First Reported Defensive Gun Use in St. Louis After Right-to-Carry Law Approved by Court: Man repels 3 robbers by firing hidden pistol

St. Louis Post Dispatch

By Heather Ratcliffe
Published: Thursday, Mar. 11 2004

Robbers pointed a gun at Bryan Rutherford and demanded that he hand over valuables from his pickup Tuesday evening in Lemay.

Rutherford didn't pull out cash or jewelry. He pulled out a .22-caliber pistol hidden in his vehicle and opened fire in what authorities believe is the first instance of self-defense with a concealed firearm since the Missouri Legislature loosened the state's gun laws.

The man holding what turned out to be a BB gun on Rutherford was hit several times in the torso before he and two accomplices fled. Three suspects were later captured and charged.

Rutherford was uninjured.

The precise status of the concealed carry law at the time Rutherford fired is cloudy. But in any event, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said Thursday that Rutherford would not be charged.

Concealed gun opponents asked the Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday for a rehearing on their claim that the state failed to provide full funding for sheriffs' new duties to process applications and issue permits.

On the same day, St. Louis County police said they would continue to refuse applications for concealed firearms permits, saying the county expects to challenge the new law as an illegal unfunded mandate.

The new law allows someone meeting certain qualifications to obtain a concealed carry permit, and separately allows a person over 21 who otherwise is entitled to possess a weapon to carry one concealed in a vehicle even without a permit.

It was unclear whether Rutherford, 36, of De Soto, had obtained a permit. Records of them are not public. But under this circumstance, it does not appear that one would be needed.

Rutherford could not be reached for comment Thursday.

McCulloch said that, technically, motorists do not have the right to carry weapons in their vehicles until the court's decision is final.

But Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon and St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Joyce disagreed.

"Bottom line, the decision is not final but . . . the law is effective," Nixon said.

Said St. Louis County police Lt. Jon Belmar: "He shot a man holding a gun on him. This appears justifiable use of force in defense of his own life."

While it is difficult to check every jurisdiction, police in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas said Thursday they were unaware of any other use of a concealed weapon by a crime victim since the law was passed.

Police said Rutherford was on his way to a friend's home after he got off work about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. He pulled his truck into a parking lot in the 1600 block of Blue Ridge Drive, and another vehicle followed him.

When Rutherford got out, two men accosted him with what appeared to be a handgun. They took his wallet and told Rutherford to get more items from his truck.

Rutherford pulled his pistol from a pouch and fired several times. One of the men jumped into the passenger seat of a van that sped away.

Bobby Washington Jr., 19, of St. Louis County, ran several yards and collapsed where police found him. Washington, of the 1700 block of Dellwood Court, was expected to recover from his wounds, police said.

County police stopped a van a few minutes later on Lemay Ferry Road and arrested Terrell Scott, 19, of the 6200 block of Julian Avenue in Wellston, and Keon White, 19, of the 12300 block of Horizon Village in St. Louis County.

Each was charged Wednesday with first-degree robbery and held with bond set at $50,000.

Gun opponents said such incidents raise concerns.

"I wonder whether (Rutherford) could have gotten away," said Jeanne Kirkton, an opponent of concealed weapons and former official of the Million Mom March. She added, "If he couldn't, this certainly seems justified as self-defense."

Kirkton recalled a similar incident in north St. Louis County in April 2003 when Delvin Hester, 22, pulled a weapon from his car in self-defense to resist an armed robbery. Hester and the gunman fired shots. Hester was killed.

"Things are like this are going to happen," Kirkton said. "Sometimes the good guys are going to win and sometime they won't."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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