Washington State Department of Corrections photo of Donshae D. Sims, 24, suspected of allegedly robbing a West Seattle medical marijuana dispensary on March 19. Sims has a prior conviction for second degree assault in 2009.
West Seattle marijuana dispensary robbery told from victim’s perspective
Brionne Corbray, owner of GAME Collective, talks about the robbery and safety precautions for the future
One man and two juvenile males are in jail following an attempted robbery of GAME Collective on March 19 where two employees, including owner Brionne Corbray, and three customers were forced to the ground at gunpoint and had their hands bound with plastic zip-ties while the suspects loaded money and marijuana into their backpacks before taking off on foot.
To read a Herald article on West Seattle’s GAME (Green Piece Alternative Medicine and Education) Collective, please check out West Seattle’s own medical marijuana outlet tailors to a thriving market.
King County Prosecutors charged the suspects with first degree robbery, first degree burglary and second degree unlawful possession of a firearm in the alleged robbery of GAME Collective, located at 5437 California Ave s.w. The suspects include 24-year-old Donshae D. Sims, 16-year-old Malike D. Heckard (who is being charged as an adult, hence the release of his name) and a 15-year-old who was charged in juvenile court, according to prosecutors. Sims faces a sentencing range of 15 to 17 years, Heckard faces 14 to 16 years and the juvenile faces 3 ½ to 4 ½ years.
Corbray, the owner of three GAME Collective dispensaries (one in West Seattle, one in Federal Way and another in North Seattle), along with his employee and one of their customers, pursued the suspects after the robbery and aided police in apprehending the three alleged robbers.
The following is an account of the robbery from Corbray’s experience and from charging documents released by King County Prosecutors:
It was around 6:45 when Corbray looked out the window of his establishment and saw three young men sitting on a bench just outside the door.
“I walked out and asked them if they had a (medical marijuana) card and they said, no, they didn’t have a card but they were waiting for their aunt.”
Corbray said he had customers in the shop and didn’t want to cause a scene so he let the three be. Ten to 15 minutes later he looked up and noticed they were still there. He found it suspicious and planned on locking the doors early once his four remaining customers left.
As two of the customers opened the door to leave, Corbray said the three men came inside and one of them started asking, “Where’s the bud? Where’s the bud?”
“What I think is they thought we closed at six o’clock but we don’t, we close at seven, so people kept coming and I think they got irritated so they came in,” he said.
Corbray asked again if they had medical marijuana cards, they responded “No” and he asked them to leave.
That’s when the three suspects pulled out semi-automatic pistols, Corbray and charging documents said.
Corbray, knowing his neighboring business owner was there because he had heard his dog barking earlier, ran to the back of the shop (about four feet away from the front counter) and hit the wall shared with the neighboring business to give him a heads up that something was wrong.
The business owner next door heard the thud and commotion, triggered an audible alarm and called 911, according to charging documents.
Two employees (including Corbray) and three customers were forced to the ground at gunpoint and their hands were bound with plastic zip-ties.
Charging documents add suspect Sims closed and locked the front door and drew the blinds.
“They started talking about, ‘We’re gonna kill you guys if you don’t tell us where the money is,’” Corbray said.
Corbray told them another employee had left 20 minutes earlier with all the money from the day.
“They kind of got into a panic then and started loading up their bags with ... (marijuana in glass jars) and hit (an employee) in the head with a gun and made him open up the cash register.”
After they obtained the cash and robbed all victims of their wallets, cash, phones and keys, Corbray said he heard the front door slam shut and everyone jumped up (he mentioned he was glad they didn’t bother to zip-tie their feet). Corbray has double-jointed thumbs that helped him quickly slide out of the makeshift cuffs then help everyone else get free.
A getaway gone bad
Corbray, his employee and one of his customers ran out of the dispensary and they could hear the clink of marijuana-filled jars as the suspects ran northbound up the alley behind the dispensary.
In talking with detectives in the aftermath of the robbery, Corbray said it became apparent that the suspects were supposed to have a getaway vehicle waiting for them and he assumes the vehicle left because they heard the audible alarm and saw another man calling 911 from outside the dispensary.
Corbray said the two getaway drivers were customers of his dispensary who had come in and taken cell phone video of the shop earlier in the week – casing the joint for the eventual robbery attempt. He said he is working with detectives to identify the getaway drivers.
Back to the chase, SPD squad cars were already swarming to the scene and an officer was driving south down the alley towards the suspects. According to charging documents, Sims, Heckard and the unnamed juvenile saw the squad car, dropped their backpacks and swung around to run southbound.
The juvenile split from the group and ran southbound on California Ave while Sims and Heckard continued to run southbound down the alley, according to charging documents.
Corbray and his customer hopped in Corbray’s truck and took off after the juvenile.
Edit: Although the police report said a customer joined Corbray in pursuit of of the juvenile, Corbray clarified that it was an employee that joined him.
Corbray said they watched the juvenile try to mingle in with a crowd of young people walking down the street. He pulled up and told the group to move away from the teen since he had a gun. They split and the suspect started to run so Corbray revved his truck engine and started after him.
The teen “started crying, ‘Help! Help! They’re trying to kill me, help! Help!’” Corbray said.
Corbray countered his plea by yelling the suspect had just robbed his business. He said seven to eight bystanders followed the teen suspect as if to say, “You ain’t gonna get away.”
At that point police arrived and apprehended the teen.
As for the other two suspects running southbound in the alleyway behind the dispensary, the other employee got into his vehicle and attempted to follow them, but lost track. He came across several bags of marijuana and a semi-automatic pistol lying on the ground. Getting out of his vehicle to grab the marijuana and gun, he saw Sims running directly at him to collect his stolen goods and weapon. The employee picked up the pistol and pointed it at Sims, directing him to lie on the ground. He sat on the suspect until police arrived to apprehend him, according to charging documents.
An SPD officer tracked down Heckard running southbound down the alley and ordered him to stop. Heckard stopped and was taken into custody with a loaded .22 caliber Beretta semi-auto, $401 in cash, a marijuana pipe and Corbray’s wallet in his pockets, according to charging documents.
Court documents state Sims and Heckard were interviewed separately and confessed to committing the robbery, while the juvenile suspect stated he left before the robbery took place.
Heckard and the other Juvenile were booked into the Youth Service Center and Sims was taken to King County Jail.
Surveillance camera footage from a nearby business caught Sims, Heckard and the juvenile exiting a vehicle from behind the dispensary and walking towards GAME Collective together.
“The head of the (SPD) narcotics division, they called him in and he came in and checked everything out and checked out my licenses and said, ‘You’re all good to go, no problem here,’” Corbray said.
The narcotics officer left Corbray with one piece of advice: “Protect yourself.”
Beefing up security
Since opening his GAME Collective dispensaries in July of 2010, Corbray said he has never dealt with an armed robbery, however this experience convinced him to make security changes at all three locations.
He installed security cameras at the West Seattle location the very next day, will do the same at his other locations, and said all three will be staffed with full-time security guards.
He also said there will be no disruption in service at the West Seattle location.
Entering the political arena
In the wake of Saturday’s armed robbery of GAME Collective, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg issued a press release (which you can read in its entirety here) that said, “In my view, if cannabis dispensaries are to be permitted, they should operate with strict requirements of security to protect their customers, and outside of residential areas to protect our neighborhoods. The present proliferation of dispensaries throughout the community will continue to invite criminal violence.”
Corbray said he feels GAME Collective is part of the West Seattle community, and that is why he speaks openly about running a medical marijuana dispensary while other operations shy from the limelight.
“How are you going to be accepted if you don’t become part of the community in an open way?” he said.