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JUST IN: Smoke shop employee found not guilty in shooting case

Arlington Smoke Shop in Green Valley (photo via Google)

(Updated at 5:35 p.m.) An Arlington jury has found a store employee not guilty in the shooting of a burglar, in a case that received national media attention.

It all started with a burglary of the Arlington Smoke Shop, at 2428 Shirlington Road in the Green Valley neighborhood, shortly before 5 a.m. on March 29, 2020. Three masked suspects allegedly broke into the store and started stealing cash and merchandise.

Shop employee Hamzeh Abushariah was sleeping in a back room of the store at the time due to Covid concerns at his D.C. apartment building. Prosecutors alleged that Abushariah grabbed a gun and shot one of the suspects, who was under the age of 18, point blank in the back.

Abushariah was arrested and charged with Malicious Wounding, Reckless Handling of a Firearm and Violation of a Protective Order. Two juvenile suspects, including the one who was shot and seriously injured, were later charged in connection to the burglary.

The Reckless Handling of a Firearm charge was dismissed in April, court records show, a week after Abushariah was levied with a contempt charge for misbehavior in court. The protective order charge remains active, with a hearing set for this coming Tuesday.

But yesterday, after a trial in Arlington Circuit Court that started on Monday, a jury found Abushariah not guilty of Malicious Wounding, the most serious charge.

“I can’t even explain how happy I am,” Abushariah told ARLnow. “I’m home with my family. There’s nothing like being free especially when you know you’re innocent.”

Jowan Zuber, the owner of the store who has appeared several times on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight in defense of Abushariah, said the verdict was vindication.

“I broke down when the verdict, all 12 jurors, came [back] not guilty, self-defense,” Zuber said. “So they saw that the Commonwealth had no evidence holding Hamzeh Abushariah for two years, no evidence, taking him away from his kids and his livelihood when we’ve been fighting.”

He said that video played during the trial showed that it was dark in the store when the break-in occurred.

“So when he shot, he did not know where he was aiming,” said Zuber. “[Prosecutors] really hurt this guy big time.”

He said the verdict brings relief for Abushariah’s family after “two years of nightmare going back and forth.”

“The suffering, the tears that my wife, my kids, my family, my sisters, my parents, it’s not cheap, it’s not nothing. It’s something, it means a lot to me,” Abushariah said.

Abushariah was in jail for several months after the shooting, then released on house arrest for four months before he was arrested again, Zuber said. He has been in jail since, before being released around 6 p.m. Wednesday night.

Both Zuber and Abushariah thanked the jury and said they had to mention defense attorney Robert Marshall’s work on the case. In a video posted to Facebook, Abushariah reunites with his family leaving jail as Zuber says it’s all thanks to Marshall.

“We believed in [Marshall] since day 1, and he just went and just showed what the righteous is about and showed that we shouldn’t protect criminals and you have the right to protect yourself when people are coming to hurt you or break in in a violent way,” Zuber told ARLnow. “This is very bad for Arlington because we are here as citizens, we pay our taxes, and we want to protect the good people, not the bad… The jury, the people, made this happen.”

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church, provided a brief statement to ARLnow.

“As always, we respect the verdict and thank the jurors for their service,” the county’s top prosecutor said.

In response to additional questions from ARLnow, Tafti declined to provide other details about the case and the end result of the charges against the two burglary suspects.

“These were juvenile dispositions, and therefore not public record,” she said.

Newly free, Abushariah said it’s nice to see his children, and the green grass and enjoy the weather and good food.

“The smallest things mean so much when you’re free,” he said. “The smallest things in life matter.”

He said he wishes the person he shot well.

“I hope his life will get better, that he will recover, both of us will,” he said.

Brandi Bottalico contributed to this report

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