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Published: Tuesday, 8/14/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

Testimony begins on clerk charged in shooting

Bandar Abu-Karsh appears in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for his arraignment on a voluntary manslaughter charge. Bandar Abu-Karsh appears in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for his arraignment on a voluntary manslaughter charge.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This version corrects the charge against the defendant.

What happened inside a North Toledo carryout the morning a store clerk shot and killed a would-be armed robber is as clear as the images caught on surveillance video.

But whether Bandar Abu-Karsh knowingly took Lamar Allen's life after the threat had passed, or acted in self-defense and was justified in the shooting, is a question for a Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury.

Mr. Abu-Karsh, 29, is charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter for the Nov. 21 shooting death of Allen, who with an accomplice tried to rob at gunpoint the Express Carryout on Mulberry Street. Allen, 25, died as a result of loss of blood due to multiple gunshot wounds.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tim Braun told a jury of eight women and four men that Mr. Abu-Karsh clearly faced danger when two masked men entered, aimed guns at him, and demanded merchandise and money.

It was while the store was being robbed that a customer entered, prompting the accomplice to go to the back of the store. That allowed the clerk to retrieve a handgun from below the counter and shoot Allen once in the head.

Store security cameras captured the entire incident, Mr. Braun said.

"We're not questioning his judgment in firing the first shot, absolutely not. That is perfectly justified under the situation," he said.

But the shot to the head wasn't fatal, Mr. Braun said: Allen fell to the floor, but his heart was still beating.

After Mr. Abu-Karsh, now using Allen's gun, exchanged shots with the accomplice and then left the counter to lock the front door, the prosecutor said, he returned to Allen's body and fired numerous times, then kicked the robber's body.

"At close range and not looking, he just kept shooting until the weapon runs dry," Mr. Braun said. "…There is a certain point in this scenario that it stops being self-defense."

Defense attorney John McMahon told jurors that "this case is about justified behavior."

Noting that Allen entered the store with a "gigantic, menacing gun," Mr. McMahon said the situation began with the weapon being pointed right in Mr. Abu-Karsh's face.

"They are committing a premeditated, aggravated, armed robbery. They are wearing ski masks and gloves," Mr. McMahon said. "…It was two minutes of terror followed by about 20 seconds of action."

Involuntary manslaughter is explained 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."

Three law enforcement officers and one witness testified Monday, including Toledo police Detective Terry Cousino, who photographed the crime scene and collected evidence. A deputy coroner and the case's lead detective are scheduled to testify today.

Mr. Braun said video of the incident will also be played for jurors during the trial, at which Judge Gary Cook is presiding.

Mr. McMahon told jurors Mr. Abu-Karsh will tell his story.

"He didn't create the robbery. He clearly had the belief that he was in danger and there's no safe place to go in that 20 seconds of action," he said.

Allen's accomplice, Joseph Hunter, was sentenced in March to 32 years in prison after being found guilty by a jury of involuntary manslaughter, attempted murder, felonious assault, and aggravated robbery, each with gun specifications.

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

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