Off-duty security guard faces murder charge for gunning down 17-year-old returning airsoft gun to store

Aaron Brown Myers, 51, told police that he had not been hired to protect the area but was voluntarily conducting ‘overwatch’

Io Dodds
San Francisco
Tuesday 11 June 2024 03:37
The Big 5 Sporting Goods store where the shooting took place
The Big 5 Sporting Goods store where the shooting took place (Renton Police Department via Facebook)

An off-duty security guard in Seattle has been charged with murdering teenage boy who was returning a defective airsoft gun to a sporting goods shop

Hazrat Ali Rohani, 17, was visiting a Big 5 branch in Renton, Washington with his friends last Wednesday evening when 51-year-old Aaron Brown Myers approached the group with a real gun in his hand, according to court documents.

Even though he had not been hired to protect the store and had no authority to give them orders, Myers allegedly threatened the boys into dropping their ‘guns’, tackled one of them to the ground, and ultimately shot Rohani at least seven times.

He later told investigators that he believed the teenagers were about to commit a robbery and felt “a duty to act”, claiming that they repeatedly ignored his commands to surrender.

However, surveillance footage contradicts Myers’ account of events, according to a police statement seen by The Independent.

“The defendant took it upon himself to conduct ’overwatch’ in a Renton parking lot, despite the fact that he is not a member of law enforcement and thus has not been trained in how to safely prevent crime,” prosecutors said in court filings on Monday.

”The defendant attacked three teenagers who had not committed any crime, and at every stage of the interaction chose to escalate with more and more violence until it culminated in taking the life of seventeen-year-old [Rohani].”

The prosecutors asked a judge to set Myers’ bail at $2m in order to prevent him from fleeing or committing any other violent offences.

They added that Myers had previously followed a random citizen through two stores in 2022 because he wrongly believed they had a gun. In that incident, he called 911 and allegedly told the dispatcher that he “might have to shoot”.

Monday’s charges came after two separate vigils were held nearby for Aayden Hayes, a 13-year-old shot dead in Bellevue on May 29, and Amarr Murphy-Paine, a 17-year-old killed while attempting to break up a fight during lunch break at his Seattle high school.

In a probable cause statement filed by the Renton Police Department, investigators saidthat Myers was “distraught and crying” after his arrest and had to be given a trash can to vomit into.

Once he calmed down, he told investigators that he was a licensed security guard and was voluntarily doing “overwatch” in the parking lot because he had seen “numerous crimes” occur there.

Myers said that he thought the boys were carrying a Glock and “felt like he did not have time to call 911”. He approached them from behind and threatened them with his gun, telling them to drop their weapons.

According to the police report, Myers claimed that none of the teenagers ever complied with his orders to put their hands up.

Yet surveillance footage allegedly showed one of the teenagers placing his gun on the ground, and two of them – including Rohani – reacting to Myers’ orders by putting their hands in front of their bodies and extending their fingers to show they were carrying no weapons.

“Despite their compliance, the defendant then escalated the situation further, tackling [one of the teens] and pinning him to the ground, while still holding his gun trained on the [other] teenagers,” prosecutors alleged.

“He claimed he did this to prevent [the first boy] from reaching for the airsoft pistol he’d already placed on the ground, but failed to take the obvious step of securing the toy gun, rather than assaulting the teen who had carried it.”

At that point, Myers told police, one of the teenagers reached into his waistband for a gun and refused to stop when ordered. Myers feared for his life and shot the boy “numerous times”.

Surveillance footage showed the boy’s right hand “briefly lower[ing] to his waist area” before being shot, police said.

For their part, the two surviving teenagers told police that they had repeatedly informed Myers that they were only carrying “BB guns”.

Airsoft guns are replica guns that fire plastic pellets and are used in non-lethal shooting matches similar to paintball. In casual contexts, they are often referred to as BB guns.

This story was updated at 7:37pm Pacific Time on Monday June 10, 2024 to include newly-released details about Myers’ charges.

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