FAIRFIELD TWP. — A Butler County man is in jail on $5 million bond and a Columbus man is dead after a botched robbery Thursday night at a local Walmart.
Anthony F. Brown, the alleged shooter, is in custody after a SWAT standoff at Fairfield Inn in Middletown that ended with his arrest at 5:15 a.m. Friday. Brown, 32, was wearing dark clothing and a health safety mask when he ran from Walmart on Princeton Road after the shooting that happened around 8 p.m. Thursday.
Adam Black, 35, was killed by a gunshot wound and his death was ruled a homicide, according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office
Brown is accused of shooting two people inside the store after he might have been trying to steal cell phones, police said. The other victim, who wasn’t identified, was taken to UC West Chester with serious injuries, according to police.
Brown is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and having weapons under disability because he also is under indictment involving a robbery last year, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said.
He was video-arraigned Friday morning in Butler County Area II Court, where bond was set at $5 million. Brown is scheduled to be back in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing.
Attorney Clyde Bennett III entered not-guilty pleas on his client’s behalf.
“I stand on the presumption of innocence,” Bennett said.
He was angered by the bond and said it will be challenged. He called the bond “unconstitutional” and “excessive” and said it’s inconsistent with the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent decision. He said the court’s decision on bond will be challenged in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, and if necessary, the 12th District Court of Appeals.
Brown was free on a $200,000 bond and awaiting trial for an aggravated robbery with a gun committed on Oct. 23, 2021, according to court records.
The Hamilton Police report said in the Oct. 23 incident, Brown allegedly robbed an employee at gunpoint at Minnick’s Drive Thru on Dixie Highway, taking cash and lottery tickets.
At Walmart on Thursday, Fairfield Twp. Police Capt. Doug Lanier said an employee had opened the case containing the electronic items for Brown when a shopper intervened. Brown pulled away from the shopper and ran toward the front of the store, where another shopper tried to stop him, according to police.
Brown pulled out a handgun and shot and killed that person, later identified as Black, who attempted to help. Then a Walmart employee tried to help and was struck by a bullet, according to Lanier.
The suspect fled, but officials had a description of the car and license number. The vehicle was stopped in the area of Hensley Avenue and 13th Street in Hamilton. Court records list Brown’s address in the 1300 block of Hensley.
Lanier said they found only Brown’s father in the car. He was questioned for hours by detectives and permitted to go home “at this time.”
The Butler County Sheriff’s Office was “inundated” with 911 calls, many from friends and family of people inside the store, said Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer.
A group of people were hiding behind pallets in the back of the store, one caller said. One woman said she was hiding under a cashier’s desk and the pharmacist and employees in that department said they had locked themselves in the bathroom.
Shots rang out while a female caller was on the phone telling dispatchers a suspicious male at the electronics counter “just took off running to the front of the store .... shots fired, shots fired.”
Several callers inside reported hearing three shots in the grocery section of the store.
“I can’t even begin to fathom or speak for the people that were working or shopping here when this occurred,” Lanier said in a briefing to the media late Thursday. “We can all appreciate a Good Samaritan who is wanting to jump in and help, (but) there’s so many times when someone is getting hurt. For property, it’s just not worth it. Just not worth it.”
Detectives are trying to determine how Brown got to Middletown after leaving the scene of the crime, but at this time there are no charges against anyone for aiding him.
Middletown Sgt. Earl Nelson said the department was contacted late Thursday that Brown’s cell phone was pinging somewhere in Middletown and the hunt began. At one time there was a large police presence at the Walmart on Towne Boulevard.
When the investigation led detectives to Fairfield Inn on Roosevelt Parkway, about 15 miles from the Walmart on Princeton Road, multiple agencies searched the area and learned Brown may have been in a room at the hotel. During a search of the building, Brown jumped out of a first-floor window and attempted to run from the area, dropped a handgun and was taken into custody, according to Fairfield Twp. Police.
Charles “Mac” Knepshield, 77, a Middletown native, was staying in the Fairfield Inn after traveling from South Carolina to visit with family and friends over Memorial Day weekend. He said at 3:30 a.m., he heard a large dog barking and wondered what was happening.
“I was very upset,” he said.
Knepshield wanted to go to the Fairfield Inn lobby to complain about the barking dog, but when he opened his door he was confronted by SWAT and a K-9. He was told to get back in his room. He closed the door and stayed in his room.
At 4: 30 a.m., Knepshield left the hotel and worked out at Planet Fitness at Towne Mall Galleria. When he went to leave, he saw police tape surrounding the first-floor window where the shooting suspect attempted to escape.
A spokesperson for the hotel said: “The safety and security of our guests and associates are a top priority.”
Walmart was closed Friday morning, though there were numerous cars in the parking lot. Employees greeted customers at one of the entrances and told them the store may open later in the day.
Video and photos from Thursday night’s shooting incident are available to view at journal-news.com.