Category Archives: Tacoma Crime

The Last Tacoma Homicide of 2014 Joshua Sullivan Jr.

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I do my best to write about every homicide that happens in the city of Tacoma. Mostly I rely on media reports and a few other sources to confirm events or information. Occasionally there will be a homicide and almost no media coverage whatsoever. That was the case in the short life of Joshua Sullivan Jr.

Joshua Sullivan Jr. was born on May 16, 2013. Seven days later he was brought into Tacoma’s Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. His injuries, mostly around his head concerned the staff there. They contacted the Tacoma Police Department.

After initially denying that they knew anything about their son’s injuries, Joshua’s father admitted to being ‘frustrated’ with the baby.

Sixteen months later, in September 2014 Joshua Sullivan Jr. died from his injuries. Since then the two other children in the home have been placed in foster care and the father has been put in prison. Today Pierce County prosecutors have charged his father with the homicide.

These are my least favorite homicides to write about. Newborns can be very difficult for some people to deal with. Washington State has a Safe Haven law. Anyone can drop off their newborn at a Hospital or a Fire Station safely and anonymously no questions asked and no judgments given. If you need help with a baby, please call the National Safe Haven Alliance at 1-866-510-BABY (1-866-510-2229).

My thoughts go out to the family of Joshua Sullivan, Jr.

– Jack Cameron

Public Shaming May Have Led to A Young Girl’s Suicide

A few days ago a 15 second video showed up online. It showed a young girl who appeared to be twelve or thirteen years old. She’s standing in a room looking at the phone camera. She appears to be afraid. The camera then shows the floor where there is a pile of long black hair. A taunting male voice says, “The consequences of getting messed up? Man, you lost all that beautiful hair. Was it worth it?” The girl stares at her hair on the floor. She very quietly says, “No.” “How many times did I warn you?” She almost inaudibly says, “Twice.” He then says, “Okay.” as if he has proved a point. The video ends.

A screenshot from the video her father took after cutting her hair as a punishment.

A screenshot from the video her father took after cutting her hair as a punishment.

Yesterday this same young girl got out of the passenger seat of her grandmother’s car on the South 48th Street overpass. She climbed over the railing and jumped, landing on a car. She’s since been transported to Harborview Medical Center where her condition is unknown. There are those who believe that public shaming is an acceptable form of parenting. As this incident clearly shows, it’s not. It’s a form of abuse and it has consequences. The victim in this incident is a minor and I have no intention of mentioning her or her family’s name. I’m also not going to share any more than the screenshot of the video as there’s really no reason anyone needs to see her face. I don’t have much interest in increasing the public shaming her father has already given her. I’m writing this article because all too often, suicides and suicide attempts are ignored. The News Tribune had one small article about it. The local TV sites have almost nothing.

We pretend suicide attempts don’t happen. Or we pretend that no outside factors contributed to a person’s choice to try to end their life. We need to stop that. We need to pay attention. We need to stop acting like there’s nothing we can do. Public shaming is a form of abuse. There are those who will say that it teaches a lesson. So does punching someone in the face. That doesn’t make it okay to do to your children. My thoughts are with this young girl. I hope that she gets the help she needs. I also hope her father gets the help he so clearly needs and that her family can heal from these traumatic events brought on by public shaming. Please do your best to remain civil in the comments section. I moderate all comments and will delete comments I feel are insulting, inflammatory, or otherwise non-conducive to civil dialog. I think we do need to talk about this and I think it’s important that we do so without attacking people.

If you or anyone you know needs to talk to someone about suicide, you can contact the national suicide hotline for free 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

Jack Cameron

Update 05/31/15: I have heard from multiple sources that the young woman passed away at Harborview Medical Center this evening. My thoughts are with the family and friends of this young girl. I am sorry for your loss.

Update 06/02/15: After over 250 comments and another hundred or so that I deleted because were offensive or inflammatory, I’ve chosen to close the comments section after requests from multiple family members of the victims.

Update 06/06/15: This story that started as a little two paragraph article in the News Tribune is now being reported by Daily Kos, Jezebel, the New York Daily News and many others. This is thanks in no small part to the vocal readers here. Thank you for not letting this story go away. There has also been some new information worth sharing.

Tacoma Public School has issued a statement regarding rumors that the victim was not allowed to run for student office. They said that while it’s true she was unable to run for student office because her parents did not sign a permission slip, rumors that there was a public announcement that she couldn’t run are untrue. The statement also said that the principal was aware of the public shaming video and had contacted Child Protective Services when he learned of it.

According to Tacoma Police spokesperson Loretta Cool while the video was taken by the father, he was not the one to upload it online. It was leaked by a ‘third party’. The video was allegedly for her to keep to remind her of what she’d done as “part of the discipline process. So she would remember and not do it again.” according to Cool.

Update 06/09/15: My coverage of this story has come under scrutiny. Here’s my response. http://tacomastories.com/2015/06/09/special-comment-regarding-my-recent-coverage-of-a-local-girls-suicide/

Fifth Tacoma Homicide of 2015: Trey Tolbert

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In the early evening of May 11th, a group of young people were hanging out in a parking lot  police in the 9200 block of South Hosmer Street. 17-year-old Jatarius Tolbert was on his way to get his girlfriend a Slushee. His friends called him Trey. A Dodge Charger drove by Trey and the group. It was known that Trey was having problems with someone who drove a similar car. A young man in the group pulled out a revolver and fired shots at the car. One of those shots hit Trey in the back. Police arrived soon after the shots. Medics were unable to save Trey and he became the fifth Tacoma homicide of 2015.

This is the second homicide in that area in less than a week though there is no indication that the two murders are connected in any way. A few weeks after Trey’s death another 17-year-old was arrested for his murder.

As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of Trey. Please feel free to share your thoughts and memories of him. No comments of hate or anger will be accepted. All comments are moderated and approved by me before they are posted.

Jack Cameron

Fourth Tacoma Homicide of 2015: Stephen Cunningham

Sunday night Tacoma Police were called to a house in the 3400 block of South Proctor Street that they were familiar with. There was a noise complaint. It was just after 10pm.

Earlier in the day 48-year-old Stephen Cunningham was in an altercation with a man. The man left. When the police knocked on Stephen’s door his mother says he thought that the man had returned. Stephen answered the door with a gun in his hand. The details of the confrontation have not been released and so it’s unclear what happened next. But the encounter ended when a 34-year-old six-year veteran of the Tacoma Police Department shot and killed Stephen Cunningham. This is the first homicide involving the Tacoma Police Department in over a year.

Interviewed by KIRO 7, Stephen’s mother said that she did not blame the police for their actions and understands that had Stephen not been armed, the situation would have turned out differently.

Stephen had a concealed carry permit. The gun he carried was legal. It’s reasonable that a gun owner might answer his door with a gun in his hand if he expected trouble. Unfortunately, without the information of what happened during his encounter with the police, it’d pointless to speculate on whether or not the shooting is justified.

Regardless of the justification for the death of Stephen Cunningham, a mother lost her son on Mother’s Day. Friends and relatives lost someone they cared for. And another life is gone from the city of Tacoma.

As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim who might want to share thoughts or memories of Stephen. All comments are approved by me before they appear on the page.

If anyone has a photo they’d like me to use of Stephen, please send it to jackcameronis@gmail.com.

– Jack Cameron

Third Tacoma Homicide of 2015: Brandon Quinton Morris

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Spring has taken hold here in Tacoma. This weekend it’s supposed to be in the 70’s. Perfect weather for walking to the local convenience store and picking up whatever treats strike your fancy. Friday May 1st, 19-year-old Brandon Morris had done just that with his girlfriend, Jordan and a couple of friends at a convenience store near South 45th and South Union. They were walking down an alley when an SUV pulled up and fired eight shots. Brandon was protective of his girlfriend and friends and was the only one shot. He died five days later becoming Tacoma’s third homicide this year.

Brandon was going to Bates Technical College and studying to be a diesel mechanic. He was close with his family and known to be protective of those he cared for.

Tacoma Police have arrested a 23-year-old gang member for the murder. Neither Brandon or any of his friends with him that day are associated with any gangs. It is believed that the shooting was a random act of violence or a case of mistaken identity. The motivation hardly matters as it’s clear that this was a senseless act.

Drive-by shootings are relatively rare in Tacoma these days. It’s rarer still that they result in a homicide. While there is a very real gang presence in Tacoma, it is a far cry from the 1990s when drive-by shootings happened almost every hour of every day. We literally had hundreds of drive-by shootings a year. It’s good that our crime rate has gone down so much, but these statistics fail to make the loss of life that does occur any less devastating for friends and family of the victim.

As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim who might want to share any thoughts or memories of Brandon. The section is moderated by me and I approve comments before they are made public.

My thoughts go out to Brandon’s friends and family.

– Jack Cameron

First Tacoma Homicide of 2015: Jesus Isidor-Mendoza

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Jesus Mendoza and his son

In the early afternoon of Monday February 10th a resident reported to police that there was a nylon bag containing what might be a body in a ravine near the 3000 block of Delin Street near South Tacoma Way. The bag was found in a steep area that was difficult to access behind an abandoned house frequented by transients.

On Tuesday the body was identified as 18-year-old Jesus Isidor-Mendoza, father of one.  He’d been missing since October of last year. On October 22nd, Jesus left his mother’s house to go to class at Pierce College. He never arrived for class and he never returned home. His mother later reported him missing.

Police arrested two men in their 40s and one woman in connection with the death of Jesus. Charging papers state that Jesus met the two men in a detached garage that they lived in. For reasons unknown, Jesus was raped and drowned using a bucket of water. The assailants then cut his body into pieces, sealed them in plastic bags, and put those bags in a nylon bag. The nylon bag was found in the ravine.

This is easily the most horrific homicide I’ve ever written about in Tacoma. All three suspects are being held without bail.

As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Jesus Isidor-Mendoza and want to share memories of him.

– Jack Cameron

Getting It Right

On November 1st, the body of Elaine Mansfield was found in a hotel room in the 8800 block of South Hosmer. Shortly after this, police said they were looking for a man who was seen with her near the time of her death. As this page talks about homicides that happen in the city of Tacoma, I contacted police spokesperson Loretta Cool and asked for details. She said that Elaine’s death was ‘Not Homicide’ and the there was an ongoing investigation.

When this happens, I don’t typically write about it because then I would have no choice but to write about all deaths in Tacoma and I simply don’t have the time or resources to do so.

This evening the police caught up with the man they were looking for. Tacoma Weekly reported it with the following Tweet:

tweet

There’s nothing wrong with the Tweet. However, if you go to that link this is what you get:
TacomaWeekly
The headline is an attention grabber but it’s also inaccurate. Not only has the death not been ruled a homicide, but the article itself says as much in the first paragraph.

Let me be clear that this is not me trying to beat up on the Tacoma Weekly. While there are certainly media outlets that practice this sort of thing on a regular basis, I’ve seen nothing from the Tacoma Weekly to indicate this is any sort of pattern on their part. It’s likely just a lack of communication between the writer of the article and the writer of the headline.

Unfortunately when it comes to deaths, there are circumstances that are fairly typical. Recently there were two local gun deaths that took place in a house which had all the hallmarks of a suicide homicide. However, it turned out to be a double suicide. I had actually already written up the article fully expecting it to be a homicide and just waiting for the names to be released. But I waited to make sure it was before I posted about it.

Like that incident, the death of Elaine Mansfield has hallmarks of many other homicides I’ve reported on. A dead woman in a hotel room and a man the police have apprehended as a person of interest certainly sounds like a murder.

I’ve gotten things wrong before as well. It’s an occupational hazard. It’s also why I tend to wait for more information and multiple sources before I post something.

It may seem like a harmless mistake but there are people who will see this man’s photo and the headline and never read the article. There may be family and friends of the victim who will see this and think she was murdered when she wasn’t. There are real consequences to getting things wrong.

I’m hoping that the Tacoma Weekly will modify the headline and issue an apology.  I will update this article when and if they do.

– Jack Cameron

UPDATE 11/28/14: Tacoma Weekly has still not taken down the headline or apologized for it. The Tacoma News Tribune posted an article about the same thing with a much more responsible headline.