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Police and emergency medical personnel are seen Tuesday at Fashion Island after a woman was killed in a failed robbery, police said. (Photo by OC HAWK)
Police and emergency medical personnel are seen Tuesday at Fashion Island after a woman was killed in a failed robbery, police said. (Photo by OC HAWK)
Orange County Register associate Nathan Percy.

Additional Information: Mugs.1113 Photo by Nick Koon /Staff Photographer.

Beau Bayless was sitting outside Sushi Roku at Fashion Island on Tuesday, July 2, smoking a vape pen, when he heard a commotion near the Barnes & Noble.

“I didn’t think anything of it or even bother to look that direction until someone said, ‘Oh my God, that woman’s getting robbed’,” Bayless, 43, of Fountain Valley, said in a phone interview Saturday. “I saw her in the street , so I tried to get over there to help her out.”

Bayless knew he had to intervene. “It could be someone’s grandma, could be someone’s mom,” he said. “She needed help.”

But, he mused, “I wasn’t quick enough.”

By the time he got there, three men had attacked and run over , dragging her 65 feet under a car and killing her, authorities said. In the moments that followed, Bayless managed to tackle one of the suspects to the ground but was shot at by another. The trio fled in a white Toyota Camry, but Newport Beach police would arrest them hours later in Cypress and South Gate.

Bayless wishes he could have done more, but is hopeful the McKay family will see justice done.

“Anything that’s going to help that poor family,” Bayless said. “I feel so bad for all of them.”

Leroy Ernest Joseph McCrary, 26, Malachi Eddward Darnell, 18 and Jaden Cunningham, 18, were with a sentencing enhancement for causing the death of someone older than 65, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday. They also face attempted robbery charges and other felonies. That the murder occurred in the commission of a robbery could make it a death-penalty case.

‘I saw the barrel’

McKay and her husband were outside the Barnes & Noble bookstore with their packages, waiting to be picked up, when the Camry approached and two masked men, identified by the DA’s office as Darnell and Cunningham, got out and fought with McKay’s 69-year-old husband, pointing a gun to his head, forcing him to the ground and demanding his watch, the DA’s office said.

Unsuccessful, they then turned their attention to McKay, who was holding shopping bags. Cunningham grabbed the bags and threw McKay to the ground, then dragged her into the street in front of the Camry, prosecutors said.

Bayless happened to be at the mall visiting his former coworkers at the sushi bar when the chaos unfolded.

He saw the driver of the Camry, identified by the DA’s office as McCrary, hit McKay once, causing her to fall on her back. McKay’s husband then went to the driver’s side of the car, waved his hands and told the driver “She’s down, don’t go, don’t go,” and that’s when the second suspect, identified as Darnell, got in the car.

McCrary then accelerated again, running over McKay, Bayless said.

“I thought they were leaving the third guy behind and that’s about the time I got involved,” Bayless said. “They stopped the car for the third one to get in and I clotheslined him and we both went down.”

He said he had his hands on the third suspect’s shoulder and sweatshirt when a bullet went by both of their heads. The suspect “went left really quick” and Bayless saw one of the other suspects out of the car pointing a gun in his direction.

“I saw the barrel and realized he was shooting at me and I knew I had to let him go,” Bayless said.

He was not hit by the gunfire. McKay’s husband also escaped injury, officials said.

As a last-ditch effort, Bayless tried to throw a rock at the Camry, to cause damage that would help police identify the car.

But he missed.

A tragic loss

DA’s officials have said Cunningham was the one who attempted to flee on foot, while Darnell was the gunman. Newport Beach police spokesman Sgt. Steve Oberon on Saturday confirmed Bayless’ account of the shooting.

Bayless said he found McKay’s wallet, noticed New Zealand credit cards and “that’s when I figured they weren’t from here.” He said one of the chefs from Sushi Roku attempted CPR on McKay before police and paramedics arrived.

McKay’s husband was identified by the New Zealand Herald as Doug McKay, a prominent Auckland businessman and former board chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and Eden Park Trust.

Though Bayless wasn’t able to stop the man identified as Cunningham, Newport Beach police caught and arrested all three suspects within hours. They were scheduled to appear in court Friday, but were not taken from jail due to “medical holds,” and were rescheduled to appear Monday.

Prosecutors say McCrary has convictions in Los Angeles County for residential burglary, criminal threats and robbery.

Bayless, who now works as a server at a Costa Mesa restaurant and is training employees preparing to open another one, said he’s never seen anything like what he experienced at Fashion Island on Tuesday. “Nothing with guns, nothing like this. This is kind of off the beaten path.

“It’s a tragic loss that shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers are just with the family right now. I feel so bad for them.”

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