From a distance, it looks like the Ryterra Quarry east of Enumclaw is operating as usual.
But things are different after local Aaron Ray Lincoln allegedly brandished a loaded firearm at several employees and customers last month, shouting they were going to die.
Operator Taylor Fultz no longer strays from his truck, just in case he needs to get away quickly. Operations manager Chris Modine adds active fire drills to the myriad emergency drills he puts workers through, and he takes defensive weapons courses himself. And owner Jason Wood no longer greets strangers in his mine without his gun on him.
“I shouldn’t be sitting here right now,” he said in a recent interview, recounting the July 12 incident. “I have no faith in humanity right now, with what’s going on.”
According to police reports, Lincoln arrived at the quarry around 11:15 a.m.
Wood said he looked normal at first, but after telling Lincoln he would call the cops if he didn’t leave, Lincoln reportedly replied, “I would call the cops if I were you.” People are going to die today.
For the next two hours, Lincoln allegedly held at least two people at gunpoint as he walked around the quarry looking for workers. This includes Fultz, who said Lincoln demanded his cigarettes and sunglasses before telling Fultz to take off his clothes. Fultz was able to escape, fully dressed, when a King County Sheriff helicopter distracted Lincoln, but not before he could call Wood.
“The kid called me, just crying, ‘I’m going to die today, the guy’s got a gun in the back of my head,'” Wood said.
Deputies were able to apprehend Lincoln around 2:30 p.m. after firing several less-lethal 40mm rounds to get him to comply with orders. Even in the field, Lincoln reportedly resisted arrest.
Although no one else was physically injured, the situation could easily have turned deadly.
After realizing Lincoln was armed, Wood sprinted to his car to retrieve his gun.
“I took my gun, sat behind the tire to feel myself, making sure there were no bullet holes,” he said. But instead of shooting Lincoln, he circled the store to pick up other workers before escaping.
“I was lucky enough to shoot him, and I didn’t, because you hear all the bad stories about people having more problems protecting themselves than themselves. [the suspect] do,” Wood continued, adding that he has a 4-year-old at home to think about. “Now I stay up all night – why didn’t I pull the trigger on the guy [?]”
Modine also had a gun on hand, but like Wood, chose not to shoot.
“The most difficult part of the situation we were in was that if he had started shooting, it would have been very easy to take him down,” he said. “But because you’re playing this game of – you don’t want somebody getting shot, but you don’t want to be the first to shoot. Everyone says you have three seconds to make a decision on which they’re going to judge you for the next three years – they’re going to take it all apart. You don’t want to make that bad call.
This experience clearly affected Wood, Modine and Fultz, as well as people who weren’t even at the quarry.
“It screwed up my wife enough that she snuck for it that day,” Modine said.
So it was to their collective dismay that they thought Lincoln would be charged with first degree assault, five counts of criminal harassment (death threat), first degree robbery with an enhanced firearm and Unlawful imprisonment, according to the official King County Deputy Recommendations – were reduced to three counts of second-degree assault and one charge of robbery.
Assault in the former is a Class A felony and carries a heavier maximum sentence than assault in the latter, a Class B felony. Robbery in the former is also a Class A felony; unlawful imprisonment and criminal harassment are class C crimes.
Both Wood and Modine said they believed prosecutors were lenient with Lincoln because it was his first criminal offense and his eventual sentence would not do justice to the harm he caused.
“I understand it’s the first time he’s done something big like this, but that doesn’t take anything away from what he did,” Modine said.
“I bet you they just slapped him,” Wood added.
It was with these concerns that the two, accompanied by Fultz, attended Lincoln’s arraignment on July 28; the three wanted to testify that Lincoln remained a danger to them and the Enumclaw community, and that his $750,000 should not be reduced.
They met with prosecutor Jennifer Phillips before the trial began, and she explained why the charges against Lincoln were different from those recommended by deputies.
First, assault charges had to be reduced because in Washington state, first-degree assault requires a firearm to be fired at a person (Lincoln fired shots in the air , although it is not clear from the police report whether these shots were aimed at the police helicopter above him or not).
Second, Phillips said she “hastily filed” the charges against Lincoln in order to get bail quickly, forcing him to only file charges that she “knew I could prove from the start.”
“As new evidence comes in and new statements come in, we can always add more charges,” she added.
After pleading “not guilty” to all four counts, Lincoln’s deputy attorney asked that he be released on his own recognizance or have his bail significantly reduced.
“Nothing in his history suggests he is a danger to the community,” she said.
Phillips asked the court to keep bail set at $750,000, saying Lincoln’s alleged behavior “resembles an ongoing mass shooting, and we are extremely concerned for the safety of the community.”
Judge Ketu Shah refused to reduce the bail amount; a trial date has been set for September 21.
“I’m glad they’re keeping him in jail and his bail remains unchanged,” Wood said, clearly relieved, after the court moved on to another case. “I’m just glad they didn’t slap him and let him out.”
According to King County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Casey McNerthney, Lincoln – if convicted of the charges currently pending against him – could serve between 11.5 and 13.5 years.
“An individual’s sentencing range is calculated based on the crimes they are convicted of and the individual’s criminal history,” McNerthney wrote in an email interview. “If the accused is found guilty of the crimes with which he is currently charged, the sentencing judge will be legally bound to impose a sentence within this range, unless there is a legally justified reason to deviate from the fork.”
Still, Wood hopes prosecutors add more changes to Lincoln and potentially add more jail time.
“We hope he gets more charges than the four they currently have against him,” he said. “He showed no remorse in the courtroom and we think he’s likely to do something like this again.”
The Courier-Herald has contacted Julie Lawry, Lincoln’s defense attorney, and her family for comment.