Monthly Archives: February 2007

Homicides Five And Six for 2007

 Twenty-one year old Kyle Grinnell was using a pressure washer on the triplex he lived in on South Tyler Street around 4:00pm on Wednesday. A dark sedan pulled up and fired a few shots at Kyle. He died the next day from his wounds. Police say it was not gang related and that they were following up on some leads. 

Drive-bys are nothing new in Tacoma. One year in the early 90′s we had more drive-by shootings than Los Angeles. Not per capita. We actually had more shootings than a city ten times bigger. The problem is even now, when a news outlet outside of Tacoma hears that someone got killed in a drive-by in Tacoma, their immediate response is, "Where’s the news in that?"

The same can be said of the shooting that occurred yesterday on Hilltop. Two cars with two people in them parked near each other. One man got out to talk to the driver of the other car. They began to argue. The man’s passenger also got out of the car and then pulled out a gun and fired several times at the driver.

The driver’s car went down a hill and hit a parked car on South G Street. Police say that the driver was acquainted with the shooters. No arrests have been made as of this writing.

Two homicides in two days is something that doesn’t happen often in Tacoma. The Associated Press wrote a quick article about it can be found posted on  Most of the time if someone gets shot on the east side or the south side or in a drive-by, it barely rates news coverage at all.

The major exception about this is The News Tribune and especially the News Tribune blog Lights & Sirens: http://blogs.thenewstribune.com/crime/ Of course according to my stats, half of you found this page from Lights & Sirens so I’m not telling you anything  new.

This constitutes the fifth and sixth homicides for Tacoma in 2007 if you include the police involved shooting of Berry Milsap. The Milsap shooting was obviously justified, but justifiable homicides are still homicides.

-Jack  

Suicide By Cop

Thirty-eight year old Berry Millsap was fighting with his wife Monday. This really was nothing new. Someone called 911 around 1:30pm and the cops were dispatched to the Millsap’s house on Sixth Avenue. This too was nothing new. Officer Kevin Lorberau, a thirteen year veteran was one of the responding officers. (Tacoma Police always send at least two officers to respond to domestic disputes due to their volatile nature.)

Lorberau and another officer met with Mrs. Millsap in the alley behind her house. Her husband had locked himself in the house. While interviewing Mrs. Millsap, Lorberau noticed signs she’d been assaulted. When asked Mrs. Millsap said that Berry had assaulted her.

Inside the house, Berry was aware that the police were outside. He was also no strange to domestic violence laws and likely knew that he was at the very least going to jail because Washington State law is that if police respond to a domestic dispute, they have to arrest at least one person involved.* The police were trying to talk to him and get him to open the door. He didn’t want that. He told them that if they came inside he’d shoot them.

Outside Lorberau and the other officer knew that this was a potentially bad situation. It was the sort of thing that could take hours and end up with someone dead. But Berry was no stranger to the police. He may be dangerous, but he wasn’t the sort of guy you’d call in a SWAT team for. They decided it was time to go in.

One officer entered the front door while another entered the side door. Berry ran and hid behind a couch. As the officers approached, he stood up from behind the couch and pointed something black and gray at them. Officer Lorberau opened fire. Local residents say they heard five or six very quick shots. Berry Millsap was dead. In his hand was a cordless drill.

It would be easy for someone to write a story with a headline like “COP SHOOTS MAN HOLDING DRILL”. It would be easy to paint this as yet another example of police overreacting. All you have to do is leave out almost all of the facts. At the end of the day, what happened is simple. Berry Millsap threatened to shoot the cops and then pointed something that looked like a gun at them after already demonstrating on his wife that he was capable of violence. What Kevin Lorberau did will likely haunt him for the rest of his life. It is a tragedy. But the only one to blame for the tragedy is Berry Millsap. He assaulted his wife. He threatened the police. And he popped up from behind a couch and pointed something black and shiny at armed men who had reason to fear for their lives. Yes, police brutality exists. I’ve personally written up police reports with phrases like “suspect apparently fell while getting into the squad car and lost a few teeth”. However, there is such a thing as ‘suicide by cop’ and this certainly looks more like that sort of situation than anything else.

Don’t worry. I’m still working on the Java Jive story. I’ll post it as soon as it’s done. But writing about the Java Jive is like trying to tell a blind man about color. It’s just something you need to experience. Still, I’m one for lost causes and so the Jive story will be told.

Keep reading and if you have any questions, comments, or spare credit card numbers, email me at jackcameronis@hotmail.com . Thanks for visiting.

-Jack

 *A reader wrote in to inform me that Washington State Law says they only need to arrest someone if there is evidence of assault or interference with a 911 call, but experience has shown that Tacoma officers arrest  people (usually men) simply because there was a domestic dispute.

 

The Second and Third Homicides of 2007

I used to work for the Law Enforcement Support Agency in Tacoma. I transcribed police reports and quickly learned exactly how many bad things happened in Tacoma that never got mentioned in the paper or on the news. At the time we had a three-month backlog. The problem was that there were far more criminal activities happening than there were people to transcribe them. They hired some temps, worked 24 hour rotating shifts and got it within 48 hours. My joke at the time, was, “Can’t we just ask criminals of Tacoma to just wait a couple days before they commit their next crime so we can get caught up?”

So I took a few weeks off of writing. Mainly because I needed to find a new day job and I wanted to start organizing my new site, www.jackcameron.com . Don’t click the link yet, there’s nothing there. I also submitted a couple short stories to a couple of magazines, found a new job, and dealt with my grandfather passing away. It’s been a busy month.

Unfortunately it’s also been a busy month for crime in Tacoma. Since my last writing, there have been two more homicides.

Tacoma’s second homicide of 2007 occurred when twenty-three year old Dominick Garbagni got into an argument with another man in the early hours of January 20th at a tavern on the corner of South 56th and M Street. The argument continued as they went outside and one of them pushed the other (witness accounts vary as to who did the pushing). The fight continued and Domick fell to the ground and hit his head. Two friends of Dominick’s then attacked the man. Dominick died later that day from the head injury. The man who killed him was also injured and briefly taken to the hospital. Both he and one of Dominick’s friends were arrested.

After looking over the case, prosecutor’s decided not to file charges against the man or Dominick’s friend because they say it was unclear whether he acted in self-defense or not.

This is one of those cases where it’s easy to make assumptions about what happened and who is more responsible than the other. I think it’s clear that whatever they were arguing about, no one intended to kill anyone. But lack of intent doesn’t bring back a loved one.

As of this writing, detectives are still looking into this case and charges may yet be filed.

Another argument, this one on the Hilltop resulted in Tacoma’s third homicide for 2007. Two men were arguing around 1:40am Friday morning at a gas station on Hilltop. As the argument continued, a third man got involved. One of the two men then decided to leave at which point the third man shot and killed him. He then ran into the alley and hopped into a car.

A block away, a police officer heard the shots and was there in less than a minute. He saw the guy get into the car and soon after, the shooter was arrested.

I currently don’t have the name of the victim because his family has not been notified. Though honestly, I’m not sure I’ll be able to get it because someone getting shot and killed in the middle of the night on Hilltop is not something that rates much news coverage. I looked at the Seatle Times website and they seem more interested in the fact that next week’s Grey’s Anatomy is going to have some fictional disaster in Seattle. Any media organization outside of Tacoma is going to say “What? Someone got killed on Hilltop last night? Yeah, I’m gonna stop the presses for that one.” (And any news organization in Seattle is going to say, "What? Something happened outside of Seattle? Who gives a f*ck?")

This is a shame because Hilltop isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. In the early nineties during the summer, you could hear gunfire on a nightly basis. One year Tacoma actually had more drive by shootings than Los Angeles. But the anti-gang task force and a number of other factors, helped make Hilltop a better place. Though it’s still not a place to get into an argument at a gas station in the middle of the night, it’s better than Tacoma’s east side at this time.

Unless someone kills someone else in the next few days, my next entry won’t be about death. It will be about the attempted murder of one of Tacoma’s most famous landmarks: Bob’s Java Jive.

Until then, remember some people are as dumb as dumb as a box of hammers. Don’t argue with them. There’s no point.-Jack