Officers in the mostly rural area about 55 miles east of Columbus were under orders to shoot to kill for fear that animals hit with tranquilizer darts would run off and hide in the darkness.It turns out that Ohio is one of the easiest states in the country for people to own exotic animals legally even though there have been more than a few instances of wild animals getting loose and threatening humans. This time, no one was injured but it was tense as law enforcement and other officials had to go hunting for exotic animals in the dark of night and tell people to stay inside with their pets and children. Schools were closed. Signs were posted on freeways. Weird but true.
Terry Thompson, the owner of the animals, was not your average law abiding gun owner:
Just a reflection here. I have been blogging long enough to have linked to hundreds if not thousands of stories. I don't know how many times I write about gun owners getting into trouble for illegal activity with their guns. People who start out as law abiding don't always stay that way. Guns make it so much easier for things to go wrong, being that they are inherently dangerous and, depending on the situation, illegal.Thompson recently was set free himself. He spent a year behind bars on federal weapons charges, according to The Associated Press. He had previously been cited in the past for animal abuse and neglect.
Does this sound like a man who should have a lot of guns around him?
This blog includes excerpts from a story from October, 2010 from the Zanesville, Ohio Reporter Tonya Shipley:Thompson was known as a flamboyant, volatile man. The sheriff's department had been to the property on dozens of occasions over the last decade to check into reports of animal cruelty or animals on the loose.Thompson would stare down those who entered his property with his steely blue eyes. He'd cuss and scream."I'll be damned," Thompson would shout, according to county Humane Officer David Durst. "I'll let them animals go!"
Thompson was charged after agents with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms served a search warrant at Thompson's home on Kopchak Road in 2008. At that time, the ATF seized 133 weapons and a small amount of ammunition. Thompson's conviction centered on eight of those guns -- five fully automatic firearms and three short-barreled firearms without serial numbers. Thompson was formerly a gun dealer who did not renew his license several years ago.So the combination of volatility, anger, a bit of crazy, and a penchant for owning wild animals does not seem to go very well with a bunch of illegal guns. What in the world were all those guns for anyway? And from where did he acquire them in the first place? He was a gun dealer at one time but it doesn't sound like a good example of a licensed dealer. Guns without serial numbers? Getting fully automatic weapons is difficult and expensive. I guess Thompson didn't follow the laws as a licensed gun dealer. He must have had ways to get these guns without going through the usual channels if they were considered to be illegal. Where there's a will, there's a way, I guess. Where is common sense?
And now, over 50 wild animals are dead, some of them rare and endangered Bengal Tigers and one man is dead by suicide. And the town will have this story to tell for years to come. And further, let's hope that the Governor of Ohio will see fit to change the laws allowing people to collect these wild animals in the first place as most other states have done.