- Associated Press - Monday, April 21, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (AP) - Students, faculty and other community members on Monday mourned a popular high school football player who police say was fatally shot over the weekend while trying to play the role of peacemaker and police were seeking a 17-year-old suspect.

Springfield Police Chief Stephen Moody said the suspect attends an alternative school and that he and 17-year-old Jeff Wellington knew each other before the early Sunday shooting. Moody said the teen should be considered armed and dangerous, but police were hoping he would turn himself in.

The Associated Press is not naming the suspect because of his age.

Grief counselors were comforting students, staff and parents at Springfield High School in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Wellington during an altercation in an apartment parking lot.

“The atmosphere is one of grief and very, very subdued,” Schools Superintendent David Estrop said.

Moody said Wellington was visiting friends at an apartment complex when two other youths arrived and an argument broke out between one of the youths and one of Wellington’s friends.

“He went out to try to calm the situation,” Moody said. Instead, the gunman shot him once in the chest and fled, and Wellington died after being flown to a hospital, authorities said.

“It was a cowardly act on the shooter’s part,” Moody said. “This was not unlike Jeff Wellington to be the peacemaker.”

Wellington was a junior and a standout running back for the Wildcats football team. The Springfield News-Sun reported that hundreds of people turned out Sunday night for a candlelight vigil where students shared stories about Wellington. Friends described him as outgoing and happy, appearing to have a bright future. Football coaches said he had attracted college attention.

“I just hope that people remember the good side of Jeff, to remember how fun and goofy he was to be around and not so much sadness, because I knew he wouldn’t want that to be like that,” senior Jessica McDaniel said.

“He could make you smile on your worst day,” said Ronnie Walker, a senior and fellow track team member.

Estrop said 25 to 30 crisis counselors were available for those “who are dealing with the horrible tragedy of the weekend” at the high school of some 1,700 students in western Ohio.

Jeff was a very positive force in school and we will miss him tremendously,” Estrop said. He said school officials planned to meet with the teen’s family to discuss what the school could do in his memory.