An accused armed robber, captured by passengers on a Metro bus in Seattle – it all goes down in a video broadcast yesterday by KOMO 4 News – might consider himself lucky to still be around to face charges, considering the number of active concealed pistol licenses reported to Examiner Wednesday afternoon by the Department of Licensing.
Yesterday, Examiner learned from the Department of Licensing that there are now almost 449,000 active CPLs in circulation. That figure may be reached today, making Washington one of the highest per capita states in the country for licensed concealed carry. On Dec. 16, the Pensacola News Journal reported that Florida, as of Nov. 30, had 1,195,645 active concealed weapon or firearms licenses, though not all of them are issued to state residents. Florida was the first state in the country to report more than 1 million carry licenses.
The armed robbery suspect, identified as 19-year-old Trevonnte Brown, cannot possibly be one of those licensed citizens. He’s too young to get a Washington CPL, for which an applicant needs to be at least 21 years of age.
However, he is not too young to be facing charges in two separate Metro bus robberies. According to KOMO, Brown is also a suspect in an earlier stickup aboard a bus on Beacon Hill. That was back on Nov. 16. Brown was arrested Nov. 25 by Seattle Police after the incident in the video, which his defense attorneys tried to block KOMO from showing on the grounds that it might prejudice the case against the accused teen.
On the subject of prejudice, some readers of this story on KOMO’s website seem rather eager to accuse one another of racism for commenting on the case. Brown is African-American.
KOMO had to go to court to obtain release of the video, reporter Jon Humbert said, noting that the judge said people have a right to know what happened. There is hardly a better way to do that than show the video. Whether that prejudices Brown’s case will have to be sorted out by the court.
Brown is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 30 and in the meantime, he is in jail on $350,000 bail. KOMO said prosecutors consider the recent Franklin High School graduate “an extreme danger to the public.”
The bus video shows a hooded individual sticking a gun in the faces of at least two Metro passengers during a robbery, and under Washington state statute, that is enough to have gotten him killed. The odds of that seem to be increasing in the Evergreen State, where – as the video shows – people are willing to fight back against crime.
Brown has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has no criminal record.
In the Nov. 16 incident, he allegedly grabbed a cell phone from another bus passenger and a scuffle broke out until the suspect told his victim that he had a gun.
Threatening someone with a pistol in this state can elicit a lethal response; that is, the suspect could have been shot dead by an armed victim. State law justifies homicide when committed in the “actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he or she is.” Translation: Aim a gun at an armed citizen and demand their cell phone or money which constitutes a "your money or your life" threat, and the armed citizen – who is in genuine fear of imminent great personal injury or death – can instead shoot first and then call police.
In this state, as in most others, lethal self-defense claims are meticulously investigated by police and prosecutors, who apply what is generically called “the Reasonable Man Doctrine” to determine whether the facts allow the use of lethal force. That is, the lethal response must be what any reasonable person would do, faced with the same circumstances, knowing what you knew at the time.
In this particular case, the video clearly shows at least two bus passengers staring into the muzzle of the suspect’s handgun. It could be reasonable for someone in that situation to conclude that they were in imminent and unavoidable danger of grave bodily harm or death and fight back, which at least three passengers did, despite being unarmed.
When a person is armed, as was Matt Dosser of Minneapolis Tuesday night when he drew his legally-carried handgun to interrupt what appeared to be a violent armed robbery in his city, he needs to be responsible about it. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, police say Dosser did a “noble thing,” but then quickly inserted the obligatory caveat that people should call 911 instead of taking action personally.
Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder (coincidentally the name of the lead character in a popular John Wayne western in which the Duke laid a wooden wheel spoke across the face of bad guy George Kennedy) told the newspaper that having a permit to carry “doesn’t let someone act as a police officer.”
The Metro video shows private citizens acting in their own defense and in common defense, and underscores the philosophy of the gun community: When seconds count, police are minutes away.
When someone finds himself in the middle of a life-threatening situation, the luxury of waiting for police evaporates rapidly. If one judges the number of CPLs now in circulation in Washington state, some 449,000 people have figured that out. Since last month at this time, another 1,886 new CPLs have been issued. Since January, the number of active CPLs has increased by just over 56,200, and the upward trend will likely continue into 2014.