Late last night, twenty-six-year-old Preston Thompson was riding his motorcycle on Tacoma’s east side when he was hit by a car. The driver stopped, got out of the car and ran. He has yet to be found. Preston was taken to Tacoma General Hospital where he later died from injuries sustained during the wreck.
It turns out that one of my coworkers is best friends with Preston’s father. It’s a quick reminder to me that these deaths are never anonymous. Every one of these people means something to someone. That’s part of the reason for this site. I want these victims to be remembered for more than the day or two they show up on the local news. These are residents of our city. They are people you probably walked by last week. And but for the grace of God, you could be one of them.
Early Sunday morning Tacoma lost another resident to violence. Residents near South 19th and Fawcett report hearing two gunshots and seeing two cars drive away. A passerby found an off duty police officer and pointed out a body in a dark alleyway. She appeared to be 30 to 40 years old and had been shot in the head.
Residents report that the area has recently become a haven for prostitutes, drug dealers, and transients. In July an apartment building known as The Fawcett House on 1945 South Fawcett was condemned due to code violations. Unfortunately boarding up a building in a bad neighborhood is exactly the sort of base of operations for any number of criminal activities. Neighbors report seeing drug deals, sex acts, and other activities in broad daylight in this area.
There’s no doubt that now that someone has been killed the police will do something about this. But what it will likely be is the same sort of band-aid on an open wound policing most of Tacoma has come to expect. The Fawcett House will likely not be as much of a problem, but that just means some other house will.
That isn’t to say that all the blame should be put on the TPD. These communities are just as much to blame. While you can ask any number of people about criminal activities around that alleyway, I’d be wiling to bet that the neighbors didn’t do much to stop it. I doubt there were many phone calls to the police and no one did something as simple and going to Home Depot and buying a couple spotlights for that alleyway. Or failing that, how about getting a few photos of these people? There are always things you can do when crime infests your neighborhood. And if you ask me, these aren’t just things you can do, but things you should do. You have to ask yourself what sort of neighborhood you want to live in and what you’re doing to make sure your neighborhood lives up to that. Remember, community policing is just as much about community as it is about police.
Last night 43-year-old James Nance was riding his moped on South Hosmer Street headed for a business complex perhaps to get a coffee at the local Shari’s restaurant. He crossed the intersection at South 72nd shortly after 11:30pm and was struck by a full sized pick up that had run a red light. He later died at St. Joseph Medical Center. The truck slowed down after hitting Nance, but then sped off into the night. Police are looking for a dark colored late 90s pick up truck with front end and passenger side damage.
I once heard it said that the difference between a good guy and a bad guy is that when a good guy does something bad he admits it and takes the appropriate consequences. What happened to James Nance was almost certainly an accident. It was late at night. He was riding a small vehicle. The truck ran a red light but I doubt there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t run a red light. If the truck had simply stopped, there’d likely be little if any criminal charges filed.
However, running a red light, hitting and killing a man, and then running away are actions that make criminal charges almost inevitable. It’s things like this that turn a simple mistake into vehicular homicide. Hopefully the dirver of the truck will see the light and drop by the police station.
UPDATE: This from the News Tribune:
Based on witnesses’ statements, police describe the truck as a 1999-2002 Chevrolet Silverado.
It’s dark – possibly black – and has a light-colored accent stripe down each side. An aluminum toolbox and aluminum-colored bed rails were on the back, police said.
Witnesses also said it was slightly raised and had chrome rims.
Investigators said there will be noticeable damage to the front hood and grill area, including the headlamp and turn signal assembly.
Witnesses have not been able to describe the truck’s driver.
Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers is offering up to $1,000 for information leading to arrests and charges filed in the case. Callers remain anonymous.
Reach Crime Stoppers at 253-591-5959.
On another note, it seems The South Tacoma Way is getting some recognition. I was recently contacted by Mark Briggs, editor at The News Tribune. He maintains a blog at the Tribune dedicated to all things Tacoma in cyberspace. He recently wrote a review and put up a link to this site and I think it’s only fair I do the same. Check him out. http://blogs.thenewstribune.com/online
Last Monday afternoon a brown Oldsmobile parked on Alaska Street near South 90th. A blue sedan parked nearby and the passenger of the Oldsmobile, 21-year-old Jeffery Mario Norris-Romine stepped out of the vehicle and to talk with the two occupants of the blue sedan. Words were exchanged and then there were three gunshots. The blue sedan drove away and Jeffery Norris-Romine was lying on the street critically wounded. A gun lay near him.
Three days later, Jeffery died at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Tacoma Homicide Detective Chris Taylor followed a handful of leads but eventually decided to seek the public’s help. Police are looking for that blue sedan with chrome rims that witnesses saw fleeing the scene. And Crimestoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. The tip line number is 253-591-5959.
If you ask people in the area where this occurred what their neighborhood is like they’ll tell you that it’s bad and getting worse. Many will say that they plan on moving as soon as they can. It’s bad enough that someone shooting another man in broad daylight on a South Tacoma street barely rates a headline in the Tacoma paper and won’t be mentioned at all by Seattle papers or Seattle’s KOMO television.
While Tacoma has improved from the days of the early 90’s when I used to go to sleep to the sound of sirens and drive by shootings, it’s reputation as a city full of crime hasn’t gone away and the crime rate is rising. Still, we’ve nowhere near the crime rates of most east coast cities and are relatively even with Seattle when it comes to major crimes per capita.
What angers me is not the lack of media attention that cases like this get. It’s that there isn’t really any public outrage about this sort of thing. We don’t see the community or our local leaders saying that people shooting people in broad daylight on the street will not stand. It’s as if it’s kind of expected that it’ll happen from time to time. And it’s this very apathy that creates an environment where these things happen.