Tennessee Store Clerk Found Guilty of Fatally Shooting Black Teen for Stealing Beer

Astore clerk from Tennessee was found guilty of shooting and killing a Black teen in 2018, authorities said.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s office said in a press release on August 16 that Anwar Ghazali, 29, was convicted of second-degree murder after a four-day trial. On March 29, 2018, at the Top Stop Shop on 1127 Springdale Street in Memphis, Dorian Harris, 17, entered the convenience store and “took at least one beer ... without paying.” Ghazali, with a handgun drawn, ran after Harris and shot at him several times.

Ghazali returned to the store; told a witness, “I think I shot him”; and did not call the police, according to the press release. A neighbor found Harris’ body at around 4 p.m. in a yard about a block away from the convenience store with a gunshot wound in the back of his left thigh.

Security footage viewed by the jury showed Ghazali pointing his gun at the teen before he left the store and then running out after Harris, WMC reported.

“His life was cut short when he was chased at least shot at three times with a fatal gunshot wound to his left thigh and left to bleed out and die,” said state prosecutor Lora Fowler during the trial, according to the news station.

Ghazali was arrested two days after the shooting and admitted to firing several shots at the teen. The 29-year-old said he never meant to kill Harris for stealing the beer and claimed he fired the gun in the air as warning shots. The bullet struck Harris’ femoral artery and caused the teen to bleed out while he ran away.

"The defendant took it upon himself to be the judge, the jury and the executioner over a $2 [drink]. That's why we're here," said Fowler during closing arguments. "Why are you using deadly force to defend a [drink]?"

Harris’ death sparked two days of protests across the street from the convenience store where Ghazali pulled the trigger. Matt Porter, a lawyer representing Harris’ family, told the publication the store was closed for two weeks following the teen’s death.

Effie Fitch, Harris’ grandmother, told USA Today that she was pleased with the verdict in the case but said Ghazali should have been charged with first-degree murder.

"I feel that the charge should have been first degree," Fitch told the publication. "He took a life, so it should be for life."

Blake Ballin, Ghazali's attorney, told NBC News in a statement that they tried to focus the jury on facts “and not on the color of someone's skin.”

"Memphis is a community that is struggling with many things," Ballin told the news station. "Racial and economic inequality plague us daily. I understand why this case has caused public frustration because another African American kid has been needlessly killed. But decisions of guilt and innocence and questions of intent should not be based on emotion."

Ghazali will be sentenced on September 23 by Judge W. Mark Ward, according to the district attorney’s press release. In Tennessee, second-degree murder is punishable by up to 60 years in prison.

Earlier this month, four Black teenagers who were going door to door in their community in Arkansas to raise money for their high school football team had a white woman pull out a gun on them.

Wynne Police Department Chief Jackie Clark previously told WMC that on August 7, officers responded to a report of “suspicious persons,” but when they arrived at the scene, authorities said they found four teenagers lying on the ground while a white woman stood over them with a gun. On August 12, they arrested the woman, who was identified as Jerri Kelly. Kelly, 46, was charged with four counts each of false imprisonment in the first degree, aggravated assault, and endangering the welfare of a minor in the second degree, according to arrest records viewed by The North Star.

One of the teens, a 16-year-old sophomore who attends Wynne High School, previously told WREG that he and three other students were selling restaurant coupon cards when they arrived at Kelly’s home. Kelly ordered the teens to get on the ground, spread their legs, and keep their hands behind their backs.

Two of the teens were reportedly wearing their football jerseys.

Superintendent Carl Easley of Wynne Public Schools told WREG that the team sells the coupons every year, but the district may stop the door-to-door fundraising.

“We intend to review all methods of fundraising used by school groups in grades K-12 to insure the safety of our children,” Easley told the news station.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.