A customer at a Washington-state convenience store put his concealed-carry permit to good use Sunday morning, shooting and killing a man who was attacking the store’s clerk with a hatchet.
According to Seattle television station KIRO, the King County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call from a Boulevard Park 7-Eleven store in White Center, Washington, at about 5:45 a.m. Sunday. There police learned from witnesses that a man later identified as 43-year-old Steven Blacktongue had entered the store a few minutes earlier, wearing a mask and wielding a hatchet normally used for cutting wood.
Blacktongue, however, had come up with another use for the tool. Without saying a word, he began swinging away at a customer who was drinking coffee near the cash register. Then he turned his attention to the clerk, 58-year-old Kuldeep Singh.
“Asked if the suspect hit him, Singh said, ‘Yes, yes, two three times in here,’ pointing to his stomach,” reported KIRO, noting that Singh “received a gash to his stomach but is OK.”
Singh said he thought the suspect was going to kill him, and that might well have been the case if his customer hadn’t pulled out a pistol and shot Blacktongue, fatally wounding him. Medics were called to the store but were unable to resuscitate the suspect, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
“This could have been disastrous,” Sgt. Cindi West told KIRO. “Had this [customer] not shot, who knows what would’ve happened,” she added. “We might have a dead clerk right now and instead we have a dead bad guy.”
The 60-year-old customer, who the sheriff’s office says has a concealed-carry permit, was a regular customer at the 7-Eleven.
“The customer’s a nice guy,” another store employee told Seattle-Tacoma TV station KCPQ. “He’s been coming here for about 12 years. He buys scratch tickets, in the morning time. He buys coffee. He’s a good guy.”
As befits a man who has just killed another human being, even justifiably, the customer, according to KIRO, “was too shaken to speak” to the media about the incident.
Deputies are calling the man a “hero” and a “good Samaritan,” the station wrote.
“We do not see any wrongdoing on the part of the customer. In fact, he probably saved lives in this case,” said West.
That is, of course, the point of allowing law-abiding citizens to carry guns. Although the suspect in this case used a hatchet, given that he was already willing to break laws against assault — and possibly homicide — it seems unlikely that he would have been concerned with obeying gun laws had he desired to use a firearm to commit his crime. But if the customer had been forbidden to own and carry a gun, “the clerk could be the one laying [sic] there dead on the floor right now,” as West told KCPQ. Had the customer violated gun laws but still saved the clerk’s life, he might well be facing prosecution.
As it is, no charges are expected against him, but the King County Prosecutor’s Office will review the case as a matter of course.