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Plan targets convicts’ use of body armor

Posted on January 17, 2009 - Filed Under Body Armor |

When Seattle police arrested Dion Lamont Montgomery earlier this month, they say the 20-year-old was wearing what could become the accessory for all seasons among criminals — a bulletproof vest.

According to prosecutors, Montgomery was driving a man to a marijuana deal in the Central District on Jan. 2 when he fired on another man from the car. One round struck the man in the leg, delivering a nonlife-threatening injury.

Officers pursued Montgomery, who was driving a gold Lexus, ultimately arresting him and a second man after a short chase. Montgomery, who has been convicted of robbery and other crimes, has since been charged with drive-by shooting, attempting to elude police and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Absent from the charges is any count related to his alleged possession of body armor, which is not considered a crime under state law. That may soon change, though, as lawmakers in the Legislature prepare to reintroduce a bill making it illegal for convicted felons to possess body armor,.

Rep. Dan Roach, the Bonney Lake Republican who sponsored a similar bill in 2008, said that a penalty could deter convicts from obtaining armor and would at least provide stiffer penalties for those caught using it.

“It puts a little teeth in the law, and gets these guys off the streets,” said Roach, who has represented the 31st Legislative District since 2000.

With three other representatives, Roach introduced the bill last legislative session. Despite unanimous approval by the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee, the bill did not come up for a vote before the session expired.

Roach said he expects wide, bipartisan support for the bill during the current session, which began Monday. The longer session should, he said, give lawmakers time to enact the bill.

The issue, Roach said, was brought to his attention by a constituent, a Seattle police officer living in his district. Speaking for the bill, the officer told legislators that he and his colleagues were seeing body armor more frequently in the field.

Contacted Tuesday, a Seattle police spokesman said the department does not track the frequency with which officers encounter armored suspects. Federal authorities also do not track armor use among criminals.

According to police, Montgomery was wearing an American Body Armor vest when he was apprehended. The company markets protective equipment to police.

Prosecutors also accuse Montgomery of crashing into another car while attempting to flee from police. While his passenger, Jason Pate, was arrested near the crash and has since been charged with possessing a stolen firearm, Montgomery ran from the scene but was apprehended by a police dog minutes after the chase.

Montgomery remains in King County Jail with bail set at $100,000.

He has not entered a plea to the charges against him.

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