PAINESVILLE – Despite repeated efforts to communicate with a Madison Township man, a six-hour standoff ended with the man being fatally shot when he left his home and charged SWAT officers, while armed, in the early morning of April 6.
During a news conference held at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in Painesville the afternoon of April 6, Sheriff Dan Dunlap and Madison Township Police Chief Matt Byers briefed news media on the events.
“First thing I want to say is that this is the situation that every police officer dreads …,” Byers said.
911 received a call from the wife of Benjamin Ailstock, 38, of 1558 Hazel Ave. about a domestic disturbance and dispatched officers about 10:24 p.m. April 5, he said. When they arrived, they found the wife waiting in the neighbor’s yard.
When the officers knocked at the residence, Ailstock opened the door with a handgun which he refused to put down. Instead he retreated and closed the door.
Calls placed to Ailstock were unanswered.
“Mr. Ailstock is known to be a convicted felon, not legally allowed to possess firearms,” Byers said.
Additional officers were called to assist from Madison Village, North Perry Village and Perry Village.
“Ultimately a perimeter was placed around the residence and all the nearby neighbors were evacuated,” Byers said.
Since Ailstock still refused to respond to calls, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office was contacted and asked for assistance from the SWAT Team about 11:30 p.m.
The armored vehicle and SWAT officers were deployed and took over negotiations with the man.
Dunlap said, initially SWAT only dispatched a small team to address the situation.
When efforts to speak with Ailstock continued to fail because he refused to respond, the full team was dispatched to the home.
Dunlap said, when they arrived, they learned previous charges against Ailstock had included robberies in two states, assault, domestic violence reduced to persistent disorderly conduct, and drugs. His wife said he was a habitual drinker and had been drinking that evening.
“Part of the dispute resulted when she tried to get rid of the alcohol and removed weapons from the home which she stored in the car,” Dunlap said. “He confronted her, a tussle resulted; he removed the weapons from the car, returned them to the house, and we knew that he had a couple of handguns and a long rifle which turned out to be a shotgun.”
SWAT members brought armored vehicles and tried to communicate to Ailstock that they only wished to help him by loudspeaker.
The man did start to leave the house through a window, dropping the shotgun on the ground, but then he retreated back into the home.
Police retrieved the shotgun which was loaded with deer slugs.
“At no time, at no time did we put pressure, or make any inference that we would be entering the house,” Dunlap said.
The sheriff explained that in the past, the procedure was to enter the home in such circumstances, but that was no longer the case. The procedure is now to stay in place and make every effort to negotiate a peaceful surrender.
SWAT continued to speak to Ailstock and placed a rescue phone – a hardline phone – in the house through a window, but to no avail. Despite pleas that he pick up the phone so they could help him, the man refused to answer the phone.
After about six hours of not getting any response, Ailstock suddenly came out of his front door, headed for the armored vehicles, which were about 25 feet away, brandishing a handgun and went straight for the SWAT officers, raising and lowering his arm.
“He disregarded their repeated calls to ‘drop your weapon,’” Dunlap said.
One officer fired three times hitting Ailstock center mass, in the arm and missing once.
Madison Fire District emergency personnel were on the scene and transported Ailstock to the Madison Emergency Room immediately, but he did not survive his injuries.
“I too want to express our deep sympathy to the family; we certainly don’t want it to end this way and we made our very best effort so it wouldn’t,” Dunlap said, adding the officers showed great restraint.
It was determined the Ailstock had had suicidal thoughts and had just been released from a hospital after being treated for depression the day before.
The sheriff said the entire event is under investigation and the Mentor Police Department Detective Bureau will review the investigation. The final results will be presented to the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office which will determine if the shooting was justified.
When questioned by media personnel, Dunlap said officers did not have body cams and he declined to identify the officer who did the shooting or what police department he was from at this time.