Saturday’s protest theatrics in Arizona, where opponents of GOP front runner Donald Trump blocked a highway, pale in comparison to the drama that unfolded a week ago at a convenience store in Boulevard Park near Burien in which an armed customer fatally shot a man in a deadly, unprovoked confrontation, and yesterday that man spoke exclusively with Examiner.
It was a “four-cigarette interview,” done with no small amount of reflection and introspection. At 60 years of age, no matter what life’s experiences, there is much to be introspective about, a fact not lost on this particular armed citizen. The incident received national and international attention.
That man, who asked not to be identified, was credited last week for likely saving the life of the store clerk when both were attacked at about 5:45 a.m. on Sunday March 13. A masked man came through the door, and without saying a word, began swinging a large hatchet at both men. The armed citizen, whom we will call “Gary,” was able to dodge the first swing, he said, and then he drew a Smith & Wesson Model 340PD double-action revolver from his jacket pocket and fired. “Gary” has a concealed pistol license (CPL), one of more than 525,000 Evergreen State citizens to be so licensed.
It was what is often called in firearms circles, “a fatal error in the victim-selection process” on the part of the man swinging the hatchet. “Gary” told this column that he reacted reflexively, adding, “there was no time to be scared.” The blade, he said, barely missed his head.
The Model 340PD is a lightweight five-round hammerless snubnose, chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge. “Gary” ultimately fired three rounds, and the incident was caught on the store’s security video. It lasted less than 15 seconds, but to “Gary,” it seemed a lot longer, because everything went into slow motion. It’s called “tachypsychia,” which is pretty well defined at Wikipedia as “a neurological condition that alters the perception of time, usually induced by…a traumatic event.”
While the King County Sheriff’s office told Examiner last week that the first deputies to arrive on the scene were there in about three minutes, “Gary” said it seemed like an eternity. But once deputies arrived, he said, “they were extremely nice to me.”
“Please make sure to mention that,” he asked.
“Gary” has never been to a self-defense course, but he does have experience with firearms. He is a longtime member of the Washington Arms Collectors (WAC), which met this weekend for its monthly gun show at the Puyallup fairgrounds, which featured a well-publicized first-of-its-kind for WAC concealed carry fashion show for women. That event, put together by WAC’s Karen Jennings, was a standing-room-only affair. The gun show had a pretty good crowd overall. “Gary” was there, hoping to maintain some semblance of normality after a life-changing incident.
While it remains up to the office of King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to make a final disposition of the case, so far it appears that “Gary” acted well within the parameters of this state’s long-standing use-of-force statute involving self-defense or defense of another person.
WAC President John Rodabaugh, himself a prosecutor for some smaller municipalities in the Puget Sound area, told Examiner, “I am proud to have a man like him as a WAC member. He could have run, but instead he (responded) to the danger. I would hope all of our members would do that.”
“WAC,” Rodabaugh said, “is made up of responsible gun owners. What he did, going to the rescue of somebody being violently attacked, best exemplifies what we’re all about.”
It was a “horrible tragedy” that was interrupted “by a good guy with a gun,” Rodabaugh observed.
“Gary” does not want to become a poster child. He is not interested in publicity. A native of the area, having grown up in King County, he was philosophical about what happened. “I said to myself as the police arrived, ‘What’s going to happen to me now?’ Whatever happens, happens,” he commented. “I did what I had to do.”
He said that after deputies and major crimes detectives took statements and viewed the security video, one officer told him, “You’re free to go.”
He has returned to work, where he explained to his supervisors what happened. Everyone, including WAC members over the weekend who had recognized him from news footage, has been very supportive. “Gary” said that he has been offered counseling, should the need arise. But so far, so good.
The dead man was identified as Steven Blacktongue, known as “Poncho” to family and friends. He had a criminal history that included a prison stretch. It may never be known why he did what he did. He died at the scene.
“Gary” was “pretty shaken up,” in the aftermath, according to King County Sgt. Cindi West. But a week later, “Gary” has reasoned things out a bit. About the man who died, “Gary” summed it up: “He saddled that bronc.”
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