Columbus man guilty of aggravated menacing, not guilty of involuntary manslaughter

Posted on 11/21/2022


Robert Thomas, 73, of Columbus, on Friday was found guilty of aggravated menacing but not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in a shooting last year that left a man dead.
On June 20, 2021, Robert Thomas confronted his neighbor’s granddaughter and her husband, Jason Keys, on Walnut Hill Park Drive as they were leaving the grandparents’ house after a Father’s Day brunch. Despite having no evidence, Thomas believed that Keys had been letting the air out of his car tires and pouring herbicide on his lawn for the past several years. Thomas brandished an assault rifle on the street and was in the process of loading a clip into it when Keys was able to take the clip from Thomas. Keys’ in-laws came out of the house and helped Keys disarm Thomas, who fell to the ground.

Another neighbor, Elias Smith, who was not involved in the initial altercation and didn’t know his neighbors by name, armed himself with his own assault rifle upon hearing the commotion. Smith then opened his front door and shot and killed Keys. Smith later told police he did so because Keys was holding the clip of ammunition, and he did not recognize Keys from the neighborhood.

With the guilty verdict of aggravated menacing, Thomas’ bond was revoked. A sentencing hearing will be held at a later date. Elias Smith is indicted for murder, and his case is set for trial on Dec. 5, 2022.

Franklin County Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys David Zeyen and Sung Huh handled the case.
“While the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is disappointed in the not guilty verdict on the involuntary manslaughter charge, we thank the jury for its consideration in this matter,” Zeyen said. “We believe this tragic case demonstrates the need for all citizens who choose to possess firearms to fully and completely educate themselves about the responsibility of firearm ownership and use.”