Citizens should arm themselves for protection, says the sheriff of a county where a baffling mass murder took place.

“I can tell you if you are fearful, arm yourself,” Sheriff Charles Reader told The Columbus Dispatch. “If you feel you need to protect yourself or your family, do so and contact the local law enforcement to come and respond to it.”

Reader is the sheriff of Pike County, Ohio, where eight members of the Rhoden family were the victims of execution-style killings. Authorities have no suspects and have not mentioned any motives for the killings. The murders occurred at four different locations.

Extensive marijuana growing operations were found at a number of the Rhoden homes, and investigators have not said whether drugs had anything to do with the killings. Officials did tell CNN that they think the marijuana growing was a complex commercial operation run purely for profit.

The killings could have been part of home-invasion robberies, because the victims were shot in the head April 22 while they slept. A three-year old and two babies survived the massacre.

“It was a sophisticated operation and those who carried it out were trying to do everything they could do to hinder the investigation and their prosecution,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said of the murders.

The sheriff thinks the rest of the family could still be targets and told them they should be armed. Some local residents agreed with their sheriff.

“This is a different animal, what’s going on here right now,” Pike County resident Dave Brodess told The Dispatch. “A whole family wiped out and not even a trace of evidence left behind.”

The local superintendent of schools, Todd Burkitt, said the incident has shaken the community. He understands the desire to be armed.

“It’s a perfectly rational and logical thing to say, it’s just something you don’t usually have to say,” Burkitt said. “Something tragic and scary has happened in our community, and people do have a right to protect themselves, their homes and their families.”


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