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July 28, 2008

A Case of "Self-Defense"

At 1:56 a.m. on the morning of July 13, Officer Joshua Miktarian of Twinsburg, Ohio, pulled over Ashford Thompson on suspicion of drunken driving. Dispatch tapes reveal that 90 seconds after making the stop, Officer Miktarian radioed for assistance and then failed to respond to the questions of the dispatcher and his fellow officers. During these critical moments, Thompson used a Kel-Tec P11 handgun to fatally shoot Miktarian four times in the head at close range. The location of two recovered bullets suggest that Thompson continued to fire even after Miktarian had fallen to the ground. Officer Miktarian never had a chance to draw his own weapon, which remained in his holster as he was flown to emergency medical care.

Thompson fled the scene and was later found with a handcuff on one wrist at a relative’s home, where he was arrested without further incident. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty—Thompson is facing charges including aggravated murder, resisting arrest and tampering with evidence.

Thompson possessed a concealed carry permit in the state of Ohio and had no criminal record whatsoever. His defense attorney, Larry Zukerman, has argued that he acted in self-defense, but refused to offer any additional details. Prosecutor David Maistros has responded by saying, “He’s Mr. Thompson’s lawyer and he has a job to do. But self-defense? I’d find that laughable.” Added Twinsburg Officer Tom Austin: “Just because you have the right to carry a gun, it doesn’t give you the right to slaughter somebody.”

Sergeant Darren Senft from nearby Warrensville Heights commented on the dangers that law enforcement officers face in pulling over armed drivers: “When you’re making a traffic stop, you have no idea who this person is. There are so many unknowns.” The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reports that 20% of fatal police officer shootings occur during traffic stops.

Friends and family remembered Josh Miktarian as a man who “brought laughter everywhere he went.” He leaves behind a wife (who is also a police officer) and a three month-old daughter. At a candlelight vigil conducted in his memory, Cindy Steele, wife of a local police officer, told the gathered mourners, “Look around you…We are good, caring people here…people who value human life.” Just a day earlier, Ashford Thompson made it apparent how little he valued human life by stealing Officer Miktarian away from his friends and family. As an individual licensed to carry a concealed handgun, Thompson was obliged to act responsibly with his firearm. Instead, he used it to needlessly kill a man who had dedicated his life to serving and protecting his community.