A 71-year-old retiree in Columbus, Ohio, was home alone, as always, around noon on Friday when he heard a loud pounding at his front door. The sound was louder than a knock. Someone was trying to kick in his front door. And then the intruder succeeded.
But that was as far as 31-year-old ex-convict Michael Rinehart got. His intentions clearly were not good, but no one will ever known for sure. Before he could even take a step inside the house, the homeowner, Joseph Miklich, fired a single shot. And that was enough.
According to a report in the Columbus Dispatch, Rinehart was pronounced dead at the scene, and police said that the killing appeared to be a case of self-defense.
The Dispatch reported that Milkich has lived alone in the home since his wife passed away 11 years ago. Neighborhood residents described the homeowner as a quiet man and a good neighbor. Records showed that Milkich has lived in the same house since 1971, the Dispatch found.
As for Rinehart, who knows why he chose to kick in a retired widower’s door in the middle of a Friday afternoon. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to a burglary charge, although he claimed that his criminal actions were driven by his drug addiction. He served four years.
Rinehart had tried for an early release, asking to be placed in a drug treatment halfway house and pledging not to commit any more crimes. He did not keep that promise, apparently.
His return to crime just months after his release from prison has now cost him his life, it appears.
“Everyone has the right to protect their house,” said Columbus police spokesperson Rich Weiner. “It’s very tragic. It’s something he’ll have to live with.”
The homeowner dutifully called 911 immediately after he shot Rinehart, telling the dispatcher exactly what happened.
But while police say that the case appears to a clear instance of self-defense, homicide detectives are investigating the shooting and Milkich, at least in theory, could still face charges if a grand jury finds that he may have committed a crime.
“Somebody kicks in your door and they’re coming in your house, you don’t have to wait for them to come in your house,” Weiner said. “There’s a big difference if somebody’s outside and they’re 20, 30, 40 feet away and they’re not inside your residence. Different story. But somebody is kicking in your door and they’re coming in, most people might consider that to be a threat and they can take action.”
According to the Dispatch, Columbus, a city of about 800,000, saw 89 homicides in 2014 — five of them ruled to be self-defense.
The retired Columbus homeowner who killed the man who kicked in his door owned his gun legally, police said.
[Image: WBNS 10TV Screen Grab]