A man who fatally shot a hatchet-wielding assailant will not face criminal charges. Prosecutors concluded the man, a customer at a 7-Eleven store near Burien, used lawful force in defending a clerk who was wounded in the attack.
When a masked, hatchet-wielding man entered a 7-Eleven store near Burien early on March 13, a customer who had been drinking his morning coffee fired at the would-be robber three times, killing the felon with his .357-caliber revolver.
At the time, King County sheriff’s officials said the 60-year-old customer likely saved the life of clerk Kuldip Uppal, who suffered at least one slash to his abdomen during the hatchet attack by Steven Blacktongue, 43, who died at the scene.
The case was forwarded to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review, but detectives did not recommend that criminal charges be filed against the customer, who had a concealed pistol license.
This week, prosecutors confirmed that the customer — who has never been publicly identified and who has repeatedly declined to speak with the media — used lawful force when he shot Blacktongue in order to stop an armed robbery and assault.
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In a document called a “decline memo,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Brian McDonald wrote that under state law, a homicide is justifiable if the slayer reasonably believes the person slain intended to commit a felony, kill another person or inflict great personal injury — and that there was imminent danger that such harm would be accomplished.
Further, the slayer — in this case, the 7-Eleven customer — “employed such force and means as a reasonably prudent person would use under the same or similar conditions,” says the memo, which was obtained through a public-disclosure request.
It notes that the “imminent threat of great bodily harm does not actually have to be present, so long as a reasonable person could have believed that such a threat was present.”
According to the memo:
The customer, identified only by the initials C.C., was drinking coffee at a 7-Eleven store near Burien at 5:40 a.m. March 13 when Blacktongue, “masked and armed with a hatchet,” entered the store.
Uppal, the clerk, saw Blacktongue and ran toward the cash register. As Blacktongue ran after Uppal, he passed by C.C. and swung the hatchet near the customer’s head. That’s when C.C. pulled out his revolver and fired once, likely grazing Blacktongue’s shoulder.
Blacktongue attacked Uppal with the hatchet behind the store’s front counter, striking him in the abdomen. C.C. “then fired two more times at Blacktongue, hitting him in the chest and face,” the memo says. “Blacktongue stopped his attack and C.C. held him at bay until police arrived.”
Blacktongue died a short time later.
The incident was captured by a video-surveillance camera and several independent witnesses provided statements to police, the memo says.
“Both Uppal and C.C. told police that they believed Blacktongue intended to kill Uppal,” says the memo, which notes that toxicology tests revealed that Blacktongue “had recently ingested methamphetamine.”
The memo also references Blacktongue’s “substantial criminal history,” including a previous conviction for attempted first-degree assault, and notes that Blacktongue’s wife “subsequently told a detective that he had a history of committing robberies with weapons.”
Given the circumstances surrounding Blacktongue’s attack, it was reasonable for C.C. to believe Uppal was in imminent danger, the memo says.
Prosecutors concluded C.C.’s use of force was reasonable: His “first shot did not deter Blacktongue, who continued his attack on Uppal with the hatchet,” the memo says. He then fired “two more times to stop Blacktongue’s attack.”
The memo concludes that no criminal charges against the customer are warranted.