Store owner: “I didn’t kill him; he killed himself”

Prosecutor sends case to grand jury

Smail Gueddari was working in the back room of his store, Mazagan Urban Ware, around 8:30 p.m. Saturday when, suddenly, he heard his wife, who had been manning the cash register, screaming from the front of the shop.

Gueddari rushed from the back room to find a robber, with the lower part of his face covered by a makeshift black bandanna, pointing a handgun at his wife and motioning with it for her to empty the store’s cash register. When the robber spotted Gueddari rounding the corner, he fired a shot at the store owner, but the bullet narrowly missed him and instead struck two mannequins before lodging into a nearby wall.

Gueddari said that’s when he pulled his firearm and shot back twice, hitting the robber once in the torso. The robber, identified Monday as 26-year-old Jeremy Scott Irvin of Fairfield, tried to escape with some of the stolen money after being wounded, but collapsed on the sidewalk just outside of the store located at 201 Main Street. Irvin would be pronounced dead shortly afterwards at Fort Hamilton Hospital.

Gueddari, in his first interview since the incident, told the Hamilton JournalNews that Irvin’s actions caused his own demise.

“Anybody in my place would have done what I do,” Gueddari said on Monday. “ I didn’t kill him; he killed himself.”

While Gueddari described the encounter as a classic case of self-defense, Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said Monday that evidence would be turned over to a grand jury to determine whether or not charges would be filed against the business owner.

“The parameters with respect to the use of deadly force and fire arms, and the protection of business property only, had to be laid out clearly so people don’t get the wrong idea of what they can do and they can’t do,” Gmoser said.

For example, Gmoser said someone coming into a piano shop and smashing up the pianos with a hammer does not warrant the use of deadly force simply to protect their property. But if the person turned the hammer on the shop keep, “that’s different,” he said.

Gmoser has sent similar cases before a grand jury before. In 2012, he sent a case involving a homeowner who shot a man for tearing up his home to a grand jury. While the grand jury did not indict the homeowner, Gmoser said then that he wanted to make it clear that the “Castle Doctrine” — a law which provides certain protections from prosecution to those who use deadly force when they reasonably fear imminent peril, serious bodily harm or death to himself or another person — is not meant as a free pass to execute intruders.

Irvin attended Hamilton High School until 10th grade, according to the Hamilton City School District. He had no prior record of criminal activity in Hamilton, police said. Irvin has a minor criminal record in Fairfield for an OVI charge and two probation violations in 2007 and a seatbelt violation in 2013, according to court records.

Family members who answered the door at Irvin’s house Monday afternoon declined to comment.

Gueddari, who said he came to the United States from Morocco 11 years ago, opened Mazagan Urban Ware in 2011. He said his wife often works the register in the evenings, and the couple’s 2-year-old son was sleeping in the back room when the robbery occurred.

“I’m glad my family’s OK,” Gueddari said. “I don’t want to kill him, it was just in defense.”

Contrary to previous reports, Gueddari said his store had never been robbed before Saturday.

“I hope this is the last time,” he said.

Gueddari, who kept the business closed Sunday, said he plans to operate his store as usual moving forward.

“Business is business,” he said. “What are you going to do? Shut down? You have to open. You have a lot of overhead.””

Gueddari said he planned to show the store’s video footage from the robbery and shooting to the news media once Hamilton police returned it. He said police told him it would be about a week until the digital surveillance unit was back in his possession.

Denise Callahan contributed to this story.

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