Category Archives: Tacoma Crime

Eighth Tacoma Homicide of 2014 Kevin Young

kevinyoungLast Thursday morning, a woman called 911 from a room at the King Oscar Hotel off of South 72nd and Hosmer. Her boyfriend had been shot with a shotgun. The wound was in his gut. He was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital. Later that afternoon he died from his wounds. His name was Kevin Young. He was 41 years old.

In the days that followed, two men and a woman have been arrested for his murder. Court documents show that an acquaintance of Kevin’s girlfriend was hanging out with them. They went to a nearby ATM where Kevin got out $30. Shortly after that the woman met with two men outside. One of the men wore a mask and had a shotgun. They entered the room. Kevin handed over the money and the man in the mask shot him. The entire robbery took less than twenty seconds.

While the arrests will hopefully get his friends and family justice, the pain of the loss of Kevin remains.

Kevin Young is the eighth Tacoma homicide victim this year. He had at one point worked for a fishing company in Alaska and more recently for Commercial Metals Company. He was the father of two.

As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Kevin who want to share stories and tell us about him and his life.

- Jack Cameron

Seventh Tacoma Homicide of 2014 Renee Brooks

reneebrooksIt was between five and six in the morning on Thursday July 3rd. A man walked into his apartment in the 1100 block of Highlands Parkway just off of Pearl Street. Witnesses heard two or three shots. And then he left.

The next day on the Fourth of July, a friend and coworker of 28-year-old Renee Brooks’ stopped by that apartment. They had become concerned about her whereabouts and came to check on her.  The friend found Renee’s body and called the police.

Renee’s death had been caused by multiple gun shots. Renee’s husband would be found and arrested on Tacoma’s South Side near South 49th Street on Saturday.

Renee worked at Subway and had previously worked at the Tacoma Rescue Mission. Renee, her husband and 3-year-old daughter had only moved into that apartment a few weeks ago. Neighbors say there were frequent fights.

Renee has become the seventh Tacoma homicide this year and the sixth Tacoma homicide this year that involved domestic violence. When the person responsible for the murder is a romantic partner, a parent, or child of the victim a homicide becomes an even worse tragedy for the family. Love ones are shocked and torn up by such a stunning event. Often it’s nearly impossible to reconcile the violent actions with the loved ones they once knew.

If you or someone you know is involved in a situation or relationship that is abusive or violent, I urge you to look into some of the resources at the link below. I’d rather not have to write an article like this about you.
http://www.cityoftacoma.org/cms/one.aspx?objectId=20334

As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of Renee Brooks. Please share your thoughts and memories of Renee with us. Tell us about her life and what Tacoma has lost with her death.

-          Jack Cameron

Tacoma Homicide FAQ

policelineI’ve been writing about homicides in Tacoma since 2006. Over the years I’ve received dozens of emails from the families and friends of victims. These emails are what I look at whenever I feel like I should stop. They remind me that what I write sometimes is exactly the thing a grieving person wants to see. If I can be even a small amount of comfort, then I don’t see how I can morally stop writing about these times when people are taken from our city.

I also receive emails and am asked questions in person about how I go about writing these things and why I write about one thing and not another. I’m going to try to tackle all of these frequently asked questions in this post. Here goes:

How Do You Get The Information About Tacoma Homicides?

Almost every piece of information I post about Tacoma homicides is found online through a combination of news reports, my own research, and a handful of local contacts.

Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to get information on how homicide victims died than it is to get information on how they lived. I do my best to include details about the person who was killed whenever possible, but I more than anything I rely on the friends and family of the victims to help share who we’ve lost from our cities. In some circumstances, I’ve welcomed friends and families to do guest posts about their loved ones.

Why Don’t You Write About Vehicular Homicides?

Most police departments treat these differently than regular homicides. In fact up until recently you perpetrators of vehicular homicide only received a third of the sentence they might have received if they’d shot the victim. But the reason I don’t cover them is simply that they’re difficult to cover. Often charges aren’t brought until long after the incident and if I covered every vehicular death then I might as well start covering every unnatural death and that’s beyond the scope of what I want to accomplish here.

Why Don’t You Write About Suicides?

I want to write about suicides. There are far more suicides in Tacoma than homicides. But they’re rarely reported to the media and so getting any relevant information is difficult. Some suicides make the news and others don’t and I’d rather cover no suicides than just some of them.

Why Didn’t You Cover That Homicide in University Place/Fife/Parkland/Lakewood/Spanaway/Etc?

When I started TacomaStories.com I decided that as much as possible I’d confine my posts to things about the City of Tacoma because if I included surrounding areas I’m not sure where I’d stop. Do I include Federal Way? If so, do I also include SeaTac? Where does it end?  I would more than welcome someone else picking up the torch for Lakewood or other local cities and starting LakewoodStories.com or something.

What’s The Worst Thing That’s Come Out of Writing About Tacoma Homicides?

There have been a couple of death threats and an incident that I had to report to the police before it became something violent, but thankfully nothing ever came of any of it. It was also difficult to write about a former classmate of mine who was shot and killed.

So…Why Do You Do It?

I’d started out writing about Tacoma’s homicides to prove a point about the city and its reputation. It’s a far safer city than it was in the 1990s. In fact it’s so safe that I can write about every Tacoma homicide and still do other things. Not a possibility in a place like Chicago. In fact even Seattle has 3-4 homicides a month vs. Tacoma’s one homicide a month sometimes.

However, as I stated at the beginning of this, the reason I keep writing about Tacoma homicides is that the families and friends of the victims appreciate it. I’ve heard from people sometimes years after their loved one’s death. In some cases my article is the only online evidence of what happened.

That’s about it for now. If you have any other questions for me, let me know.

-          Jack Cameron

Fifth Tacoma Homicide of 2014 Richard Salzman

ME_arrivesLast Friday night 49-year-old Richard Salzman had an argument with his wife over the phone. His wife chose to stay at a family member’s house. The next morning his wife returned home in the 1900 Block of S. Mason Ave. and found no sign of her husband. Their 16-year-old-son said he’d left the night before on his bike. At some point on Saturday when there was still no sign of him, his wife reported him missing to the Tacoma Police Department. On Tuesday when Richard’s wife started talking about organizing a search party her son told her what happened after her phone call on Friday.  He told her that heard their argument and confronted his father. He said that his father shoved him. His son then hit him in the head with a cane killing him. He then put Richard’s body along with a cut up bicycle into the compost bin behind the house. His mother had him call the police and tell them what happened. We’ll likely never know for certain what exactly happened in Richard Salzman’s final moments. What’s clear is that a domestic dispute got physical and now a husband and father is dead. This is Tacoma’s fifth homicide this year. Neighbors say they’re shocked by what happened as well they should be. Unfortunately domestic disputes can become deadly all too quickly. As always, the comments section is reserved for those friends and family who knew Richard and want to share anything about him or just share your condolences. –          Jack Cameron

Third and Fourth Tacoma Homicides of 2014 Denyse Marshall and AJ Geissler

tacoma_houseLast Thursday at a house on South 19th and L Street in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood there was a loud argument that had turned violent. A 37-year-old man was convinced that a coworker and roommate was romantically involved with his live-in girlfriend. He beat the roommate with his fists and a chair and also assaulted his girlfriend. Police arrived and found a 25-year-old man named AJ Geissler bloodied and injured. They arrested the 37-year-old and took him to jail.

The man they arrested was no stranger to the law. In the last two years alone he’d been arrested four times for domestic violence though only charged in one of those cases. Before that, his ex-wife had gotten two restraining orders on him in 2008 and 2010. In 2012 another roommate got a restraining order against him after an assault.

The Tacoma Municipal Court had not finished reviewing the case and since he had not been charged, he was released from jail on Friday.

Hours after being released from jail, the man returned to the house on Friday and assaulted three individuals at the house. He killed AJ Geissler, the man he’d assaulted the night before. He also killed 59-year-old Denyse Marshall, his girlfriend’s aunt who was staying at the house while she went through a divorce. He also wounded a third person.

Denyse and Joseph are the third and fourth homicides Tacoma has had this year. This is as low as the homicide rate has been at this point in the year since I started writing about Tacoma’s homicides. Of course this does not lessen the impact by family and friends devastated by the loss of these two individuals.

Their killer has been arrested. Unfortunately no amount of justice is going to bring any real solace to the grieving friends and family of the victims. Sudden losses like this are catastrophic. Denyse Marshall and AJ Geissler were citizens of Tacoma deserving of a full life that was cut short. What we can do now is remember Denyse and Joseph and share any memories we have of them.

The comments section is reserved for friends and families of the victims.  I moderate and approve all comments before they appear. I am sorry for your loss.
– Jack Cameron

A Robbery In Tacoma

pistolYesterday morning at around 6:30am, a stepfather went to the Chevron station on South 11th and Sprague. His stepson was working the counter there and soon to get off shift. Unfortunately, his shift ended with a black male in his 20s wearing a black bandanna over his face pointing a pistol at him and robbing the gas station. The robber took off on foot.

You didn’t read about this in The News Tribune. It wasn’t covered by any of the local news stations. I wouldn’t even know about it except that the stepfather contacted me about it. I asked Tacoma Police Spokesperson Loretta Cool about it. She said that there had not been any similar robberies in the area.

No one ever forgets having a gun pointed at them. During those moments you are acutely aware that your life is in immediate danger. It can be a life altering or life ending experience. And so I’m entirely sympathetic with the stepfather’s pleas that someone takes notice of this case. If someone had pointed a gun at my son, I’d want the person found immediately and non-stop police and media coverage until the person was found. I understand.

Years ago I worked for the Law Enforcement Support Agency (L.E.S.A.). I was one of a handful of people whose job was to take the hand written reports from police officers and transcribe them into the computer. In a lot of ways it was a dream job for an aspiring writer with an interest in his hometown of Tacoma. I got to read 50 new real crime stories a day.

The first thing I noticed was that the vast majority of the crime reports I transcribed were never mentioned in the media at all. Some of them were major events that I would have thought would garner all sorts of media attention. And yet, if you weren’t a part of the crime or a part of the police department you might never know they even happened.

At one point I asked how the media decides what goes in their reports. I was told that every morning the police beat person would call in and the desk sergeant would give them a group of incidents that had happened the previous night. Of course there were things that managed to get the attention of the media without the phone call, but in the two years I worked there, I encountered hundreds of reports that I felt were things the public should know about that were never mentioned anywhere in the media.

Initially, it may seem that the media and/or authorities don’t care about certain crimes. However, when you take a look at the numbers, it starts to make more sense. In 2012 there were 486 robberies in Tacoma. That works out to about nine robberies a week or more than one a day. (There were over 1,400 in Seattle. Per capita, our rate of robbery is only slightly higher than Seattle’s.) Even if the police or the media wanted to publicly post about every single robbery that occurred in Tacoma, the truth is almost no one would read it.

This brings me to this weekend’s robbery at the Chevron. A black male robbed a gas station on Hilltop over the weekend with a gun. The facts of the case are sadly so typical that it’s entirely understandable why it never made the news. Despite vast improvements from the crime filled days of the 1990s, Hilltop is still a neighborhood where crime is not uncommon. More to the point, Hilltop’s reputation from the 1990s has yet to fade. No one got physically hurt. (There’s a lot of truth to ‘if it bleeds it leads’.) There wasn’t a beautiful young woman involved. From a public interest standpoint, there’s nothing remarkable about a Hilltop gas station getting robbed over the weekend.

Having said all that, it’s important to point out that none of this justifies a criminal pointing a gun at an innocent person just doing his job and robbing him. Being the victim of a robbery is an extremely traumatic event. And it’s one that cries out for justice. I entirely understand the victim’s stepfather wanting to put a spotlight on this and find the perpetrator. And while it may not seem like it, the police department really does want to find this guy. But today they’re going to be responding to another robbery. And tomorrow another. Most of these you will never hear about. Some will be solved. Some will not. All of them will leave their mark on their victim.

The crime rate in Tacoma has gone down dramatically over the years. Unfortunately, it is not so low that the media or sites like this can cover all of the violent crime in Tacoma. Perhaps that’s not a possibility in a city of almost 300,000 people. I feel for the victims of any crime in Tacoma. I wish there were something more that I could do, but I don’t have the time or access to the information to write about it all.

-          Jack Cameron

First Tacoma Homicide of 2014 Charles (Chucky) Williams

chuckywillsIt was supposed to be a celebration of the life of a recent homicide victim. Unfortunately, it would also be the location of Tacoma’s first homicide of 2014. This Friday would have been Jalon Bea’s 18th birthday. Saturday night, friends of his had gathered at a nightclub in the 2600 block of 6th Ave. The party broke up around 1:30am on Sunday morning. What happened next was captured on video. Someone fired seven quick shots and ran as people scattered. Nineteen year old Charles Williams was killed in the gunfire. His friends called him Chucky.

Charles was Jalon Bea’s cousin. Police are still looking for Chucky’s murderer. They’re asking everyone who was there to contact the Tacoma Police Department immediately. I’ve posted a link to the video below. Anyone who was there or who recognizes anyone should contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. There is currently a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer.

The killing of Charles Williams marks the first homicide in 126 days. Directly after Charles’ murder there was talk online of Tacoma’s old reputation of being a cesspool of gang violence. This reputation was well earned from the crime-filled days of the early 1990s, but it’s hardly an accurate account of present day Tacoma.

Unfortunately, violent deaths like that of Charles Williams is part of living in a city. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. We can only take comfort in the fact that it doesn’t happen often.

As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Chucky. Every comment is moderated.

-          Jack Cameron