The King County Prosecutor's office issued this statement a few minutes ago:
King County Prosecutors are declining to file criminal charges against Sara Brereton, 31, for an April 25, 2009 incident in which Brereton shot Emmanuel Salters, 26, near the Metro bus stop located at 3rd Avenue and Seneca Street in downtown Seattle. Prosecutors are declining to file charges because Brereton acted in defense of herself, her children and her partner when she shot Salters once in the chest with her legally-licensed handgun as he advanced towards her.
Prosecutors say that under state law, people lawfully act in self defense when they reasonably believe that they are about to be harmed, and when they don't use more force than required. Prosecutors conclude that although Bereton "may have made obscene gestures, she did not initiate the physical confrontation. However, Mr. Salters did by charging at her."
[The King County Prosecutor's office has corrected part of its original story: Salters is 26 years old, not 48, as officials previously reported. The Slog post has been updated to reflect his age.]
Details appear after the jump.
The incident began in the early afternoon of April 25th when Brereton, her partner and her four children boarded a Metro bus that Salters was already riding. Brereton and her family sat in the front of the bus while Salters sat at the rear. At some point during the ride, Salters moved towards the front of the bus and stood next to Brereton, who was sitting. Salters began to sway back and forth, falling into Brereton. Brereton pushed Salters away and exclaimed "excuse me." This angered Salters. The two began to exchanges words, swearing at each other.
After the bus traveled a short distance, Brereton and her family exited the bus at the 3rd & Seneca bus stop. Salters stayed on the bus. The bus closed its doors at the stop and advanced to the stoplight ahead. As Brereton and her family walked away, she and some of her family members made obscene gestures at Salters. Salters demanded the bus driver open the door so he could get off. Once the doors opened, Salters got off the bus and immediately strode towards Brereton, exclaiming, "what did you say? What did you say?" Brereton turned around and began yelling "stay away," "you better get away from me." At the same time Brereton displayed a licensed hand gun she was carrying. Salters was approximately 20 feet away from Brereton when she first displayed the gun.
Despite her warnings, Salters continued directly at her, getting to within 1 to 2 feet of Brereton. As he did so he began to spit at Brereton. Brereton fired her gun once, hitting Salters in the chest. Salters eventually fell to the ground near the bus stop. Brereton and her family remained at the scene until police arrived. She cooperated with the police, giving a statement about what had happened. Salters was taken to the hospital and treated for his wound. The shooting incident was captured on a METRO surveillance camera stationed at the 3rd & Seneca bus stop.
Multiple eye witnesses both on and off the bus were interviewed by the police. The witnesses gave statements consistent with what Brereton had reported and the video tape showed. Salters could not immediately be interviewed due to his medical condition. After his release from the hospital the police worked hard to locate Mr. Salters and take a statement from him. Taken in late September of 2009, Salter's statement about the incident leading up to the confrontation was not consistent with that of other witnesses. He also claimed that he was not charging towards Brereton when he got off the bus, but was running to catch another bus.
Prosecutors are declining to file a charge against Brereton because she acted in self defense. Under Washington state law a person acts in lawful self defense or the defense of others when:
— A person reasonably believes that she is about to be injured.
— When the force used is not more than necessary.
— The actor uses force as a reasonably prudent person would under the same or similar conditions as they appeared.
— All of the facts and circumstances known to the actor at the time of the incident are taken into consideration when judging whether they acted reasonably.
Moreover, the following legal factors must be taken into account when making a self-defense determination:
— The person acting has no duty to retreat from a threat.
— A person may be mistaken in her belief that the threat was imminent and still be reasonable in her use of force to respond if that mistake was reasonable.
— The burden is on the State to prove the absence of self defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Charges will not be filed against Brereton because there is strong evidence in this case that she reasonably believed under the facts and circumstances known to her at the time that Salters was about to injure her. Salters was a stranger, who in an angry state, charged at her. He did not stop when she displayed her gun. Instead he continued to advance on her, getting within 1 to 2 feet. She waited to fire until the last possible moment before she could have been assaulted herself. Although she may have made obscene gestures, she did not initiate the physical confrontation. However, Mr. Salters did by charging at her.
Furthermore, Brereton did not use an unnecessary amount of force to defend herself. Brereton displayed the weapon to stop a perceived threat. Despite the display, Salters did not stop his advance. Under state law, Brereton has no duty to retreat. She can reasonably take into account her inability to use her gun to defend herself if Salters got close enough to physically assault her and be concerned that she could lose the gun in a struggle. As a result, her firing of the gun once to stop Salters was not an unreasonable amount of force under state law.
For these reasons criminal charges will not be filed against Ms. Brereton in this matter.