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Warrants Issued For Two Teens in Fatal Washington Dispensary Shooting

Washington has issued warrants for two teenage boys accused of being involved in an armed burglary at a state cannabis dispensary. The incident left a victim and a host of other armed crimes in the region.

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.”

A World of Weed employee in Tacoma was shot to the neck on March 19.

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. According to surveillance video and witnesses, Hatfield and Brown began fighting on the floor. Jones, according to surveillance footage and witnesses, broke up the fight with Brown by shooting him 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.”

Hatfield and Jones also robbed Seattle’s dispensary on the day of the fatal robbery. They tried unsuccessfully in Tacoma to rob another one.

Washington has seen an increase in armed robberies at cannabis dispensaries. Washington made headlines in 2012 when it legalized adult recreational marijuana use through a ballot initiative. According to data from an in-state trade organization, The Craft Cannabis Coalition (the Craft Cannabis Coalition), the Washington Post published last week the following: 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.

Washington lawmakers have raised concerns over how vulnerable cannabis businesses are, given that they often keep large sums of cash. 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.”