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Security guard indicted for choking, punching 11-year-old shoplifter

WCVB Boston logo WCVB Boston 11/21/2019

A security guard who works at a Boston fashion retailer has been indicted for choking and punching an 11-year-old girl who was shoplifting, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office.

A Suffolk County grand jury returned indictments Tuesday charging 36-year-old Mohammad Khan, of Cambridge, and his employer -- Securitas Security Services USA Inc., of Parsippany, New Jersey -- with one count each of assault and battery on a child under the age of 14 and civil rights violations.

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Sherrice Williams said her daughter, Leeajah, ended up bruised and swollen after the encounter.

"She stole a pack of socks, was walking out the door and a guy grabbed her and threw her against the wall -- the security," Williams said. "She was screaming, 'Get off of me!' She didn't know who he was because he wasn't dressed in (any) type (of security) clothing, so she thought he was just a random man grabbing her."

Williams said her daughter was emotionally scarred by the incident, as well.

“She does counseling now,” Williams said.

Prosecutors allege Khan used unreasonable force to detain the 11-year-old shoplifter June 9. Khan is accused of grabbing the girl, pulling her back into the store and pushing her into a corner where the view of the CCTV security camera was obstructed.

Video shows a security guard at Primark in Boston assaulting an 11-year-old girl who admitted to shoplifting from the store on June 9, 2019. © Provided by Hearst Television, Inc. Video shows a security guard at Primark in Boston assaulting an 11-year-old girl who admitted to shoplifting from the store on June 9, 2019. Over the course of seven minutes, Khan -- who officials said stands 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs 225 pounds -- grabbed the girl by the head and neck and threw her to the ground, punched her in the face while straddling her while she was on the ground and reengaged with her after they were separated by Boston police.

Khan did this even though he was under explicit orders not to touch any customer, including suspected shoplifters. His Securitas co-workers and witnesses even urged him to stop.

Video of the incident was captured by a witness and shared on Facebook.

“The Boston police were exemplary in de-escalating the situation when they arrived, and the other Securitas employees in the store behaved appropriately during the encounter,’’ said District Attorney Rachael Rollins in a statement. “Being a Special Police Officer allows someone the power of arrest, but with that power comes great responsibility. I applaud the vast majority of Boston Police officers and SPOs who behave professionally and with restraint.’’

Investigators believe that Khan, a special police officer, had been previously reprimanded four times for using more force than permitted by Securitas and for violating protocol.

The girl admitted to taking several items of clothing from the Primark store at 10 Summer St., according to officials. Boston police said she stole an estimated $175 in goods from the store.

Because of her age, state law mandates that the 11-year-old cannot be charged with shoplifting.

Officials said the company charged in this case is a subsidiary of Securitas AB, a Swedish-based, multinational corporation with 370,000 employees around the globe and some 120,000 in North America. It is one of the largest security firms in the United States.

In order to prove the company is liable under state law, prosecutors must show that an individual committed a criminal offense, that the individual who committed the offense was involved in a corporate business and that the individual was vested with authority to act for the corporation with respect to that business. The district attorney's office believes those thresholds have been met and exceeded in this case.

Khan is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 17 in Suffolk Superior Court. Prosecutors said additional information about the allegations against Khan and Securitas will be provided during the arraignment.

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