Monthly Archives: December 2011

Fourteenth Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Michelle Johnson

On the evening of Friday, December 16th, 45-year-old Michelle Johnson had been hanging out with an acquaintance on Tacoma’s South Side. At some point, they began to argue. The argument went into the street. Someone in a vehicle passing by saw the argument and thought it was volatile enough to call the non-emergency number for the police. Michelle threw a couple of punches according to some witnesses. The acquaintance then got into a Chevy Tahoe while Michelle walked away. As Michelle was crossing the street on the intersection of South 43rd and J Street, she was hit and killed by the SUV driven by the acquaintance.

This is Tacoma’s fourteenth homicide of 2011 and hopefully its last. It’s also a painful reminder that what starts as a disagreement can become something deadly if the people involved can’t control themselves.

Later that night, Michelle Johnson’s killer was arrested. She admitted to arguing with Michelle. She admitted to being the only car on the street at the time Michelle was struck. She claims that she only drove near Michelle. She’s currently being charged with second degree murder. Due to a lengthy criminal record, she is being held with one million dollar bail.

Typically I don’t post vehicular homicides on this site. This is because often the charges aren’t filed right away and they aren’t normally counted in homicide statistics because they tend to be the result of accidents. However, this was no accident. This was someone using a vehicle to kill a specific person on purpose. That’s not negligence that resulted in the death of someone else. That’s murder.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to prevent this sort of thing from happening. There are plenty of people out there with unpredictable and volatile tempers. We can’t just lock them all up on general principal. Just remember, what might be an argument to you, might be something else entirely to someone else. Michelle was doing the right thing when she was killed. She was walking away.

As always, if you knew Michelle, please feel free to post your thoughts and memories in the comments section. I will not approve comments of hate. This is not the place for that. These posts are to remember those killed in Tacoma. Here’s hoping I’ll have to write less of them next year.

Art, Ballet, Flamenco and Dirty Rock

Flamenco Master Jesus Montoya

There is always something going on in Tacoma. It’s one of my favorite things about the place. No matter what you’re into, there’s a good chance you can find it somewhere in Tacoma.

Here are just a few options coming up in the next few days:

Thursday December 15th  6:00pm – 9:00pm

THE ART BUS

Angela Jossy, the self-described Duchess of Downtown has made the Art Bus a monthly event that is always memorable. Tickets are $10. The Art Bus boards at 5:45pm and takes a tour of local art exhibits. She puts this on every third Thursday of the month. At last count, there were 11 seats still available.

For more information, go to http://tacomaartbus.com

Friday, December 16th  8:30pm – 11:30pm    

Flamenco singer Jesus Montoya with guitarist Pedro Cortes and dancer Savannah Fuentes

At The New Frontier Lounge 301 E. 25th Street

This is something special. Jesus Montoya has never played Tacoma before. If you’re interested in Flamenco music or have never experienced it, this is for you. And the New Frontier has a close and friendly atmosphere. There’s not a bad seat in the place.Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at this link: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/213666

For more information on The New Frontier: http://www.thenewfrontierlounge.com/  

Saturday, December 17th 9:00pm – Late

Midnight Salvage Company, Ten Miles of Bad Road, & Devil on a Leash

At O’Malley’s 2403 6th Ave.

You want a loud bar with good drinks and great music? This is the time and place. Three great Tacoma bands all on the same night and there’s NO COVER CHARGE. There’s not much more you can ask for on a Saturday night.  Ten Miles of Bad Road just completed their tour where they brought their dirty Southern rock to small bars up and down the West Coast. If music was violence Ten Miles of Bad Road would be a bar fight. Midnight Salvage Company brings the sort of rock that should still be on the radio. It’s good solid rebel rock with just a bit of asshole. Then there’s Devil on a Leash with a sound that reminds me of the last bar on a long night that no one will remember too clearly.

December 17th & December 18th at 3pm

Tacoma Ballet’s The Nutcracker

There are plenty of Nutcracker performances all over. However, Tacoma City Ballet’s is set apart as the sole production in the area to follow the story, scenic design, costuming and choreography as it was originally created by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

Tickets range in prices from $19 – $60 and can be purchased at

 http://www.broadwaycenter.org/

And that’s just a few of the things going on in the next four days. Tacoma is about as diverse as any city in the world. And it’s all right here. People ask me why I love Tacoma, it’s because of things like these.

- Jack Cameron

13th Tacoma Homicide of 2011 Leileah Flowers

Last Wednesday night, eight-month-old, Leileah Flowers was crying in her Hilltop home. Her 20-year-old father was playing a video game. According to his statements, when she had cried in the past, he had shaken her a little and she stopped crying. He says he was frustrated with her crying and shook her again. This time it caused her to vomit and her nose began to bleed. He noticed she was having trouble breathing.

Leileah arrived at Tacoma’s Mary Bridge Hospital around 8pm on Wednesday night. The police were contacted three hours later. Leileah lived two more days before dying on December 9th and becoming Tacoma’s 13th homicide of 2011. Her father is being charged with her death.

It would be easy to call Leileah’s father a monster. Go to any given news site about this and you’ll find comments doing exactly that. And to be clear, what he did is monsterous and terrible. I have a personal friend who has a child that was shaken by the child’s father. That child has severe brain trauma and will never lead a normal life. So I have no illusions as to the devestation this tragedy has caused.

However, I also believe that most cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome don’t occur with the intention of killing or even harming the child. It’s a combination of frustration, the loss of one’s temper and the lack of knowledge. This doesn’t make any of this any less tragic. And it doesn’t make the person involved less responsible.

What needs to be said, again and again is that you NEVER SHAKE A BABY. Not ever. My mother is a labor and delivery nurse. I’ve listened to stories of babies all my life. While it might be common knowledge for most, there are still many who simply don’t know or don’t believe in Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Leileah isn’t the first shaken baby to die. Sadly, she won’t be the last. My heart goes out to the family of this child. I can’t imagine what they’re going through. The only good thing that can come out of this is hopefully, there will be young parents who hear about this case and learn that they can never shake a baby.

- Jack Cameron

For more information on Shaken Baby Syndrome, go to: http://dontshake.org/