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Dumb Criminal Attempts to Rob Crowded Gun Shop

Netlore Archive: In this email tale that circulated in the 1990s and was subsequently revived as a 2005 "Darwin Award contender," a less-than-clever criminal gets his just desserts when he attempts to rob a crowded gun shop full of well-armed patrons.

Description: Forwarded email
Circulating since: 1998 / Earlier?
Status: Partly true

Email text contributed by Phil R., March 28, 2005:

Darwin Award

We have a winner...!

The following mind-boggling attempt at a crime spree in Washington appeared to be the robber's first (and last), due to his lack of a previous record of violence, and his terminally stupid choices:

1. His target was H&J Leather & Firearms, a gun shop specializing in handguns.

2. The shop was full of customers - firearms customers.

3. To enter the shop, the robber had to step around a marked police car parked at the front door.

4. A uniformed officer was standing at the counter, having coffee before work.

Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a hold-up, and fired a few wild shots from a .22 target pistol. The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, the police officer with a 9mm Glock 17, the clerk with a .50 Desert Eagle, assisted by several customers who also drew their guns, several of whom also fired.

The robber was pronounced dead at the scene by Paramedics. Crime scene investigators located 47 expended cartridge cases in the shop. The subsequent autopsy revealed 23 gunshot wounds. Ballistics identified rounds from 7 different weapons.

No one else was hurt in the exchange of fire.

Analysis: This is a highly embellished account of a real-life incident that occurred in Renton, Washington on February 3, 1990. According to a series of reports published in the Seattle Times, what actually happened is this:

Thirty-three-year-old David Zaback entered H&J Leather & Firearms Ltd. at approximately 4:40 in the afternoon brandishing a .38-caliber semiautomatic handgun and announced his intention to rob the store. He threatened to shoot anyone who got in his way.

Having apparently failed to notice the police car parked in front of the gun shop when he walked in (true!), Zaback found himself confronted by a uniformed officer and an armed clerk, who ordered him to drop his gun. Zaback opened fire instead, drawing a fatal volley of shots from the clerk and the policeman, both of whom survived the shootout unharmed.

According to the county medical examiner, Zaback was shot a total of four times (not 23) and died a few hours later in the emergency room. "Several" armed patrons also drew weapons, the Times confirms, but none actually fired on Zaback, contrary to the version of events given in the email. It was later determined that the clerk, whose weapon was a 10mm semiautomatic pistol (not a .50 Desert Eagle), fired the fatal shot.

Sources and further reading:

Man Killed in Robbery Attempt
Seattle Times, 4 February 1990

Officer in Store Shootout Identified
Seattle Times, 5 February 1990

Inquest: Officer Didn't Fire Fatal Shot
Seattle Times, 10 May 1990

Last updated: 04/01/05

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