FOLLOWUP: Chris Saunders had Gun Pointed at his Head in Burien Robbery
Story & Photos by Scott Schaefer
As they were driving north on First Avenue South Tuesday night, Chris Saunders’ fiancé knew something was wrong when she saw three suspicious men wearing all black, holding duffel bags and running towards the rear of the Pawn X-Change.
But instead of continuing driving, Saunders, 27, made a quick decision and pulled a u-turn into the building’s parking lot. He knew some of the employees there, and his instinct was to try and warn them that something suspicious might be going on.
He had recalled another recent robbery at the Pawn Pros in White Center, and he thought just maybe he could help someone.
Little did he know that seconds later he’d come face-to-face with the business end of a gun held by a masked man inside the pawn shop.
“I got out of the car and went to the door of the shop, thinking I had a chance to warn them about these guys in the back,” Saunders told The B-Town Blog Wednesday afternoon. “Soon as I set foot in the door though, the lights went out. I knew something was seriously wrong then, so I crouched down and looked around. I saw a masked gunman behind the employee door to the back, and I thought about trying to ram him with the two-way door. When I walked in I thought the bad guys were still in the back…”
By this point Saunders had crept up to that employee door to try and peek in the small plexiglass window. As he did, the gunman noticed him and pointed his pistol directly at his face, just inches away through the thin plexiglass.
“All I could think about at that moment was ‘man, being shot like this is really going to hurt,’” he said.
Saunders turned on his heels and ran out the door, all the while yelling at his fiancé to quickly drive off to safety – along with their two-year old child – who was in the back seat.
“I ran out the door as fast as I could, told my girlfriend to get out of there, then crouched down on the sidewalk right here and called 9-1-1,” Saunders said as he showed us where he safely hid – a spot below a small rockery and raised concrete parking lot in front of the building on First Ave South that for many years housed Dick’s Cameras.
The gunman did give chase too – he just never shot.
“He had a perfect opportunity to shoot me, but he didn’t,” he said. “I feel lucky and thankful – but stupid – for going in there.”
Saunders then ran north on the sidewalk towards an arriving police officer, who was holding an assault rifle. As Saunders ran past the cop to safety, he heard “around a dozen” gunshots coming from the direction of shop, then three more outside – the policeman was firing back at one of the suspects who was running away.
He didn’t hit him, but the officer didn’t get hit either.
“Nothing like this has ever happened to me before,” Saunders said, obviously still shaken by the incident. “I live on Ambaum Boulevard, and I think there’s an increase in crime in Burien. I want to get out of here.”
Saunders has lived in Burien since the third grade. His fiancé has been here her whole life.
“If we were financially able to, we’d move today,” he said.
“I had so much adrenaline in me at that point,” he said. But, Saunders adds, “I’d probably do it again.”
“I’m a firm believer in the saying ‘what goes around comes around,’” he said, “and if I was an employee inside that shop and this was happening to me, I’d want one of my friends to stop and try to help me.”
Luckily, there were no injuries during this dramatic incident, which closed down a major part of the area and resulted in “at least 40 cops” responding from several jurisdictions, along with the King County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team.
Two of the robbery suspects were apprehended Tuesday night, and the third was arrested Wednesday (read our original report here).