BILLINGS MT March 2 2017
The six rounds James Newman, who spent just shy of 10 years on active duty in the Marine Corps, fired at the tires of a fleeing Buick Enclave on Saturday had the Internet buzzing with opinions on Sunday.
Two suspects, a male and female who appeared to have allegedly stole items from JCPenney inside the Rimrock Mall on the Billings West End, were attempting to leave around Saturday evening.
Newman noticed both individuals "were moving very quickly." A mound of clothes were noticed in the back of the Buick's hatch. They were without bags, tossed without regard, spilling onto the pavement. After watching the man and woman, Newman said he knew he needed to intervene.
"I felt like someone needed to step in and stop it," he said. "There is enough crime going on in this world that there is not enough people making a stand against it."
The former Marine sergeant approached the vehicle and commanded the two individuals stop. "You are all under arrest," he said. "This is a citizen's arrest and you need to stay here until the police get here."
Under Montana Code, a private person may arrest another when there is probable cause to believe that the person is committing or has committed an offense and the existing circumstances require the person's immediate arrest. The private person may use reasonable force to detain the arrested person.
Newman's girlfriend notified the police when he approached the Buick.
After stating he intended to place them under citizen's arrest, according to Newman, the woman called his bluff telling the other man Newman worked for the mall and had no authority to stop them.
In a span of a few minutes, Newman says the verbal confrontation escalated. When the male suspect put the vehicle in reverse, Newman drew his weapon, a Sig Sauer 1911 .45 ACP.
"I told him if he hit me, I'd shoot him," Newman said. "He decided he didn't want anything to do with it so he put the vehicle in park and actually gets out of the vehicle and took off."
The woman moved into the driver's seat and began to reverse, striking Newman with the bumper.
Newman took a step back, took a shooting stance and aimed for the driver-side tires at point blank range.
The Buick squeezed through another parked vehicle and sign post, speeding away. Newman fired six shots, striking both tires on the left side.
Newman beelined after the woman, but lost chase. He holstered his weapon and dialed dispatch to inform them of his actions.
"I didn't break any laws, so why am I worried about talking to the cops about it?"
He remained on the phone with dispatch, laid his firearm on the ground and put his hands in the air when responding officers arrived.
Billings Police interviewed Newman. He was never placed in handcuffs and was released after questioning.
No citations against Newman have been filed, but the investigation is ongoing, according to Sgt. Matt Chaney.
Soon after police released details of the incident, social media lit up with opinions on the situation with some praising Newman's actions and others criticizing his decision to fire his weapon on suspects who allegedly shoplifted.
Newman said he's not concerned by the condemnation online.
"To the people that are criticizing me, you have your opinion. That's the beautiful thing about America, you can say what you want," Newman said. But he's not discounting some of the comments. "There are some people that made some valid points."
"The biggest thing I want to tell people is, especially last night when the story first aired, there was very little information. There were people running at the mouth, being internet warriors that have no idea what they're talking about. They don't have a tenth of the facts that are actually associated with the issue."
Newman also thanked those who are supportive of his decision to attempt to stop the suspects.
"To those who are supporting me, thank you. It's nice to know people do appreciate when somebody does step up and goes to bat for the average person," he said.
Newman said through his training, he knew no one in the vicinity was in danger of being hurt by firing his weapon.
"At no point was there anybody in danger and I've said this to several people. Yeah, I put myself behind a vehicle, maybe that's not how you conduct your business, but that's what I did. I chose to do that and yeah it resulted in shots fired. But at no point was any other person in danger. And the ricochet factor, you're stretching for it, they're stretching for something to throw out there. 'Oh well this guy is an idiot, he's just a gun-toting vigilante.' No, I'm just your average person walking around."
When asked if he would do it again, Newman said yes.
As of this post, the suspects involved have not been identified or apprehended.