Warrants are out in Washington for a pair of teenaged boys allegedly involved in an armed robbery of a cannabis dispensary in the state that left an employee dead, as well as a number of other armed robberies in the area.
The Chronicle newspaper reports that Montrell Hatfield, 16, and Marshon Jones, 15, “are wanted in connection with a fatal shooting at a Tacoma marijuana dispensary and at least 10 armed robberies at pot shops in Pierce and King counties.”
On March 19, an employee at World of Weed in Tacoma, later identified as 29-year-old Jordan Brown, was fatally shot in the neck.
The Chronicle, citing court documents, reported that, during the incident, “Hatfield fought with an employee behind the cash register and Jones fatally shot the employee in the neck.”
“After ordering everybody to get on the ground, Hatfield allegedly fired a warning shot into the ceiling and approached the manager and other employees. He handed them garbage bags and ordered them to put all the money inside,” the newspaper reported. “Brown tossed the garbage bag back at Hatfield, put his hands in the air and stepped backward, records say. Hatfield and Brown then began fighting on the ground, according to witnesses and surveillance footage. Jones allegedly broke up the fight by shooting Brown in the neck. As the teens ran for the door, Jones told Hatfield ‘Don’t worry about them,’ records say.”
Prosecutors in Pierce County, Washington “have charged Hatfield with first-degree murder and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm,” while “Jones has also been charged.” A “third man who acted as their lookout while they robbed the stores at gunpoint has not been identified,” according to The Chronicle.
The newspaper said that prosecutors “expect to file charges against the teens in the future for four marijuana dispensary robberies in Tacoma and one in Pierce County,” and that the teens are also “suspected in five similar robberies in King County.”
On the same day as the fatal robbery, Hatfield and Jones allegedly robbed a dispensary in Seattle, and tried unsuccessfully to rob another in Tacoma.
Armed robberies of cannabis dispensaries have risen at an alarming rate in Washington, which made history when it legalized recreational pot use for adults via a ballot initiative in 2012. Last week, citing data from the in-state trade group the Craft Cannabis Coalition, the Seattle Times reported that “there have been around 67 armed robberies so far in 2022,” up from 34 and 27 in 2021 and 2020 respectively.
The trend has prompted lawmakers and other officials in Washington to sound the alarm over the vulnerability of cannabis establishments, which typically have large amounts of cash on hand. Earlier this month, state treasurer Mike Pellicciotti traveled to Washington, D.C. to urge passage of the Secured and Fair Enforcement Banking (SAFE) Act, which would allow banks to provide financial services to cannabis businesses––something the federal prohibition on pot currently precludes them from doing.
“You rob the places where the cash is,” Pellicciotti said, as quoted by local television station KING5. “These robberies are tragic. But these robberies are also preventable.”
Last month, Republican state Sen. Jim Honeyford introduced a bill that would have added an extra year to the prison sentence of anyone convicted of first or second degree robbery of a cannabis shop, the same penalty that’s reserved for individuals who rob a pharmacy.
“When people would ask the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, Sutton simply replied, ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ Well, that’s why people rob marijuana retailers,” Honeyford said at the time. “Due to federal banking rules, these businesses are almost entirely cash-only operations, making them a target for robberies and a magnet for criminals.”