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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

January 7, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Seattle bus rider put away smartphone before wrestling gunman

Maybe you’ve seen the video of the Seattle Metro bus riders who wrestle a gunman to the ground less than a second after he’s pointed a gun at the wrong man’s face.

That man — sitting at the right of the frame in glasses — is looking at his smartphone, ear buds in, when the video starts. The gun appears in front of him and whoa — in one swoop he juts back, reaches for the gun and gets up to shove the gunman back down the aisle.

A reader pointed out a fascinating detail: As he shoves the man back with one hand — and you can imagine this is about the point when the man wakes up to what he’s doing and that his life is at stake — he uses his other hand to put away his smartphone.

It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. We all put away our smartphones, all the time. Screen up, screen down, screen up, screen down — it’s the world’s new rhythm.

But how fascinating would it be to know what was going through this man’s mind in these critical moments? It looks very much like all of his actions were reflex. His adrenaline kicks in, he goes from sitting distracted to standing alert in no time and yet: Did the automatic impulse to survive not supersede the automatic impulse to put his phone safely back in its pocket?

We Seattleites like to get involved, and luckily for Mr. Heroic Impulse the gunman was not a threat for long.

But it’s worth wondering: What if that pocketed smartphone had cost him his life?

Another thing to note: The man in glasses was not the first to be threatened by the gunman. According to this story from KOMO, the gunman, whom police identified as 19-year-old high school graduate, successfully robbed two passengers of their smartphones before reaching the man at the front.

Would the man have reacted differently if he hadn’t been so immersed in his smartphone? Might he have been more cautious, handing his phone over and handing the gunman another victory?

A shakier trigger finger could have made this a completely different story.

Thanks to reader George Hickey for pointing this out.

Seen a story that caught your eye re: digital life? Email me at mguzman@seattletimes.com or reach me on Twitter or Facebook.

Comments | More in Crime, Mobile, Reactions & Resources, Seattle, transportation

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