to cars.
The latest string of vandalism was to Col-Pump, Century Industries and Columbiana Boiler.
Gladis said the department is looking for two other suspects linked to Gillespie and indications are a separate group of people are also involved.
"Our department and its officers take such activity very personally when it occurs on their patrol shifts, and all officers worked hard to deter additional damage and identify the persons responsible. Most of our staff had some role in working these cases. Others looked for and documented damage while on patrol," he said.