OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The Alameda County District Attorney on Tuesday announced that charges would not be filed against the Oakland Chinatown liquor store owner who fired shots at suspects during an attempted robbery last month.
Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley issued a press release Tuesday afternoon that said she had declined to file charges against the Oakland store owner, identified as Aaron Yee, based on his “justifiable use of force to defend the victim from a violent attack.”
At about 5:30 p.m. on February 15th, Yee saw a woman being robbed of her camera at the corner of Ninth and Franklin by two suspects. After seeing the woman knocked to the ground, he ran out with a gun, ordering the assailants to stop and firing multiple shots.
As Yee fired his weapon, the suspects got back into their vehicle and drove away, hitting the victim as she lay on the ground. The suspects also
veered toward Yee, narrowly missing him as they fled by car.
When police arrived to investigate the incident, Yee cooperated with officers and was taken into custody.
“The District Attorney’s Office does not condone vigilantism,” said O’Malley in the released statement. “However, after a thorough review of the facts of the incident, it is clear that Mr. Yee fired his weapon in lawful defense of the victim of the robbery or what appeared to be a possible kidnapping.”
According to an anonymous Oakland police officer who contacted KPIX 5 reporter Betty Yu several days after the incident, multiple Oakland police detectives and officers were reluctant to arrest Yee.
The anonymous officer sent a message to Yu noting that “detectives, sergeants and a lieutenant did not think the man should have been booked into jail.” The officer said that the order to arrest the store owner came from ranking members of the OPD at the scene including a captain and a deputy chief.
The anonymous officer also noted that the store owner had a valid permit to carry a firearm and the firearm he used was registered in his name. The officer said that the business owner is known to the police department and has helped with past investigations, calling police dispatch and officers directly to provide information on specific cases.
The officer said those cases including an instance that led to the recovery of a suspect vehicle involved in multiple robberies as well as tips that helped lead to the arrests of two suspects who assaulted elderly Asian victims. One of those suspects was Yahya Muslim, the man accused of attacking a 91-year-old man and two other victims in Chinatown.
The anonymous officer said Yee was held in jail for less than 12 hours.
The District Attorney’s Office said the robbery is another incident that happened during the recent substantial uptick in crime against Asian Americans in Oakland’s Chinatown and across Alameda County.
The DA’s release noted that the a Special Response Team has been created by the DA’s Office to address these crimes. The SRT is led by Assistant District Attorney Annie Saadi Esposito and Special Assistant to the District Attorney
Rebecca Tse, and includes prosecutors, victim-witness advocates as well as members of the Oakland Asian community who can speak to victims in their native languages.