Twelfth Tacoma Homicide of 2015 Phillip Ryan Jr.


Last Saturday afternoon at around 1pm 19-year-old Phillip Ryan Jr. was on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. He was less than a block from where Steven Speakman had been shot four days earlier near S. 10th and MLK when a car pulled up and shot Phillip. Emergency responders arrived and transported Philip to a nearby hospital where he died shortly after arriving.

Phillip is Tacoma’s 12th homicide this year. He is the third young man shot and killed in Tacoma in less than a week. This is the third shooting within four blocks of each other. And this is the fifth shooting in Tacoma in the last twelve days with a sixth one happening last night on S. 45th and Union where another young man was shot in the leg.

If this seems like an excessive amount of violence for Tacoma, it is. I’ve been talking about Tacoma homicides since 2006 and the last time I remember this much violence in so short a time it was the mid-1990s.

I call Tacoma the biggest small town in the world because everyone seems to know everyone. So I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that my teenage son knew Philip. They both attended Stadium together. A few years ago I even met the young man.

My son said he was funny. And his friends who also knew him are in shock at his sudden murder. Last night there was a Peace Walk near the spot where Elijah Crawford was killed and his friend was shot. Tonight (Sunday) at 5:30pm there’s going to be a gathering at Peoples Park near the shootings of both Steven Speakman and Phillip Ryan.

As always, the comments section is moderated by me and reserved for those who knew Phillip Ryan and want to share thoughts or memories.

Jack Cameron

Eleventh Tacoma Homicide of 2015: Steven ‘Little Stevie’ Speakman


On Tuesday morning a man was walking back home after walking his wife to work in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. It was just after six in the morning. On South 10th and Martin Luther King Jr. Way he found 26-year-old Steven Speakman on the sidewalk. He’d been shot three times and had died from his wounds. The man tried to wave down a car for help, but it was a few minutes before anyone stopped.

Steven Speakman is the 11th Tacoma homicide of 2015 and the second to occur this week, with the shooting of Elijah Crawford happening just seven hours earlier on Tacoma’s East Side.

Steven was 26 years old but was intellectually disabled and functioned at the level of a ten year old. He lived only two blocks from where he was found and was well known and well liked in the neighborhood. People called him ‘Little Stevie’. A small memorial stands where Steven was found.

At this time police do not have a suspect or a motive. He was not robbed of anything but his life. Police are asking for anyone who might have information or been in the area around that time to contact them.

Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood is notorious for its high crime rate in the early 1990s, but this is actually the first homicide in Hilltop in over a year. What once was a neighborhood that people were rightly afraid to go into has become a much safer, more vibrant part of Tacoma.

As always, the comments section is moderated by me and reserved for those who want to share thoughts and memories of Little Stevie.

– Jack Cameron

Tenth Tacoma Homicide of 2015: Elijah Crawford


Last Monday night 18-year-old Elijah Crawford and two friends were sitting in a car in the 1800 block of East 44th Street a little after 11:30pm. Someone approached the car and opened fire. When police arrived minutes later, they found Elijah had been killed becoming the tenth Tacoma homicide this year. A 20-year-old friend was wounded and taken to a nearby hospital. The third friend was physically uninjured.

Elijah graduated from Lincoln High School earlier and married his high school sweetheart. He was a popular and fun loving student who liked wrestling and photography. It’s genuinely difficult to find a photo where he isn’t smiling. A former teacher of his learned of his death and wrote about Elijah and what Tacoma has lost with his passing. You can read it here. The News Tribune also has an excellent article on Elijah Crawford. Here’s the link for that.  (Read it now as their articles are unavailable online after 90 days without a subscription.)

This shooting was one of three within the space of a few hours in Tacoma during Monday night and Tuesday morning. Around 3:40am near North 13th and Lawrence Street a drunk driver fired ten shots at University of Puget Sound security guards thankfully hitting no one. Also around 6:15am this morning 26-year-old Steven Speakman was found with fatal gunshot wounds on S. 10th and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. This is an unusual amount of violence in such a short amount of time.

As always, the comments section is moderated by me and reserved for those who want to share thoughts, memories, and other remembrances of Elijah and his life that was all too short.

At the time of this writing, a suspect has not been arrested or identified.

There is a Peace Walk scheduled for tonight (Saturday November 7th) near where Elijah and his friend were shot. It starts at 5pm at the Family Investment Center Park at 1724 East 44th Street in Salishan.

-Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Angela Kores with the Gothic Witches Ball


One of my favorite things about Tacoma is that we have so many interesting events. Our ArtWalks are legendary. Last week I participated in Tacoma’s first lit crawl. And next weekend on Saturday October 24th Tacoma will have the Gothic Witches Ball.

While I can tell you a thing or two about ArtWalks and I can definitely tell you anything you need to know about lit crawls, I don’t really know anything about the Gothic Witches Ball. Luckily Angela Kores was nice enough to join me in a 5 Question Friday and tell us all about it. Here’s Angela:

1. What is the Gothic Witches Ball?
The Witches Ball is an annual event (this year’s theme being Gothic). In the past it has been hosted by Tacoma Earth Religions Revival Association (TERRA), and later hosted by Central Puget Sound Pagan Pride. This year it is being hosted by Magical Garden. It is a night of ritual, dance and magic.

2. What’s different about the Gothic Witches Ball this year?
It is a smaller venue, more intimate. The theme is something that I am unsure has been done before. In the past the Witches Ball has been hosted by Tacoma Earth Religions Revival Association (TERRA) & when they disband a couple of years ago, Central Puget Sound Pagan Pride had taken it over. I wanted to keep the tradition of the Witches Ball alive and decided to host it this year.

3.What are possible misconceptions people might have about the Witches Ball?
That you have to be a witch to attend. We welcome everyone.

4. How can people attend and how can they help if they want to?
Get your tickets at Magical Garden. Our address is 430 E 25TH Suite #9 Tacoma, WA. You can call us during business hours (Mon-Sat 11-7) at (425)591-7345 or order online at: Witches Ball ticket. I should mention tickets are limited, and are going fast.

5. What do you see for the future of the Gothic Witches Ball?
I envision the tradition of the Witches Ball coming back stronger and better than ever.

Thanks to Angela for taking the time to join me for 5 Question Friday. If you think you or anyone you know would like to participate in a 5 Question Friday, email me at

  • Jack Cameron

Ninth Tacoma Homicide of 2015 Clifford Bennett


photo courtesy of KOMONews

Clifford Bennett lived with his 78-year-old mother Joyce Coffel in a house in the 5800 block of East I Street. He was 57 and disabled. A woman was lived in the basement. Her 27-year-old son had been staying there for a few days. Last Tuesday the 27-year-old had been up for three days on a combination of heroin and methamphetamines. A little after two in the afternoon, the 27-year-old went upstairs and hit Clifford with a ballpeen hammer five or six times, killing him. He also attacked Clifford’s mother hitting her with the hammer in both eyes. At the time of this writing she is still at Harborview with life threatening injuries.

Clifford Bennett is the eighth Tacoma homicide this year. His mother may very well become the ninth. We are on track to have roughly one homicide a month this year which is fairly typical for the city of Tacoma.

Given the ages and circumstances of the victims, there simply isn’t much information about the lives of Clifford Bennett or Joyce Coffel. Those who knew them are encouraged to share stories about them in the comments section. As always, I monitor the comments section and each comment must be approved before it appears. This is to stop disrespectful or hurtful comments.

On a personal note, I’ve been writing about Tacoma homicides in one form or another for almost ten years now. Sometimes I find the words easily and I’m able to share how people are killed in my hometown. Other times, like with this particular case, I find it much more difficult.

Clifford and Joyce didn’t live in the best neighborhood. And she was likely renting out rooms to help offset the costs of taking care of her disabled son. Clifford and Joyce deserved better than this senseless act.

Again, as always, comments are reserved for those who knew Clifford or Joyce. My thoughts go out to their friends and family.
– Jack Cameron

Tacoma Should Sit Down And Talk

At TacomaStories I do what I can to not vilify anyone. In the nine years that I’ve been writing about Tacoma and Tacoma crime, I’ve gone increasingly out of my way not to name the killers in Tacoma homicides. Last week when I wrote about an armed man who was shot by the Tacoma Police Department I didn’t mention the police officer’s name and I treated the victim like a human being deserving of respect. Other media outlets and social media weren’t so considerate.

The rule is to treat everyone like another human being even if they do not do the same for you or others. We gain nothing by singling out someone and destroying them. When we tear another man down, we are in fact tearing ourselves down as well. It’s not easy to write this way or behave this way and there are times I fail, but those are the times I’m reminded how important it is to keep trying.

Yesterday, the owner of Dorky’s Arcade in downtown Tacoma had an encounter with Tacoma Stands Up, a Tacoma variation of Black Lives Matter that stages marches on Sundays. The march ended across the street from Dorky’s Arcade on South 9th and Pacific Ave. Annoyed by the march, the owner of Dorky’s did the absolute last thing he should have done. He antagonized the peaceful marchers culminating in him chanting “NIG-GER” in the face of one of the protesters. It was a despicable, hateful, and racist act.

Today, the Court of Social Media meted out its punishment. Dozens of people vowed to boycott Dorky’s forever and encouraged everyone else to do the same. The brewery advertised on the owner’s shirt in the video immediately announced they would no longer be providing their beer for the establishment. Photoshopped images of the owner walking with Hulk Hogan and Klansman showed up online. Some said he should never make another dime in Tacoma.

The owner has publicly apologized and offered to let Black Lives Matter meet at Dorky’s. Both have been refused by Tacoma Stands Up. This is understandable.

Let me be clear that I am not in any way defending the owner’s actions any more than I defend the actions of the actions of those killed in justifiable homicides when I focus on them as human beings.

That said, I do not see how the causes of Tacoma Stands Up, Black Lives Matter, or racial equality in general are helped by destroying a downtown Tacoma business that employs ten people in addition to the business owner. Not one racist mind will be changed by such an action. Racists will point to it as political correctness run amok and say stupid untrue racist things.  Are we using the same mentality for social sins as we do for the death penalty? Do we really think such things deter others of a similar bent? Studies have shown that fear of the death penalty has no effect on whether or not a murderer kills someone. Why would anyone think that destroying a man’s business will deter a racist?

The goal shouldn’t be to see how far and how quickly we can tear a bad man down. It should be, how can we go about making him and other bad men better? Instead of putting the man out of business and his employees on the unemployment line, wouldn’t it make more sense to have him sit down with the leaders of Tacoma Stands Up and have a conversation?

It’s become more and more obvious that we need to have a talk about race. We need to have many talks. Talking and getting to know one another and their point of views is the best way to eliminate hate. I do not know the owner of Dorky’s. I do not know the leaders of Tacoma Stands Up. I do know that we aren’t going to change any minds by hating bigots.

Jack Cameron

Book Review: Hive by Christina Stoddard


Hilltop in the early 1990s was an interesting place. I was in New Zealand in 1992 and random people there knew about the crime in Hilltop. It was a dangerous place with gang members who moved here from Los Angeles turning the area into a high-crime area that most people avoided after dark. In 1994 I met a young girl named Christina Stoddard. She lived with her family right in the middle of Hilltop and she beyond being ridiculously smart and fun to be around, she also did something that had me immediately intrigued; she wrote better than me.

I wasn’t surprised when Christina won the Brittingham Prize award for poetry. I congratulated her and she offered to send me a copy of Hive, her book of poetry. I had read many of her poems before. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. These poems weren’t just good. They were real. They were deeply personal. And they were quintessentially Tacoman.

I have a novel coming out later this year. It’s 57,000 words and says a few things about Tacoma. I’m proud of it and I hope people like it. But reading Christina Stoddard’s Hive, I was reminded of something filmmaker Cameron Crowe said about musician Paul Westerberg. He said, “Paul says shit in two and a half minutes that I can’t say in two and a half hours.”

Individually these poems are as often haunting as they are humorous. Taken together the poems paint a picture of the young girl growing up in Hilltop long before I ever met her. I’ve been trying to find a way to review Hive without making it personal but I find that it’s simply impossible.

In recent years Christina and I haven’t talked much and truth be told I don’t know her all that well these days. That said, I remember the girl she writes as in her poems. A short white Mormon girl with a good head on her shoulders and a little too much curiosity growing up in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country results in poetry that speaks to the struggle so many bright children in bad neighborhoods cope with.

I’ve also found that it’s hard to write about poetry. It’s like writing about skydiving. It’s better to just do it. With that in mind I’m sharing a poem from Hive with the permission of Christina. It’s one of my favorites in the book.

You can purchase Hive at this link or at your local bookseller. For more poems and reviews of Hive, checkout Christina’s website:

Jack Cameron

What Tacoma Was

By Christina Stoddard

The scuffed toe of a Boeing work boot,

Puget Sound’s paper mill stench,

the asbestos cough from the Asarco plant.

A tin can that cut my thumb

every time I tried to throw it into the past. The kind

of wound that takes a full minute

to begin bleeding. A cave of Evergreens

at Point Defiance Park, shutting out all light.

The stone in my soup. WIC coupons

common as pine needles, soldiers

from Fort Lewis cruising the mall for girls,

bottles of Rainier beer. The man

who held me down in the storeroom where I worked

and snarled, Don’t fight me, you bitch.

A glue so quick to bond

I had to meet my mother’s eyes and tell her

she wasn’t enough reason to stay.