UPDATED 8-24 @12:29 p.m. — Authorities in Grant County, Washington have backed away from reports that made national headlines regarding the arrest of armed man at the Gorge Amphitheater, initially suggesting a mass shooting may have been averted.
The suspect, identified by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office as Jonathan Moody, 31. He resides in Ephrata, the county seat, and was released on $10,000 bail after being reportedly charged with one count of possession of a dangerous weapon and one count of unlawful carrying or handling of a weapon. He pleaded not guilty, and his next court date is scheduled Sept. 8 in Grant County District Court.
According to Kyle Foreman, public information officer for the sheriff’s department, witnesses saw the suspect apparently inhaling something out of a balloon. He was also observed placing one handgun behind his back and another into an open carry holster, and this made witnesses uneasy, so they reported him to security. Moody approached at least two different groups of people outside of the venue, inquiring when and where people would be exiting.
He was detained by security and was cooperative, and security staff disarmed him. Over the weekend, detectives investigating the case determined he was not there to commit a mass shooting.
According to a probable cause statement obtained by Liberty Park Press, deputies recovered a Sig Sauer pistol and Springfield XD pistol, both in 9mm and both loaded with chambered rounds.
According to KOMO News in Seattle—the local ABC affiliate—authorities “did not elaborate on what made them revise their earlier statement.”
An updated sheriff’s office statement on Facebook explained, “Detectives have interviewed Moody and have served search warrants on two vehicles. While the investigation is not yet finished, what we can say is that we now don’t feel that his intent was to cause a mass shooting.”
That contradicts the original statement posted on department’s Facebook page two days earlier:
Grant County deputies believe mass shooting avoided at Gorge Amphitheater
Near GEORGE, Wash. (20AUG2022) — Grant County sheriff’s deputies on Friday night believe they stopped an Ephrata man who may have had plans to commit a mass shooting at the Gorge Amphitheater.
Citizens and security notified deputies around 9 p.m. of a man in the parking lot. Witnesses’ suspicions were raised when they saw the man inhale an unknown substance or gas from a balloon and then load two 9mm pistols from the trunk of his car. The man concealed one pistol in the rear of his waistband and the other in an outside-the-waistband holster. The suspect, later identified as 31-year-old Jonathan R. Moody of Ephrata, approached concertgoers, asking what time the concert ended and where people would be exiting the venue.
Moody did not make access inside the venue. Venue security detained Moody outside of the venue gates and disarmed him of the two loaded 9mm pistols. After investigating, deputies arrested Moody on suspicion of one count of possession of a dangerous weapon and one count of unlawful carrying or handling of a weapon. Moody was lodged in the Grant County Jail.
The concert series Bass Canyon, an electronic dance music (EDM) festival, was playing at the Gorge last evening and is playing again tonight. Last night’s concert was sold out, which means there were upwards of 25,000 people attending.
The Gorge Amphitheater does not allow weapons on site, but Moody’s possession of weapons was not the lone factor for his arrest. Moody’s actions of appearing to inhale an intoxicant, loading weapons in the parking lot, and his questions about where concertgoers would be exiting and at what time, furthered the suspicions of witnesses and deputies. Moody did not make any statements to deputies.
Nobody was injured.
Remember: if you see something, say something. Citizens saw something completely out of place for the circumstances and notified security, who in turn notified deputies. That combination of situational awareness along with noticing “something does not fit” resulted in a possible tragedy being prevented.
Thank you to the concertgoers who reported this man, and to venue security for keeping the man from getting inside the concert venue.
The arrest was reported nationally, based on the initial report. Now news agencies are reporting how the sheriff’s office “has backpedaled a previous claim.”
Under Washington statute, citizens may carry concealed handguns if they have a concealed pistol license, and there are some exceptions to that general rule. In a separate statute, a CPL is not required of “Any person engaging in a lawful outdoor recreational activity such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, or horseback riding, only if, considering all of the attendant circumstances, including but not limited to whether the person has a valid hunting or fishing license, it is reasonable to conclude that the person is participating in lawful outdoor activities or is traveling to or from a legitimate outdoor recreation area.”
But there is another provision which states, “It shall be unlawful for any person, except law enforcement officers, to carry, transport, or convey, or to have in his or her possession or under his or her control any firearm while on the site of an outdoor music festival.”
Washington has more than 650,000 active CPLs in circulation, and the right to carry is protected by the state and federal constitutions.
The Gorge Amphitheater is an outdoor venue overlooking the Columbia River about 150 miles east of Seattle. Whether concerts there would be defined as outdoor music festivals is not clear.
The initial Facebook post from the sheriff’s office stated, “The Gorge Amphitheater does not allow weapons on site, but Moody’s possession of weapons was not the lone factor for his arrest. Moody’s actions of appearing to inhale an intoxicant, loading weapons in the parking lot, and his questions about where concertgoers would be exiting and at what time, furthered the suspicions of witnesses and deputies. Moody did not make any statements to deputies. Nobody was injured.”
The case has ignited a sometimes furious discussion on the sheriff’s Facebook page. The original post attracted more than 1,800 comments and the update had more than 200 Wednesday morning.