NEW CARLISLE, Ohio (WDTN) — The Clark County Coroner identified 21-year-old Gage Melton as the man who was shot and killed after he allegedly tried to rob a New Carlisle pizza shop Sunday night.
Now, for the first time, we’re hearing the 911 call that describes the moments a store employee allegedly shot the would-be-robber in self-defense.
The 911 call begins with an employee saying, “Papa John’s New Carlisle 410 North Main Street. Someone just broke in and they were shot in self-defense.” The 911 operator says, “Ok, somebody just broke in?” The employee says, “They came right in with weapons and tried to rob us. They’re still in here. There’s one shot and wounded on the floor. One of them ran out.”
The robbery attempt happened just after 11 p.m. when a Papa John’s store employee told 911 two people wearing masks ran in.
On the call, the employee said, “They had weapons. The one’s got a big crowbar, the other one had what looked like a knife. And they were sprinting towards us.” He went on to say, “It looked like a knife or like hedge clippers or something. They came sprinting in and ran up on us fast.”
A delivery driver shot at the suspects. One of them — later identified as Melton — was hit and lay bleeding in the store, the other suspect fled.
The driver that pulled the trigger also spoke with 911 on the emergency call, saying, “I’m too upset to talk right now. I’m willing to cooperate when you get here, I don’t have the firearm in my hand.”
The employees told 911 they worried the other suspect may be waiting for them outside. The 911 operator told them to stay inside while emergency crews headed to the store and tried to coach them through administering life-saving aid. But they were too distraught, adding there were no clean towels to stop the bleeding.
Then the first employee said he thought the suspect was no longer breathing.
The 911 operator asked, “Where is the gun at? Does [name redacted] still have it or is it put away?” The first employee responded, “He still has it, do you need him to put it somewhere?” The 911 operator said, “Yeah. Have him put it on a counter.” The employee then said, “Put the gun right here [name redacted] so it’s out in the open. So the cops know it’s out in the open.”
Clark County deputies are still working to identify the second suspect in the attempted robbery.
Both the Sheriff’s Office and a legal expert say this case appears to be a justified use of force in self-defense, though that final determination will be made by the prosecutor’s office once all the facts are gathered.
WATCH legal expert explains Ohio’s self-defense law and how it could apply to this case:
Tom Hagel is a professor of law emeritus at the University of Dayton School of Law. He says, “If you have a lawful right to be where you’re at, you can stand your ground and use deadly force in response to a threat of deadly force.”
According to the 911 call, store employees felt threatened when the would-be robbers rushed into the store. The first employee said, “I’m just so glad that he, that my driver was conceal carry. Because I wouldn’t have known what to do with him running in like that.”
Hagel says the old castle doctrine meant a person did not have to retreat in their own home, but now he says the state’s new stand your ground law protects similar actions away from home. “If he is being threatened with serious bodily harm or death, and it is presumed that that is happening, if he is being victimized as a victim of an armed robbery, it’s assumed they’re threatening his safety, then he can use deadly force without any duty to run away.”
The suspects allegedly had a crowbar and a knife when they tried to rob the store, both of which Hagel says are deadly weapons in the right context. “If the facts are as it’s been laid out, I think it’s a pretty clear case of justifiable self-defense.”
And investigators from the Clark County sheriff’s office confirm the employee was legally allowed to carry a firearm, as that employee said on the 911 call: “I’m a lawful conceal carrier. I’m here at Papa John’s New Carlisle. I feared for my life.”
The lead investigator from the Sheriff’s Office says they’re confident they’ll locate the second robbery suspect. He adds there is likely no direct threat to the community.