Originally, I started writing about homicides in Tacoma because of Tacoma’s reputation as a city of crime. Tacoma has a long and colorful history of crime and corruption. That history continues, but when it comes to homicides, Tacoma really isn’t as dangerous as it used to be. Crime rates have dropped significantly since the 1990s. My original purpose was to show that there really aren’t that many homicides in Tacoma. Usually about one a month.
Since most media reports tend to focus on the killer, I chose to focus instead on the victim. Personally, I don’t think killing someone should make you a household name. So whenever possible, I don’t mention the name of the killer. Another aspect of it is that the victim is usually forgotten and little if anything is written about who the person was. I wanted to write about these people who could no longer share their story, whatever their story was.
Soon after I started doing this, I found a new purpose in writing about these murders. I found that friends and relatives of the victim would often contact me. Some would be old friends who hadn’t seen the victim in years and only found out they had died through a Google search that found my site. Others would be mothers, wives, fathers and children of the victim. It became clear that what I was doing mattered to some people.
There was also the flipside of that coin. Particularly when gangs were involved, I’d get other messages. I’d get threatening emails. Once I got one with information only someone directly involved with the killing would have known. I forwarded that one on to the police. At the time, it occurred to me that while some liked what I was doing there were others who didn’t and some of those others were killers. And so I stopped for a few years.
During that time, I’d occasionally reread the emails from the friends and relatives of victims. I was contacted by one who asked me if I could find the name of the person who killed a woman a few years ago. It took a bit of research since I don’t mention killers, but the person who wrote me wanted to know who killed her mother. I sent her the information I had. I was reminded that what it comes down to is that the victims can no longer tell their story and someone should.
I started writing about Tacoma homicides again in 2011. I plan on continuing to do so for the foreseeable future. Because there have to be limits on something like this, I only write about homicides that occur in the city limits of Tacoma. I include police involved shootings because I am told that they are counted in official homicide statistics and because those victims have a story too. I don’t include vehicular homicides because they are much more difficult to write about. Often charges aren’t filed until much later, and writing about everyone who is killed in a car accident in Tacoma goes a bit outside of what this is for.
When writing about these crimes, I use whatever information is available to me at the time. I read newspaper articles, news sites and television news broadcasts. I also use whatever personal knowledge I might have of the victim, the area or any other information I might have. Whenever possible, I try to write it with a sympathetic ear towards the victim. This year, that’s been a bit difficult. There were two police involved shootings and two instances where a homeowner shot intruders in their house. While it’s debatable whether they were justifiable or not, there were no charges filed in these cases and in each of them, it’s understandable why events occurred the way they did.
I’m not a reporter. I’m not objective. I do have an opinion on each homicide I write about. I try not to let that influence me too much, but it’s impossible to keep my bias out of something I write. I’ll be the first to admit that occasionally I get it wrong. Often this is due to a lack of information on the case at the time that I’m writing about it. This is why I tend to wait until the name of the victim is released. Usually by that time, the story of what happened is out there and reasonably complete.
It’s my hope that telling these stories helps those who have lost someone and gives others a better picture of people Tacoma has lost.
- Jack Cameron