After Aaron Brown allegedly emptied almost a whole magazine of bullets into Robert Lolar — after the former Wichita South High basketball star was shot eight times after a day of drinking at a family cookout — the only thing left for Lolar to do, it seemed, was to die.
Shot three times in the right arm, once in the left leg, once in the chest, once in the back, once in the stomach and once through the scrotum, a drunken Lolar laid on the dining-room floor at his cousin’s house, his arm twisted up in a chair he used as a shield. He listened as his family ran from one room to the next in a mad scramble.
He listened to them scream, over and over again.
“HE KILLED ROB! HE KILLED ROB!”
Lolar’s cousins, Staci Brown — no relation to Aaron Brown — and her daughter, Terronya Brake, came to him first. Realizing he was alive, they quickly tended to his wounds and peppered him with questions to try and keep him alert.
Lolar said he wanted to sleep. Then they asked him something that annoyed him.
“What are your kids’ names?”
“I know my damn kids’ names,” he said. “And I’m not dead ... I can’t believe that (expletive) shot me. I can’t believe it.”
Lolar, witnesses and the Arkansas City Police Department provided a timeline of the April 18 events:
Lolar, 38, and Aaron Brown, 33, spent most of that Saturday afternoon drinking together in Arkansas City, surrounded by family and friends at a backyard cookout at Staci Brown’s house the day after Brake’s wedding.
The pair started drinking around 1 p.m. — beers and mixed drinks with cheap vodka and gin — along with shots of liquor. Mid-afternoon, Lolar said he and Brown left the cookout to go “squash a beef” at the home of one of Lolar’s cousins who said her boyfriend had been in an altercation with her daughter.
Before they went into the house to confront the boyfriend, Lolar said he noticed Brown had a handgun.
“What are you going to do with that?” Lolar said he asked.
Lolar said Brown played it off like it was no big deal — “(Brown) told me, ‘You know how I am with my weapons,’” Lolar said — and left the gun in his pickup trick.
Back at the cookout, Brown left one more time, around 9 or 10 p.m., to take Lolar’s female cousin, who Brown has a child with, back home. When he returned, he had two 30-packs of beer, along with more vodka and gin.
“You ready to keep turning up?” Lolar said Brown asked. Lolar, who also played for Butler Community College and North Dakota, was known for his athleticism and high-flying dunks on a pair of back-to-back Class 6A title teams in 1993 and 1994.
The two men kept drinking, and moved to a dining-room table just after midnight, with Lolar’s 3-year-old son, Davion, falling asleep on his lap.
After Lolar put Davion to bed, he returned to the table and Brown brought over two shot glasses.
“He asked me if I wanted a shot of vodka,” Lolar said. “So we took the shots, and (Brown) got up and said he needed to get some air.”
Lolar said Brown walked to the edge of the dining room, facing the front door, and turned back toward Lolar. He had the gun in his hand and began to fire. The first shot missed.
“I said, ‘What the hell are you doing (expletive)?’” Lolar said. “Then he just unloaded on me.”
As Brown fired, Lolar made a play for survival in the closed space, shielding himself with a chair, ducking and dodging his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame around the room, even unsuccessfully trying to throw himself out through a window.
In all, Lolar was hit eight times. Brown turned and walked out the front door.
Thinking quick, Staci Brown and Brake began to put pressure on Lolar’s wounds and packed ice around the wounds, his neck and head.
“I heard one shot, then there was a pause, then I heard a bunch more shots really quickly and everyone that was on that side of the house came running toward where I was, in the bathroom,” Brake said. “I ran through the kitchen, toward the living room, and saw (Brown) walking out the front door of the house and then I went right to Rob.
“My mom said Rob was dead and I looked down at him and said, ‘He’s not dead,’ and just started talking to him, asking him basic questions.”
Staci Brown was coming back from a casino with several family members and pulling up to her house as Aaron Brown drove away. She said she had to swerve to get out of the way of his truck, saw several family members run out the front door and vomit, and heard someone say “Rob’s been shot” before she sprinted into the house.
“I was friends with (Aaron Brown) for a long time before this,” Staci Brown said. “He was somebody that we all knew and felt pretty comfortable around. I called him that night (after the shooting) and asked him what happened and he just said he was sorry, that he loved me and he loved Rob and that it could’ve been anybody. Which means it could’ve been me, my kids, or my grandkids. Which is frightening.”
An ambulance took Lolar to South Central Regional Medical Center in Arkansas City, where doctors determined Lolar needed to be taken by Life Flight Helicopter to Wichita. Once there, he remained in Wesley Medical Center for 13 days. And while it might seem like a miracle that he lived, he credits something less-heavenly for aiding that along.
“I’m not proud of it or anything, but I don’t know if I would’ve lived if I was sober,” Lolar said. “I was pretty (drunk), and I think that prevented me from going into shock or freaking out. I know I’m blessed to be alive, there’s no doubt about that.”
He lost 40 pounds in the hospital, but is already putting weight back on – he’s back over 200 pounds in the last week. The brunt of his pain is in his left leg, where he’s starting to regain feeling in his foot.
“I think the first thing I said to him was, ‘Congratulations, you got a clip emptied into you and you lived, somehow,’” said Bethel College football coach Morris Lolar, Robert’s older brother. “You have the shock right away, then the hope that everything is OK ... but to get hit that many times and not have it hit a vital organ or vein, I think, means God has another plan. That restraining order on the devil hasn’t expired quite yet, little brother.”
Brown was arrested several hours after the shooting in Edmond, Okla., and charged with attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault and criminal possession of a firearm by a felon.
Four days after Lolar’s release from the hospital, his cousin, David Towles, was murdered in Winfield, shot in the head with a shotgun while getting a tattoo. Another Winfield man, Joshua Stasa, has been charged with first-degree murder.
“My family, we’re all like, ‘What in the world is going on?’” Lolar said. “It’s been a lot for everybody to deal with.”
Lolar was interviewed by authorities twice in the hospital — separately by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Arkansas City police.
“This is a pretty big case, and initially we didn’t know if it was going to be a homicide, so we called in the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for help,” Ark City police chief Dan Ward said. “We had well over 30 witnesses to interview from the crime scene alone.”
Without insurance, Lolar said Wesley told him his medical bills have gone into six figures, but right now he can’t afford the $272 co-pay to see a doctor to begin making a plan for his physical rehabilitation. He’s started a GoFundMe account to help pay for some of it – as of Friday it had raised $260.
He’s also left with the inevitable question of why Brown would want to kill him.
Lolar said he made a joking comment earlier in the day when he asked Brown if he was ever going to marry his cousin. Brown, Lolar said, didn’t respond in anger, only saying he would if she were to remove a tattoo on her neck with the name of another man.
“I’ve gone over and over it in my mind,” Lolar said. “I just don’t know what would set him off.”
Ward said there is a misconception that the two were fighting before the shooting .
“The call initially came out as a fight or a disturbance, and I think with social media and the way that information spreads so rapidly, that’s the story that got out,” Ward said. “That was just how the call came to us, not necessarily what actually happened.”
Ward confirmed it was the third shooting Brown has been involved with in the last decade. He was the victim of a shooting in Winfield in 2007, and in 2009 he was convicted of aggravated burglary and aggravated battery with intent to cause great bodily harm after shooting a man in Arkansas City who was involved with his ex-girlfriend, and spent five years in prison.
Lolar said he has forgiven Brown. He said his own experiences – he’s been in and out of jail several times, including eight months in Cowley County jail for a car theft when he was in college – have shaped his perspective.
“I forgive him,” Lolar said. “I’ve done wrong to people, I’ve done some despicable things in my life. I can’t condemn (Brown) for what he did, I just don’t understand why he did it. I looked in his eyes as he was shooting, and there was just nothing there.”