UNITED STATES NEWS

Off-duty guard charged with killing Seattle-area teen after mistaking toy for gun, authorities say

Jun 11, 2024, 2:17 PM | Updated: 6:16 pm

SEATTLE (AP) — An off-duty security guard in a Seattle suburb has been charged with second-degree murder by prosecutors who said that he fatally shot a 17-year-old six times in the back as the teen and his friends tried to return a toy gun that the guard believed was a firearm to a sporting goods store.

King County prosecutors charged Aaron Brown Myers on Monday in the death of Hazrat Ali Rohani outside a Big 5 Sporting Goods Store in Renton, Washington. Myers, 51, also faces a second-degree assault charge after authorities say he held another teen at gunpoint.

Rohani and two other teens were headed into the store at about 7:30 p.m. on June 5 to return a malfunctioning airsoft gun, Rohani’s friends told police. They walked in front of Myers, who was sitting in his vehicle waiting to pick up his son from a martial arts class.

Myers told police that he noticed one teen carrying what he believed was a Glock handgun, and thought he saw another teen put a firearm into his waistband. Thinking he needed to stop an armed robbery, Myers told police that he didn’t have time to call 911, and instead got out of the car and pointed his gun pointed at the teens.

As Myers approached, one of the teens moved to the side and the other two stopped, raised their hands and one placed the airsoft gun on the sidewalk, telling Myers numerous times that it was a “BB gun,” not a firearm.

Myers then pushed one of the boys onto the sidewalk and straddled him, according to the probable cause document filed by Renton police. Myers continued to point his firearm at Rohani as he held his hands out in front of him, showing Myers that they were empty, police said. Rohani started to back away and Myers opened fire, hitting the teen once in the right side and six times in the back.

Video shows Rohani clutching his abdomen as he falls to the ground, calling out for his mother. The other teen ran for cover and called 911.

Rohani died at the scene and police immediately took Myers into custody.

Myers’ lawyer, Michelle Scudder, said in an email that Myers sincerely believed he was witnessing the beginning of a violent crime and wanted to stop it before anyone got hurt.

“Mr. Myers and his family are devastated by this tragedy and the fact that it resulted in the loss of a young man’s life,” Scudder said. “We are confident that over the course of this investigation the evidence will show that Mr. Myers’ only intent that day was to protect himself and others from serious harm or death.”

Myers said he had a “duty to intervene,” prosecutors said.

“The defendant failed to take the obvious step of securing the toy gun, rather than assaulting the teen who had carried it,” King County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lauren Burke said in a court filing.

Myers was being held in King County jail on $2 million bail. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for June 24 in Kent, Washington.

“Only a high bail, electronic home detention, and surrender of all firearms will protect the community from an untrained civilian who believes he has a duty to shoot people who have not hurt anyone,” Burke said.

It’s unclear where Myers works as a security guard.

Myers had tried to intervene in what he thought was a crime in March 2022, police said. He called 911 and told police that he saw a person on a bicycle pointing a gun at people, police said. He followed the person to a store until police arrived. Officers determined the person did not have a gun and posed no threat, police said.

“In this case 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 the defendant taking the life of” Rohani, Burke said.

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Off-duty guard charged with killing Seattle-area teen after mistaking toy for gun, authorities say