New criminal complaint alleges Milwaukee Burger King robbery that left a 16-year-old cashier dead was staged

·5 min read
Niesha N. Harris-Brazell
Niesha N. Harris-Brazell

A Burger King employee told Milwaukee police that she, her father and Niesha Harris-Brazell were in on a plan to stage the robbery that led to the inadvertent shooting death of the 16-year-old cashier.

The allegations came in a criminal complaint filed Friday against the coworker’s father, Antoine Z. Edwards, 41, of Milwaukee, which accuses him of enacting the staged robbery by leaning into a drive-thru window with a gun.

The details in the complaint mark another wild turn in the investigation in the death of Harris-Brazell. It also alleged clearly what earlier court documents suggested: that Harris-Brazell was not shot by the robbery suspect but instead by a coworker who was not in on plans to stage a robbery and shot at the robbery suspect, inadvertently hitting and killing Harris-Brazell.

More: Milwaukee rally demands safer working conditions for fast-food workers after shooting death of 16-year-old cashier

The complaint said it does not appear that Edwards, the man carrying out the staged robbery, ever fired his gun.

It also offered no additional evidence that Harris-Brazell conspired with the other two, and only repeats their assertions to police she was in on it.

The allegation was vehemently denied by her grandmother, Ida Lane.

"That’s complete and utter bull (expletive),” she said. “In all actuality, my granddaughter didn’t have to work. She had a grandmother that worked, a mother that worked, five aunties and one uncle that worked.

"My granddaughter didn’t have to do nothing but save what she needed or what she wanted. We were trying to instill values in her.”

Harris-Brazell had been working as the drive-thru cashier for less than six months at the Burger King, located at 5120 W. Capitol Drive, at the time of the incident. She attended Casimir Pulaski High School.

Edwards has been charged with felony murder and intentionally contributing to the delinquency of a child, with death as a consequence — another felony. It is unclear what charges may come for his 16-year-old daughter, who is described in the complaint as best friends with Harris-Brazell.

The coworker alleged to have fired his gun, Derrick D. Ellis, 34, of Milwaukee was charged last week with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. At the time charges were filed, police had not determined whether the robbery suspect returned fire and how exactly Harris-Brazell was struck.

Ellis fled the scene of the shooting and is not in custody.

According to the criminal complaint against Edwards:

Edwards’ daughter told police that several days before the shooting, she, Edwards and Harris-Brazell planned for Edwards to come to the drive-thru window after closing, when the register was likely to be full of money and watched over by Harris-Brazell.

Around 10:05 p.m. Jan. 2, an Impala pulled up to the drive-thru window of the Burger King shortly after closing. Surveillance camera footage shows a juvenile male answered and briefly spoke to the driver, who then drove away.

After the car left the window, Edwards’ daughter, who was working at the time, said she and Harris-Brazell called his phone to confirm that was him. He told her he was coming back.

Edwards told police he was driving the Impala that night but denied speaking with his daughter shortly before the incident. He said he spoke with Harris-Brazell on his daughter’s phone and coordinated the staged robbery with her only.

Three minutes later, the Impala appeared again at the window and Harris-Brazell was there to answer, surveillance footage shows.

Harris-Brazell is then seen immediately backing away and off to the side of the window. She removed cash from the register and stood there holding it while calling out to other coworkers. Edwards’ daughter, who usually worked in the kitchen, told police she heard Harris-Brazell yelling, “He’s got a gun!”

After 40 seconds, the driver stepped out of the car and leaned into the window with a gun, surveillance camera footage showed. Edwards said he did so because the cashier was taking too long.

He and his daughter never told police that it was part of the plan for Edwards to lean inside of the window.

While leaning inside, Edwards is seen in surveillance camera footage waving the gun around in the direction of Harris-Brazell.

After 22 seconds, shots came from Ellis’ gun. Edwards ducked, returned to his car and left, apparently without ever shooting his weapon. Harris-Brazell is seen falling to the floor with gunshot wounds to her chest.

Edwards’ daughter initially did not tell police the robbery was staged until after police connected her with the robbery suspect.

She said she believed the reason Harris-Brazell did not immediately turn over money was because she must have panicked.

When Harris-Brazell’s family initially learned that her best friend was coming under suspicion, Lane, the grandmother, told the Journal Sentinel they tried vouching for her until they learned the girl’s father was also suspected to be involved.

“That girl was over every weekend,” Lane said. “That girl was treated like one of ours. I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s literally a slap in the face.”

Lane said her granddaughter had been a child care provider throughout the extended family and had money of her own before getting her first official job at Burger King.

“We’re trying to raise her to be a civilized individual that goes out and works for what she believes that she needs,” Lane said.

Contact Elliot Hughes at elliot.hughes@jrn.com or 414-704-8958. Follow him on Twitter @elliothughes12.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Fatal Burger King robbery was staged, Milwaukee County prosecutors say