- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2021

Oakland’s police department says a Chinatown businessman who stopped a robbery outside his store by firing a personal handgun would not have been arrested if he had practiced their “good witnesses” philosophy.

Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong made the comments on Tuesday as local leaders, including Chinatown Chamber of Commerce head Carl Chan, asked why a hero was thrown behind bars.

“Our message really is that we don’t want to see our business owners or others begin to arm themselves,” Chief Armstrong said. “We would really prefer them to be good witnesses and give us the observations that they have; share that information, call law enforcement immediately and let OPD respond and follow up. What we really don’t want to do is bring any additional issues that threaten safety into the equation.”

The business owner, who was not identified during the press conference, fired four rounds from a personal handgun after witnessing a woman being knocked to the ground and robbed of her camera.

A suspect at 9th and Franklin Street fled in a vehicle before police arrived and took the owner into custody; reporters were told that he did not spend the entire night in jail.

“We don’t want people to fire weapons into our community,” the police chief added. “When weapons are fired in our community, there could be unintended victims: people who are hit by gunfire. And we want to avoid that as much as we can.”

Mr. Chan told a local CBS affiliate that law enforcement arresting the businessman is the wrong way to handle the situation.

“So, I think many of the people feel strongly that we should be supporting the store owner,” Mr. Chan said. “I am so worried. I heard the news that many people are trying to find ways to protect themselves. We do not believe that violence against violence is the way to go.”

The station’s John Ramos added: “Considering the fear that has gripped Chinatown in the last few weeks, it’s probably not surprising that someone was going to take protecting the community into their own hands.”

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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