The Tale of Shaneen Allen, From Firearm Owner to Felon in one Jersey Lane Change

Shaneen with her two kids.
Shaneen with her two kids.

About two years ago, Shaneen Allen was pulled over on the Atlantic City Expressway. During the course of the traffic stop for unsafe lane change, she admitted to the officer that she had a pistol in her purse. She didn’t have to. There is no indication that the officer was going to search her or her car or purse.

During the course of the traffic stop for unsafe lane change, she admitted to the officer that she had a pistol in her purse. She didn’t have to.

 

Allen had gotten her CCW license in Pennsylvania following two violent assaults. CCW holders often tell officers about firearms during traffic stops, partly out of courtesy but mostly to avoid surprises and shootings if the officer happens across the firearm.

If Allen had kept her mouth shut about the 380 Bersa Thunder, there would be no story. She would have gone home that night, paid a ticket and returned to her life as a phlebotomist and mother two of in Philadelphia. Instead she spent 40 days in an Atlantic City jail facing up to five years in prison on charges of illegally bringing a concealed weapon into the state.

Shaneen Allen and son. Her child was in the car when she was pulled over as she left an Atlantic City birthday party.
Shaneen Allen and son. Her child was in the car when she was pulled over as she left an Atlantic City birthday party.

New Jersey has some of the harshest gun laws in the country. Guns have to be locked, unloaded in the trunk with the bullets kept in a separate space. It’s one of those details that a whole lot of travelers don’t know about. It’s also why pretrial intervention exists. To separate women like Allen from the criminals that the law was designed to target.

Allen would have likely spent the next few years behind bars, serving as an unlikely example for women who have suffered from violent assault and chosen to protect themselves. Don’t try it in New Jersey.

Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said he was following a 2008 directive that expanded the state’s Graves Act and did not allow for pretrial intervention. The Graves Act provides for mandatory minimum sentences for firearms offenses.

Allen would have likely spent the next few years behind bars, serving as an unlikely example for women who have suffered from violent assault and chosen to protect themselves. Don’t try it in New Jersey.

Despite attention from the NRA, McClain was determined to prosecute. That is, until Ray Rice was filmed knocking his fiance to the floor in an Atlantic City elevator.

In the video Rice knocks his now-wife to the ground and then drags her limp body out of the elevator and down a hallway. Rice didn’t use a gun, but the brutality of the attack raised questions as to the role that the NFL played in the covering the attack up. It also raised questions about McClain’s zealous denial of Allen’s request for pretrial intervention.

The video was hidden for months. In that time, McClain quietly admitted Rice to pretrial intervention, despite the nature of the crime.

In September McClain bowed to pressure and Allen agreed to enter a pretrial intervention program. The program would have required her to give up her gun and complete 25 hours of community service to avoid jail time.

Now, Gov. Christie has granted her a pardon. Last¬†Thursday, Allen’s attorney Evan Nappen said he and Allen were happy about Christie’s action, which awarded her a “full and free pardon” for all criminal charges and indictments arising from the arrest. The pardon also expunges her record and would allow her to become a gun owner once again.

The Allen case represented the willingness of prosecutors to turn a simple mistake into a life altering crime. When she was arrested, people asked why Allen didn’t know better. Jersey firearm laws are legendary. She had taken classes in Philadelphia. She should have known the laws for the State across the bridge.

But what was it about Allen that made McClain want to turn her into a cautionary tale? Is there a crisis of Black women with otherwise lawful firearms? Do Allen and folks like her really contribute to the mayhem in Atlantic City? If not, make examples out of criminals, and not women who make honest mistakes.

 

 

“No Cutsies” Gun battle at Rite Aid is as dumb as it sounds

I talk a lot to people who don’t like guns.

At some point their argument turns to an example of stupidity so egregious that it’s almost insulting. The moral equivalent of judging all motorists against the yardstick of their drunk driving uncle who launched his Ford Galaxie up a telephone pole one Sunday morning.

You’re about to see a lethal shootout at a Rite Aid shootout over “No Cuties”. These guys are exhibit’s A and B in the anti-gun argument.

Bernell Benn shot and killed Ramon Colorado over a "no Cutsies" argument at a Rite Aid
Bernell Benn shot and killed Ramon Colorado over a “no Cutsies” argument at a Rite Aid

 

Bernell Benn and Ramon Colorado somehow turn a dispute over who was in front of whom at a Rite Aid checkout, to a pepper spray attack and then a gun battle in an occupied store. Ramon lost his life. Benn is fighting an expensive court battle and has to live with the fact that he killed a man.

By the way, I looked at the video. According to the rigorous rules of grade school “No Cutsies,” Colorado is clearly in the right. You can see him enter the line at the 12 second mark. That’s Benn, hanging out on the side talking on his cell phone. Colorado¬†is there for 15 seconds before Benn decided that his line rights had been infringed upon.

At the 51 second mark, Colorado makes the universal “Fuck it. Get in front of me, if it’s that big a deal.” Benn doesn’t get in front of him, though. Because, I suspect, he’s kind of an asshole.

At the 1:19 mark, Colorado pepper sprays Benn. Why? You can’t pepper spray people just for being assholes.

Then, rather than leaving, he seems to be stalking Benn down the aisle.

By the end, Benn has chased Colorado to the front of the store when the screen fades to black.

Both men were exercising their rights to carry, and although Benn is a dick, it does seem as if his life were in danger.

One of the most difficult lessons in life is knowing how to choose your battles. That clearly wasn’t either man’s strong suit. Why else would they turn something as juvenile as, “Hey! I was here first!” into a gunfight on aisle 1?

From argument to pepper spray to gun battle, Ramon Colorado is a perfect example of how not to handle an argument
From argument to pepper spray to gun battle, Ramon Colorado is a perfect example of how not to handle an argument