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News / Northwest

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

By MARTHA BELLISLE, Associated Press
Published: June 11, 2024, 4:15pm

An off-duty security guard has been charged with murder after authorities say he stopped three teens outside a store near Seattle because they had what he believed was a firearm, but it was actually an airsoft pistol.

King County prosecutors charged Aaron Brown Myers on Monday with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old 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.

Myers is in King County jail on $2 million bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 24 in Kent, Washington. His lawyer, Michelle Scudder, said in an email that he 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.”

The three teens were headed into the store at about 7:30 p.m. on June 5 to return a malfunctioning airsoft gun, two of them told police later. They walked in front of Myers, who later told police that he had just been on duty as “licensed” and “armed” security and was sitting in his vehicle waiting to pick up his son from a martial arts class. It’s unclear where Myers works as a security guard.

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 with his gun pointed at the teens.

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

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’s a “BB gun,” not a firearm.

Myers then pushed one of the boys on to the sidewalk and straddled him while holding the back of his jacket, 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.

“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.

Rohani started to back away and turned slightly to the left 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.

Although Myers doesn’t have a criminal history or outstanding warrants, prosecutors said the substantial prison sentence he could face makes him a flight risk, so they asked for $2 million bail.

“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.

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” 17-year-old Rohani, Burke said.