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Published: Thursday, 3/8/2012

Clerk pleads not guilty in death

Defendant free on recognizance bond

Bandar Abu-Karsh, left, confers with defense attorney John McMahon after his arraignment on an voluntary manslaughter charge. Bandar Abu-Karsh, left, confers with defense attorney John McMahon after his arraignment on an voluntary manslaughter charge.

Bandar Abu-Karsh was led from a Lucas County Common Pleas courtroom in handcuffs Wednesday after pleading not guilty to a felony charge for the shooting death of a man who police say tried to rob him.

The North Toledo carryout employee was arraigned on one count of voluntary manslaughter. He was taken into custody immediately after his arraignment to be booked and was then released under a supervised recognizance bond.

Mr. Abu-Karsh, 38, of Mulberry Street was charged Feb. 23 with the shooting of Lamar Allen, 25, who died in November from multiple gunshot wounds. Allen was with another man when police say they entered the Express Carryout on Mulberry Street and tried to rob it.

If convicted, Mr. Abu-Karsh faces up to 11 years in prison.

According to police, Allen and an accomplice entered the carryout about 9:45 a.m. Nov. 21. Once inside, Allen threatened the store clerk and began emptying the register of cash, police said.

Allen collapsed after being shot multiple times. His accomplice shot at the clerk several times and fled.

Lucas County Deputy Coroner Cynthia Beisser, who conducted Allen's autopsy, said he died of "multiple shots in the chest that caused extensive damage." She noted that Allen was shot once in the head and multiple times in the chest.

Dr. Beisser said though she couldn't determine the caliber of any weapons used, additional information from a video indicated two guns were used to shoot Allen. The autopsy further revealed that Allen had 1 1/2 liters of blood in his lungs, an indication he did not die immediately but was alive for "minutes."

"To get that much blood, the heart was still beating," Dr. Beisser said. She said Allen was shot "more than 10 times" but did not give an exact number.

Mr. Abu-Karsh's court-appointed attorney, John McMahon, said in court his client was not a U.S. citizen and was currently involved in an immigration issue.

Because of the immigration case, Mr. Abu-Karsh, who is a citizen of Jordan, did not have his passport. A husband and step-father, Mr. Abu-Karsh has lived in the country for the past 4 1/2 years years, Mr. McMahon said.

Judge Gary Cook released Mr. Abu-Karsh on a recognizance bond with the order that he report twice weekly and that he surrender his passport if it is returned to him. He then set a March 28 pretrial hearing date.

After the court hearing, Mr. McMahon said that he was not familiar with the details of the case and so declined to comment.

Members of Allen's family declined to comment after the hearing.

A voluntary manslaughter charge is defined as "no person, while under the influence of sudden passion or sudden fit of rage, either of which is brought on by serious provocation occasioned by the victim that is reasonably sufficient to incite the person using deadly force, shall knowingly cause the death of another."

Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division of the prosecutor's office, noted that the charge was the result of evidence being presented to the Lucas County grand jury.

"They were instructed on the law of self-defense as well as the law of voluntary manslaughter," he said, noting that video evidence, the coroner's report, and information from the detective were all provided to the grand jury. "Based on all the information, the grand jury returned an indictment. We respect their findings."

Mr. Lingo further stated ethical obligations prevent the prosecutor's office from giving specific details of the case. "However, at the appropriate time, the evidence will be presented in court."

The executive director of the National Rifle Association was out of the office and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The charge against Mr. Abu-Karsh had sparked a debate in the community about the definition of self-defense. In Ohio, what is commonly known as the "Castle Doctrine" indicates a person does not have the duty to retreat before using self-defense.

It further adds that it does not give a person the right to use deadly force.

According to legal experts, the law allows a person who is attacked, without fault of his own, to use deadly force only if he reasonably and honestly believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent serious bodily harm or death. If the person does not have this belief that he is in mortal danger or if he can safely withdraw from the situation, he should not use deadly force, the law states.

A similar discussion arose in Oklahoma where last year a pharmacist was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of murder for the shooting death of a teen who had entered his store to rob him.

According to news reports of the incident, surveillance video of the attempted robbery shows 16-year-old Antwun Parker and an accomplice running into a pharmacy and pointing a gun at Jerome Ersland.

The video then shows Ersland shooting Parker once, knocking him to the ground.

After chasing Parker's accomplice out of the store, Ersland retrieved a second gun and returned to shoot Parker five more times, 46 seconds after firing the first shot, news reports state.

Prosecutors in the case said Ersland eliminated the threat with his first shot and was not defending himself or anyone else when he fired more shots at the youth.

His conviction and sentence are under appeal.

In Lucas County, others have not been charged for shooting intruders in either their homes or businesses. The grand jury declined to indict Sedric Joplin in March, 2010, for the shooting death a month earlier of Christopher Childress, whom he found breaking into his home.

Months earlier, the grand jury declined to indict a Sylvania man on a murder charge for the shooting death of a man breaking into his home.

Clay Hausenfleck called to report he had shot an intruder after a break-in at his Williamsburg Drive home. Officers found the body of Louis M. Mason, 28, of Toledo, who died of two gunshot wounds.

Although not charged with the shooting, Hausenfleck was arrested on drug charges and was sentenced in 2010 to four years in prison for cultivating and possessing 200 marijuana plants.

Mr. Abu-Karsh is not the only one charged in the recent incident.

Joseph R. Hunter, 25, of 625 Acklin Ave., who police say entered the carryout with Allen, has been arrested for his alleged involvement in the initial robbery that resulted in Allen's death.

He was indicted in January on one count each of involuntary manslaughter, attempt to commit murder, felonious assault, and aggravated robbery, each with gun specifications. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 36 years in prison.

Although police say he did not pull the trigger that ended Allen's life, Hunter was charged with his death because a death came about as a result of his conduct, the prosecutor's office has said.

Hunter is scheduled to appear Friday in Common Pleas Court before Judge Stacy Cook for a pretrial hearing.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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