Burglar guilty of murder after cop fatally shoots burglary victim

Defendant could face 15 years to life in prison.
TNS Regional News
Nov 3, 2013


A man charged with causing a Columbus police officer to fatally shoot a burglary victim could face 15 years to life in prison after he was convicted this week of murder.

A Fairfield County Common Pleas jury found David J. O’Neal guilty of all charges, which also included two counts of aggravated burglary and single counts of aggravated robbery and robbery. The crimes carry gun specifications that will add to O’Neal’s sentence.

O’Neal, 20, was convicted of murder in the death of Destin A. Thomas last year outside Thomas’ apartment building in a part of Columbus’ Far East Side that’s in Fairfield County.

Though O’Neal didn’t shoot Thomas, Ohio criminal law provides for anyone charged with a serious felony that results in a death to also be charged with murder.

“We’re delighted with the verdict, and so pleased for the Thomas family,” said Fairfield County Prosecutor Gregg Marx.

“This was not an easy case.”

Thomas’ father, William Thomas, hugged Marx and two assistant prosecutors, then left the courtroom with tears in his eyes. He declined to comment.

Destin Thomas, 21, was shot after calling 911 about 8:45 a.m. on July 17, 2012, to say that someone was breaking into his apartment. At least two burglars had kicked in his locked front door and eventually kicked in the door to Thomas’ bedroom, where he was hiding.

Thomas wrested a handgun from O’Neal and ran outside holding it, with O’Neal running behind him, prosecutors told jurors.

As Columbus Police Officer William T. Kaufman approached the building in response to the burglary call, he saw a man running with a gun that he testified was pointed “dead on” at him, so he shot that man — Thomas — twice, killing him.

O’Neal kept running and was caught later that day after he stole a Columbus police officer’s cruiser.

Kaufman was cleared by a grand jury in the shooting. The gun that Thomas had taken from O’Neal was not loaded, jurors were told.

Prosecutors argued that O’Neal was responsible for the fatal shooting of Thomas because the burglary led to Thomas’ death.

“If that burglary had not occurred, Destin would still be alive,” Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Hunter said.

Defense attorney Tom Elwing acknowledged that O’Neal was in the apartment trying to steal recording equipment but said he was not responsible for the fatal shooting. O’Neal did not take the stand during the trial, which began last week.

O’Neal, of Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb, didn’t know Thomas. The other burglar has not been caught.

The jury also convicted O’Neal of grand theft of a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property, vandalism and obstructing official business.

Judge Chris A. Martin has not scheduled O’Neal’s sentencing.


By Mary Beth Lane - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services



Dumb a@$ cop.... I hate this shoot first ask questions later policy that maw enforcement has..... this is ridiculous, if the officer doesn't get trigger happy and takes cover and ask, he would quickly find out that he was the victim, and not the criminal... what ever happened to freeze or stop! Now it's pop pop pop, he had a gun so I shot. If you get scared to the point you shoot before you give a command you shouldn't be a cop..... I hope this guys family gets what they deserve from the city, b/c if it was my family I would be heated at the incompetent actions from the police Dept.


You're a moron AEversole


Who trained this cop?


this dumb ass cop should be imprisoned or killed , !!! theres no way he can blame this on anyone else, he pulled the trigger without asking questions! stupid mistake he should have to pay for!!!


Just when I thought I heard everything. The cop gets a robbery call, sees a guy running toward him with a gun. There was no time to think. The right person was charged. This is reality not tv.