Virginia jury finds smoke shop employee not guilty of malicious wounding for shooting burglar

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In many parts of Virginia, this verdict wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows, but anytime I see a jury in northern Virginia side with someone acting in self-defense, I’m always a little shocked. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s always seemed to me that the closer you get to the D.C. border, the more contempt for gun ownership and the right of self-defense you find.

And yet, a jury in Arlington County recently decided that Hamzeh Abushariah, an employee of a smoke shop who confronted three burglars more than two years ago was not guilty of malicious wounding after shooting one of the three suspects in the back.

“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.

After spending months in jail awaiting trial, I can only imagine the relief Abushariah feels having been acquitted of all charges by a jury of his peers. And as Jowan Zuber argued, prosecutors should face serious questions about why the employee was charged to begin with. So far though they’re not saying much at all.

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.

If they were charged as juveniles, I can tell you exactly what happened to them: not much.

Despite that, Abushariah doesn’t hold any grudges. In fact he said he hopes that life will get better for the burglar he shot, and that both of them will recover from the events of March 29, 2020.

This case is a sobering reminder that even when you act in to protect your own life, police and prosecutors might not see it that way. Thankfully a jury of twelve men and women in a part of Virginia not known for its appreciation for the Second Amendment and the right of self-defense were still able to see Abushariah’s actions for what they were; not a malicious attack on three burglars, but an attempt to protect himself from strangers who put him in fear for his life. I’m glad to see that they reached that correct decision, and that Hamzeh Abushariah can now start the next chapter of his life with his family by his side.