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Air Force Chaplain Charged with Inducing Panic

BEAVERCREEK Township -- Prosecutors have charged an Air Force chaplain with inducing panic after he brought a paintball rifle into an area auto dealership as he complained about the dealership's service.

According to the Greene County Sheriff's deputy's report, witnesses said Capt. Henry Thomas, in uniform, entered the Hidy Hyundai dealership Nov. 5, placed the paintball rifle on the counter and became "extremely irate" over work done on his car. The deputy said the paintball rifle "looked like a knock-off M16" that "looked as though it could be reasonably be passed off as an assault rifle."

Employees said Thomas had brought his vehicle to the dealership earlier and was upset about warranty coverage. One employee told the deputy she was terrified Thomas was going to "shoot up the place."

After Thomas paid his bill, he and his wife left the dealership, and deputies were called, according to the report.

Deputies contacted the Air Force Office of Special Investigation at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Deputies and OSI agents then went to Thomas' Beavercreek home where he was questioned. Thomas told authorities his paintball rifle had been in the trunk of the loaner car from the dealership and that he took it out of the trunk when he and his wife arrived at the dealership. Because his vehicle was not immediately available and he had no other place to store the rifle, he took the rifle into the dealership.

Thomas told a deputy he had no intention of scaring or harming anyone. In hindsight, he agreed that taking the paintball rifle into the dealership "was not such a good idea."

According to a Wright-Patterson spokesman, Thomas is assigned to one of the base's three chapels and remains on duty.

Thomas has a Nov. 21 hearing date in Fairborn Municipal Court on the first-degree misdemeanor.

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