- Police officers investigate after Monday night’s shooting at the Walgreens drugstore at 6101 Northwest Radial. When two robbers entered the store, a 32-year-old customer shot one of them to death. He caught the other one in the store and held him for police.
A 32-year-old Omaha man planned only to pick up a prescription and buy ice cream when he went to his local Walgreens in the Benson neighborhood.
Instead, Harry J. McCullough III shot a would-be-robber, 18-year-old Marquail Thomas, to death.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Tuesday afternoon that McCullough’s use of deadly force was “appropriate and justified” and that he would not be charged in the slaying.
“There’s no question that he had the right to defend himself and protect the lives of the others in the store,” Kleine said.
Nebraska law allows an individual to use force when his life or another person’s life is threatened.
However, McCullough was ticketed by police for carrying a concealed weapon, a misdemeanor.
He had a permit to carry a loaded handgun in plain view for example, in a holster but he did not have a concealed weapons permit, said Omaha Police Officer Jacob Bettin.
McCullough pulled his handgun from the waistband of his pants before he shot Thomas, authorities said.
Kleine said civilians normally shouldn’t put their lives at risk to prevent a crime. However, “if someone feels threatened,” he said, “they have the right to defend themselves.”
No one else in the store was injured.
Mark Bohaty, a firearms instructor in Bruno, Neb., said he didn’t know the details of what happened in the Walgreens store.
Bohaty said he teaches students that using lethal force cannot be a gun carrier’s first option when threatened.
“It is truly a last-resort type of thing,” he said. “The threat needs to be real, immediate, and they must be convinced that if they don’t use deadly force, they are going to suffer critical injury or death as a result of the threat against them” or against a family member or a stranger.
Bohaty said people must use their judgment on whether lethal force is appropriate.
“There’s no pat answer,” he said.
Police said two masked men entered the Walgreens at 6101 Northwest Radial shortly before 9 p.m. Monday.
McCullough declined a request for an interview when contacted by The World-Herald o Wednesday.
He had just made his purchase and was placing his credit card back into his wallet, said his lawyer, James Martin Davis.
One of the robbers, identified as Thomas, pointed a short shotgun in the direction of the cash register, where several customers were standing in line and told them not to move.
Davis said his client was armed with a .40-caliber pistol and fired after Thomas put the shotgun against the back of a woman using the ATM near the store entrance.
Davis said McCullough described Thomas’ weapon as a Remington 870 sawed-off shotgun that holds five rounds. Kleine said the shotgun was not loaded.
Thomas dropped the shotgun and fled from the store, but he collapsed outside.
The second man, 17-year-old Angelo Douglas, scurried to the back of the store. McCullough chased him down, dragged him to the front of the store at gunpoint and held him until police arrived, Davis said.
Police were still looking for a getaway driver.
Robert Elfinger, a spokesman for Walgreens, said the store is cooperating with police and declined to comment further. The store reopened at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Davis said McCullough has held several security jobs, which was why he frequently carries his weapon.
McCullough worked in security at the College of Saint Mary from April to October in 2008, a human resources employee at the college said. He currently is employed by the Nebraska Medical Center, Davis said, but not as a security officer.
Douglas was charged Wednesday with attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and weapon use.
If convicted, Douglas would face up to 120 years in prison — 20 years on the attempted robbery, and 50 each on the conspiracy and weapons charges.
Kleine said he charged Douglas with the weapons count because, authorities allege, he took part in a crime in which a gun was used. He is being held at the Douglas County Youth Center.
Douglas has no serious criminal record, other than misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstruction of law. Those charges were transferred to juvenile court in March.
Thomas was convicted earlier this month in Douglas County Court of obstructing the law and served three days in jail. He also was convicted of possessing an ounce or less of marijuana in Douglas County in December.
It was almost exactly a year ago April 29, 2009, that Thomas was shot when two males approached a crowd near 21st and Evans Street and opened fire.
Source: Leia Mendoza, Omaha World-Herald. Staff writers Todd Cooper, Jason Kuiper, and Juan Perez Jr.