The horrific news that a 16-year-old girl was shot and killed while working at a Burger King drive-thru in Milwaukee earlier this month reverberated across the nation. Donations amounted to tens of thousands of dollars, and Niesha Harris-Brazell’s devastated family wondered how she could be taken “in the blink of an eye.”
However, after two weeks of piecing events together, investigators have made the shocking allegation in court documents that Harris-Brazell was killed in a botched robbery she staged with her best friend and her best friend’s father.
On Jan. 2, Harris-Brazell, a dedicated student at Pulaski High School, was working a shift as a cashier with her best friend, who identified herself as Mariah Edwards in media interviews.
According to surveillance footage cited in a criminal complaint, a black Chevy Impala pulled up to the drive-thru window that evening. When Harris-Brazell turned to serve the supposed customer, the driver pulled out a gun and demanded cash.
The surveillance footage showed Harris-Brazell back away and begins to withdraw money from a register, apparently signaling for aid from her colleagues. According to court documents, the driver hoisted himself through the window, waving a gun with one hand and reaching for cash with the other, with the hood of his red jacket pulled low over his masked face.
However, the assailant suddenly withdrew from the window and returned to his car without the cash, before speeding away. At the same time, Harris-Brazell was shot and fell to the ground.
“After I heard the shots go off, I ran to the front and I see my best friend on the floor just laying there saying she got shot,” Mariah Edwards told FOX6 in the days after.
Harris-Brazell was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead.
Investigators initially assumed that the shots that killed Harris-Brazell were fired by the hooded man in the window. However, a close inspection of the video footage revealed that the gun he was waving was never fired, according to authorities.
According to the court documents, another camera installed inside the Burger King revealed that the shots were fired from within the restaurant.
Derrick Ellis, 34, a coworker, was quick to respond as the robbery unfolded and Harris-Brazell called for aid. According to a criminal complaint filed four days after the shooting, Ellis pulled out a gun, aimed at the thief, and fired two shots. Harris-Brazell appears to have been caught in the crossfire.
According to court documents, surveillance footage showed Ellis apparently panicking as he scrambled to collect the fired casings from the restaurant floor afterward. He was seen sprinting to the restaurant’s manager, who helped him in hiding the weapon in the store’s safe.
Ellis then ran away from the restaurant and hasn’t been seen since. He has been charged with the first murder. According to the Burger King manager, Ellis hid the weapon and fled because he is a convicted felon who is not allowed to own a gun.
According to investigators, the driver of the Impala was Antoine Edwards, whose daughter Mariah was working at the Burger King at the time. According to the criminal complaint, Mariah admitted to coordinating the robbery with her father and Harris-Brazell at a time when they expected the register to be loaded with cash.
Mariah claimed in a complaint that they enlisted Harris-Brazell’s help because she works the drive-thru window while Mariah works in the kitchen. However, it was never intended for Ellis, the coworker who allegedly shot Harris-Brazell, to come to their aid.
Antoine Edwards allegedly claimed that his daughter was not involved in the scheme and that Harris-Brazell was his only accomplice, despite Mariah’s claim to police that all three were involved.
The father and daughter were arrested, and Antoine was charged with felony murder, intentionally contributing to a child’s delinquency with death as a result and felon in possession of a firearm.
Harris-Brazell’s mom, Liceal Brazell, remained defiant that her daughter wasn’t involved in the scheme that took her life. On Friday, she told FOX6, “It’s really making me mad, it’s making me angry. You told so many different lies, now you’re going to tell more lies. That’s not going to help you. That’s not going to help your father.”
Harris-Brazell’s sister established a GoFundMe to help support the family that has raised over $40,000. Her grandmother, Ida Lane, told FOX6, “Here we are trying to raise a self-sufficient, independent young lady and she’s taken away from us in the blink of an eye.”