Approximately 300 people gathered in front of Wise Buck Pawn Shop Wednesday evening to hold a candlelight vigil for Brandon McHan, the shop's owner, who was killed Monday evening during an attempted robbery. Additionally, prayers were offered and donations were taken up for Jason Booth, McHan's employee, who was seriously wounded during the robbery attempt.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) New Orleans Field Division is offering a $10,000 reward, along with a $5,000 reward from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms industry, for a total of up to $15,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the attempted pawn shop robbery and subsequent homicide of a federal firearms licensee (FFL), according to a news release.
No arrests have been made.
Clergy, City Council members, law enforcement officers, emergency personnel and friends and family of both men were in attendance as candles were lit in memory of McHan, who was 34.
Pastor Stephen Harrison from Family Church led the crowd with words of inspiration, scripture and prayer.
One story from the Bible that Pastor Harrison shared with the crowd was the account of Jesus losing his cousin, John, and how he continued to show love as he grieved.
“Jesus showed us how to grieve, how to move forward, and not to forget at the same time,” Harrison said. “I believe he fed the 5,000 after he was in a boat by himself after he found out his cousin, John, had been murdered. I think that he fed the 5,000 in John's honor. The Bible doesn't say it that way, but the people were following him while he was grieving. A lot of people will be following this family while they are grieving, wanting to see how they respond and how we respond. We have to respond with love and compassion. Jesus could have said to leave him alone and to start up a movement to kill Herod, but he didn't do that. So, we have to remember peace, compassion and love in the midst of heartache.”
McHan was well known within the community, evidenced by the vast outpouring of support shown for his family over the past few days. In addition to the reward for information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for McHan's death, more than $15,000 has so far been raised on a GoFundMe campaign to help cover expenses for the family.
Harrison said he believes that the response shown in McHan's honor is because he lived such a great life and was willing to help so many people.
“He was a giving person,” Harrison said. “The type of business that he was in is one where most people enter the doors, it is because they are on hard times. It is because they have got something they need to get rid of to make a few dollars so they can feed their family, or just to get by. He wasn't a man who wanted to capitalize off of their misery or their suffering, he helped a lot of people with the business that he did, and he put money into the city that he loved. He loved people, loved the people that came into his shop, and it is unfortunate that someone would want to take, steal and murder him in the middle of this.”
Pine Bluff Fourth Ward Alderman Steven Mays was also in attendance, telling the crowd that it is time for the community to quit keeping information to themselves and begin turning in people who are committing violent crimes.
“The spiritual vigil was just perfect for Brandon,” Mays said. “Brandon was a man who was just trying to make a living in the city of Pine Bluff. He was doing his best to be the best as a businessman, and the men who did this need to be brought in and locked up. This is wrong, and the people within the city who know who they are need to report them and stop keeping all of this to themselves. It is not right. We have a lot of cold cases in Pine Bluff because people keep quiet, and somebody knows who did these homicides. It is time to stop that. We are going to grow, and we are going to grow together.”
Mays also noted that Pine Bluff will not stand for this kind of crime any longer, that those on the City Council, the Police Department and other agencies will work to make sure those who are responsible will be brought to justice and that those committing the crimes will not take the community over.
“We have to bring back old-fashioned community policing,” Mays said. “We have to get back into the community, start stopping the cars, get to know the citizens and get the grassroots part of community policing. We have to get that back in order. I was talking with the police chief, and he said they have some leads. He is doing the best he can. We will get in control of Pine Bluff once again. These thugs are not going to take over Pine Bluff, and they won't win here, and I want them to know that. The great citizens of Pine Bluff are going to win. You've got my word on that.”
Several of McHan's friends and acquaintances spoke as well, noting his love for his family, friends, the Arkansas Razorbacks, music and flea market tacos.
Services for McHan were also announced at the vigil. Visitation will take place from 5-8 p.m. Friday night at the White Hall Community Center, while the funeral is scheduled for 12 p.m. Saturday at the same location.
Two armed suspects, believed to be young black males, entered McHan's pawn shop just after 5:30 p.m. Monday. Police said McHan exchanged gunfire with one of the two, and after the suspect left, Booth went to McHan's aid.
Both suspects then reentered the business. Booth used McHan's gun to exchange gunfire with both suspects and, at some point, Booth was shot in the chin, abdomen and hand, police said.
Jefferson County Coroner Chad Kelley said McHan was pronounced dead by a doctor in the emergency room at Jefferson Regional Medical Center, which listed the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds.
Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant said Tuesday that he has contacted the ATF about enhancing video from the pawn shop and from the Alon Convenience Store on South Olive Street, which was robbed about an hour after the incident at the pawn shop.
“The clothing the suspects were wearing appears to be the same as the clothing the suspects at the pawn shop were wearing,” Sergeant said. “Once that video is enhanced, we are going to put it out to the public every way we can and hope somebody can identify the suspects.”
Sergeant said Pine Bluff police detectives will be paired up with the ATF agents in running down any and all leads that come in. He said he has also pulled officers assigned to the Vice and Narcotics unit and the Violent Crimes Task Force to work on the case.
“We're going to work day and night, 24 hours a day, until we get these people identified and get them into custody,” he said. “It's all hands on deck on this one.”
Anyone with information should contact the Detective Division at 730-2090 or the dispatch center at 541-5300. All calls will be kept confidential.
Sergeant said an ATF agent and a Pine Bluff detective interviewed Booth Tuesday morning at a Little Rock hospital where he was taken after the shooting. Booth is expected to recover from his wounds.
This was the 18th murder of the year in Pine Bluff, and it "was a business owner losing his life in his business. This one shakes the core of the community,” Sergeant said.
“The ATF Little Rock Field Office and the Pine Bluff Police Department are jointly investigating this violent crime. ATF, along with their law enforcement partners, is committed to ensuring the safety of our communities, and that those who commit these types of violent crimes are brought to justice,” according to the news release.
Anyone with information about this crime should contact the ATF Little Rock Field Office at 501-324-6181 or 1-888-ATF-TIPS (888-283-8477), by email ATFTips@atf.gov, or through the ATF website at www.atf.gov/contact/atf-tips, or the Pine Bluff Police Department at 1-870-730-2090 or 870-541-5300.
Anonymous tips may also be submitted to ATF through the ReportIt® mobile app, available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store, or by visiting www.reportit.com. With this app, users can confidentially submit tips involving firearms and violent crimes.
The ATF is the lead federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction involving firearms and violent crimes and regulates the firearms industry. More information about ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov.
Editor's Note: The author of this piece had known McHan since childhood. He offered these words about his slain friend. “His death will leave a void in many people's hearts, but his legacy is something that we can all strive to keep alive. A smile, a helping hand, or just being a friend to people who may not have a friend is what we can do to make his legacy continue to live on. That is how I believe Brandon would have wanted it.”