A worker at a Washington-area smoke shop is facing three charges for using the business owner’s gun to shoot and wound a juvenile who broke into the store ostensibly to burglarize it, multiple outlets reported Monday.
Hamzeh Abushariah, 33, who was using a back room of the store in Arglington, Virginia, to sleep during the coronavirus outbreak, is charged with malicious wounding, reckless handling of a firearm and violation of a protective order, local ABC-affiliate WJLA reported. Arlington County Police say the third charge is because Abushariah had been ordered not to have a firearm.
He was being held without bail.
Arlington Smoke Shop owner Jowan Aqrawi said he had specifically purchased two guns because he feared someone would try to rob his store during the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
“We bought protection for the store just in case, because on Facebook you see a lot of robberies, a lot of things going on,” Aqrawi said.
According to police, they responded to the store just before 5 a.m. Sunday and found the juvenile suffering from a gunshot wound. His injuries were serious but not life-threatening, The Associated Press reported.
Police said three suspects forced their way in to the store and were in the process of stealing cash and merchandise when Abushariah awoke. He “opened the door to the sales floor and discharged the weapon, striking one juvenile subject,” police said. “The employee retreated to the back room but re-entered the sales floor and discharged his weapon again as the subjects were attempting to flee the business.”
Charges against the juvenile were expected but had not yet been filed. Two suspects remained at large.
The charges against Abushariah come following Virginia Democrats’ push to enact more gun control laws since flipping both houses of the General Assembly in November.
The blue wave marked the first time in two decades the party both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office.
State gun owners responded to various legislative proposals aimed at restricting firearms ownership with a movement to create “sanctuary cities” for gun rights, with local government bodies passing declarations not to enforce new gun laws.
Aqrawi was outraged that Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti decided to charge his employee.
“Four-third a.m., three masked men entering your home where you’re asleep,” he said. “Put yourself in that position, and you’ll have a better understanding.”
Dehghani-Tafti issued a statement saying there was enough evidence to charge Abushariah.
“I cannot ethically discuss an ongoing investigation because doing so would not only risk compromising our work but also unfairly impede on the rights of the accused and interfere with the investigation,” she said. “Suffice it to say, there is evidence we are not at liberty to share that support the charges, the decision was not made lightly, and we ask the public not to rush to judgment on what is very much a live investigation.”