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Ohio officials to add more optional trainings for law enforcement after delayed Columbus AMBER alert

The Ohio AMBER Alert Advisory Committee met on April 20, 2023 to discuss more trainings for law enforcement officials and personnel after a delayed response to the abduction of Kason and Ky'Air Thomas in Columbus.
George Shillcock
The Ohio AMBER Alert Advisory Committee met on April 20, 2023 to discuss more trainings for law enforcement officials and personnel after a delayed response to the abduction of Kason and Ky'Air Thomas in Columbus.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Raines is setting up new regional endangered and missing persons alerts training sessions around Ohio after a delayed Columbus AMBER alert in December.

Ohio emergency responders will take a new approach to training on alerts issued for missing and endangered adults and children after a delayed AMBER Alert in Columbus in December.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Raines told the AMBER Alert Advisory Board on Thursday that more trainings will be offered for law enforcement agencies.

This shift comes four months after it took longer than normal for an AMBER Alert to be issued after the abduction of 5-month-old twin brothers Kason and Ky'Air Thomas outside a Columbus restaurant.

Raines said the state is now taking a proactive approach after the abduction of the Thomas twins and is setting up new regional training that agencies can opt to attend and doing more to advertise the events to law enforcement agencies.

"We do get several requests a year to go out and do that training, but we found a need in our after action review (of the December alert) to be more proactive," Raines said.

The trainings are currently optional for agencies to request.

Harry Trombitas, a retired FBI agent and member of the committee, praised this move at Thursday's meeting.

"Sometimes a lack of training and understanding of how the process works can cause a delay in that. What you guys are all doing, I think, is worthwhile," Trombitas said.

According to Columbus police, on the night of Dec. 19, Nalah Jackson, of Dayton, stole a vehicle from outside a Donato's Pizza restaurant on North High Street near 1st Avenue while the Thomas twins were inside the vehicle.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Columbus police were notified of the abduction at around 9:45 p.m. The police contacted the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s watch desk, which is responsible for issuing AMBER alerts, at around 11:41 p.m. It took nearly two more hours, until 1:37 a.m., for the public to receive mobile phone alerts.

One of the twins was found at the Dayton International Airport, while the other was later found in Indianapolis. Jackson was arrested on kidnapping charges, and was later indicted on two federal counts of kidnapping of a minor for taking the vehicle with the two boys inside.

Ky'Air Thomas died over a month after he was abducted from a "sudden unexplained infant death," according to the coroner's report. A contributing factor listed on the report was an "unsafe sleep environment."

Raines declined to comment further on the trainings and WOSU News did not hear back from the Ohio State Highway Patrol's Public Affairs Unit before deadline.

It is unclear whether the training will remain optional and what else is being done to insure what happened when the Thomas twins were abducted doesn't happen again.

The trainings provide information on activation criteria and processes, what critical information first responders need to obtain for an alert and how the alerts are shared regionally, according to a flyer on the AMBER Alerts website. Law enforcement officers, communications and dispatch personnel are able to attend.

The first new training is on May 11 at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Training Academy.

Raines told the committee he is working to get more of these training sessions set up several counties across the state including Trumbull, Warren and Hancock counties.

Raines said they are looking at holding trainings in Athens and other parts of the southern and western regions of Ohio.

So far, in 2023 there have been three AMBER Alerts issued in Ohio: in Zanesville, Whitehall and Hamilton County. In all three cases, the abducted children were located and unharmed.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.