From a distance, it looks like the Ryterra Quarry east of Enumclaw is doing business as usual.
But things are different after local Aaron Ray Lincoln allegedly brandished a loaded firearm at several employees and clients last month, yelling that they were going to die.
Operator Taylor Fultz no longer strays far from his truck, just in case he needs to make a quick getaway. Operations Manager Chris Modine is adding active shooter drills to the myriad emergency exercises he puts workers through, and he’s taking defensive arms classes himself. And owner Jason Wood no longer greets strangers at his mine without his firearm on his person.
“I shouldn’t be sitting here right now,” he said in a recent interview, recounting the July 12 incident. “I have no trust in humanity right now, with what’s going on.”
According to police reports, Lincoln walked up to the quarry around 11:15 a.m.
Wood said he appeared normal at first, but after telling Lincoln he would call the cops if he didn’t leave, Lincoln allegedly responded, “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 including Fultz, who said Lincoln demanded his cigarettes and sunglasses before telling Fultz to remove his clothes. Fultz was able to escape, fully clothed, when a King County Sheriff’s helicopter distracted Lincoln, but not before he was able to call Wood.
“The kid called me, just crying: ‘I’m going to die today, the guy has a gun to the back of my head,’” Wood said.
Deputies were able to apprehend Lincoln around 2:30 p.m. after shooting several 40 mm less-lethal rounds to get him to comply with orders. Even on the ground, Lincoln supposedly resisted arrest.
While no one else was physically injured, the situation could have easily turned deadly.
After realizing Lincoln was armed, Wood sprinted to his car to retrieve his firearm.
“I got my gun, sat down behind the tire feeling myself, making sure there weren’t bullet holes,” he said. But instead of shooting at Lincoln, he drove around the shop to pick up some other workers before escaping.
“I had a chance to shoot him, and I didn’t, because you hear all the bad stories about people getting in more trouble for self-protection than they [the suspect] do,” Wood continued, adding that he has a 4-year old at home to think of. “Now I stay up all night — why I didn’t pull the trigger on the guy [?]”
Modine also had a firearm on site, but like Wood, chose not to shoot.
“The hard part of the situation we were in is, if he would’ve started firing, it would have been real easy to put him down,” he said. “But because you’re playing that game of — you don’t want someone to get shot, but you don’t want to be the first to shoot. Everyone says you have three seconds to make up a decision that they’re going to judge you for for the next three years — they’ll pick everything apart. You don’t want to make that wrong call.”
This experience clearly negatively affected Wood, Modine, and Fultz, as well as people who weren’t even at the quarry.
“It f****d up my wife badly enough that she went and filed for her concealed that day,” Modine said.
So it was to their collective dismay when what they thought Lincoln would be charged with — assault in the first degree, five counts of felony harassment (threat to kill), robbery in first degree with a firearm enhancement, and unlawful imprisonment, according to official King County deputy recommendations — were reduced to three counts of assault in second degree and the robbery charge.
Assault in the first is a Class A felony and carries a heavier maximum sentence than assault in the second, a Class B felony. Robbery in the first is also a Class A felony; unlawful imprisonment and felony harassment are Class C felonies.
Both Wood and Modine said they feel prosecutors are going easy on Lincoln because this was his first felony offense, and that his eventual sentence won’t do justice to the hurt he caused.
“I get that it’s his first time doing anything major like that, but that still doesn’t make what he did any less,” Modine said.
“I bet you they just slap him on the hand,” Wood added.
It was with these worries 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 court started, and she explained why the charges filed against Lincoln were different than the ones recommended by deputies.
First, the assault charges had to be reduced because in Washington state, assault in the first degree requires a gun being fired at a person (Lincoln did fire shots into the air, although it’s not clear in the police report if those shots were aimed at the police helicopter above him or not).
Second, Phillips said she “rush filed” the charges against Lincoln in order to get bail set quickly, requiring her to only file charges she “knew I could prove upfront.”
“As more evidence comes in, and more statements come in, we can always add more charges,” she added.
After submitting a “not guilty” plea on all four counts, Lincoln’s substitute attorney requested he be released on his own personal recognizance or have his bail significantly reduced.
“There is nothing in his history to suggest he is a danger to the community,” she said.
Phillips asked the court to keep the bail set at $750,000, saying that Lincoln’s alleged behavior “reads like a mass shooting in the making, and we are extremely concerned for community safety.”
Judge Ketu Shah declined to reduce the bail amount; the trial date was set for Sept. 21.
“I’m happy they are actually keeping him in jail and keeping his bail the same,” a clearly-relieved Wood said after the court moved on to another case. “I’m just glad they didn’t slap him on the wrist and let him out.”
According to King County Prosecuting Attorney Office spokesperson Casey McNerthney, Lincoln — if convicted of the charges currently levied against him — could serve anywhere between an estimated 11.5 to 13.5 years.
“An individual’s sentencing range is calculated based on the crimes one is convicted of and the individual’s prior criminal history,” McNerthney wrote in an email interview. “If the defendant is found guilty of the crimes he’s currently charged with, the sentencing judge will be statutorily required to impose a sentence within that range, barring a legally justified reason to depart from the range.”
Still, Wood hopes prosecutors add more changes again Lincoln and potentially add more prison time.
“We hope that he gets more charges then the four they currently have on him,” he said. “He showed no remorse in the courtroom and we believe he will be likely to do something like this again.”
The Courier-Herald has reached out to Julie Lawry, Lincoln’s defense attorney, and his family for comment.