Last Saturday afternoon at around 1pm 19-year-old Phillip Ryan Jr. was on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. He was less than a block from where Steven Speakman had been shot four days earlier near S. 10th and MLK when a car pulled up and shot Phillip. Emergency responders arrived and transported Philip to a nearby hospital where he died shortly after arriving.
Phillip is Tacoma’s 12th homicide this year. He is the third young man shot and killed in Tacoma in less than a week. This is the third shooting within four blocks of each other. And this is the fifth shooting in Tacoma in the last twelve days with a sixth one happening last night on S. 45th and Union where another young man was shot in the leg.
If this seems like an excessive amount of violence for Tacoma, it is. I’ve been talking about Tacoma homicides since 2006 and the last time I remember this much violence in so short a time it was the mid-1990s.
I call Tacoma the biggest small town in the world because everyone seems to know everyone. So I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that my teenage son knew Philip. They both attended Stadium together. A few years ago I even met the young man.
My son said he was funny. And his friends who also knew him are in shock at his sudden murder. Last night there was a Peace Walk near the spot where Elijah Crawford was killed and his friend was shot. Tonight (Sunday) at 5:30pm there’s going to be a gathering at Peoples Park near the shootings of both Steven Speakman and Phillip Ryan.
As always, the comments section is moderated by me and reserved for those who knew Phillip Ryan and want to share thoughts or memories.
On Tuesday morning a man was walking back home after walking his wife to work in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. It was just after six in the morning. On South 10th and Martin Luther King Jr. Way he found 26-year-old Steven Speakman on the sidewalk. He’d been shot three times and had died from his wounds. The man tried to wave down a car for help, but it was a few minutes before anyone stopped.
Steven Speakman is the 11th Tacoma homicide of 2015 and the second to occur this week, with the shooting of Elijah Crawford happening just seven hours earlier on Tacoma’s East Side.
Steven was 26 years old but was intellectually disabled and functioned at the level of a ten year old. He lived only two blocks from where he was found and was well known and well liked in the neighborhood. People called him ‘Little Stevie’. A small memorial stands where Steven was found.
At this time police do not have a suspect or a motive. He was not robbed of anything but his life. Police are asking for anyone who might have information or been in the area around that time to contact them.
Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood is notorious for its high crime rate in the early 1990s, but this is actually the first homicide in Hilltop in over a year. What once was a neighborhood that people were rightly afraid to go into has become a much safer, more vibrant part of Tacoma.
As always, the comments section is moderated by me and reserved for those who want to share thoughts and memories of Little Stevie.
– Jack Cameron
Last Monday night 18-year-old Elijah Crawford and two friends were sitting in a car in the 1800 block of East 44th Street a little after 11:30pm. Someone approached the car and opened fire. When police arrived minutes later, they found Elijah had been killed becoming the tenth Tacoma homicide this year. A 20-year-old friend was wounded and taken to a nearby hospital. The third friend was physically uninjured.
Elijah graduated from Lincoln High School earlier and married his high school sweetheart. He was a popular and fun loving student who liked wrestling and photography. It’s genuinely difficult to find a photo where he isn’t smiling. A former teacher of his learned of his death and wrote about Elijah and what Tacoma has lost with his passing. You can read it here. The News Tribune also has an excellent article on Elijah Crawford. Here’s the link for that. (Read it now as their articles are unavailable online after 90 days without a subscription.)
This shooting was one of three within the space of a few hours in Tacoma during Monday night and Tuesday morning. Around 3:40am near North 13th and Lawrence Street a drunk driver fired ten shots at University of Puget Sound security guards thankfully hitting no one. Also around 6:15am this morning 26-year-old Steven Speakman was found with fatal gunshot wounds on S. 10th and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. This is an unusual amount of violence in such a short amount of time.
As always, the comments section is moderated by me and reserved for those who want to share thoughts, memories, and other remembrances of Elijah and his life that was all too short.
At the time of this writing, a suspect has not been arrested or identified.
There is a Peace Walk scheduled for tonight (Saturday November 7th) near where Elijah and his friend were shot. It starts at 5pm at the Family Investment Center Park at 1724 East 44th Street in Salishan.
photo courtesy of KOMONews
Clifford Bennett lived with his 78-year-old mother Joyce Coffel in a house in the 5800 block of East I Street. He was 57 and disabled. A woman was lived in the basement. Her 27-year-old son had been staying there for a few days. Last Tuesday the 27-year-old had been up for three days on a combination of heroin and methamphetamines. A little after two in the afternoon, the 27-year-old went upstairs and hit Clifford with a ballpeen hammer five or six times, killing him. He also attacked Clifford’s mother hitting her with the hammer in both eyes. At the time of this writing she is still at Harborview with life threatening injuries.
Clifford Bennett is the eighth Tacoma homicide this year. His mother may very well become the ninth. We are on track to have roughly one homicide a month this year which is fairly typical for the city of Tacoma.
Given the ages and circumstances of the victims, there simply isn’t much information about the lives of Clifford Bennett or Joyce Coffel. Those who knew them are encouraged to share stories about them in the comments section. As always, I monitor the comments section and each comment must be approved before it appears. This is to stop disrespectful or hurtful comments.
On a personal note, I’ve been writing about Tacoma homicides in one form or another for almost ten years now. Sometimes I find the words easily and I’m able to share how people are killed in my hometown. Other times, like with this particular case, I find it much more difficult.
Clifford and Joyce didn’t live in the best neighborhood. And she was likely renting out rooms to help offset the costs of taking care of her disabled son. Clifford and Joyce deserved better than this senseless act.
Again, as always, comments are reserved for those who knew Clifford or Joyce. My thoughts go out to their friends and family.
– Jack Cameron
Wednesday afternoon 40-year-old Jason Galaviz knocked a woman down at a bus stop and stole her cellphone near S. 56th and Washington Street. He then ran towards his truck. In his truck was a dog and a woman. As he got to the truck, he turned on the two people following him and pulled out a handgun. An off duty police officer happened by the scene and identified himself. The woman got out of the truck. The police officer asked Jason to drop his gun. When he refused, the police officer shot him once. Jason got into his truck, driving it into a sign a short distance away. He was taken to an area hospital where he died shortly after arriving. The woman was questioned and released. The dog was taken by animal control.
The death of Jason Galaviz is the seventh Tacoma homicide this year and the second Tacoma Police involved homicide of this year.
When it comes to situations like this, it’s easy to write off the person who was shot as just another criminal. A person’s background can often add context to events, but even the most hardened criminal is more than the sum of their crimes.
Jason Galaviz had five children who lost a father. He had friends and relatives who care for him. He was despite anything else, a fellow human being. We can condemn his actions. We can even understand the actions of the police officer. But none of this relieves Jason of his basic humanity.
The death of a person is always a tragedy. Jason’s death will never be forgotten by his friends and family. The 23-year veteran of the Tacoma Police Department who shot him will never forget what he felt he had to do. Homicides are never forgotten by those directly connected to the victim.
As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim to share happier memories of him. All comments are moderated.
Early Saturday morning 15-month-old Sayvon Jordan Jr. was brought into Tacoma General Hospital by a his mother and a man. The man told hospital staff that the Sayvon had choked on a rock and he’d given the toddler the Heimlich maneuver. He claimed he’d possibly done it ‘too hard’. Unfortunately Sayvon was already dead when the toddler arrived. Hospital staff soon found evidence of long-term abuse and nothing that substantiated the man’s story. The following day the Medical Examiner ruled that his death was a homicide, the result of blunt force trauma to the abdomen.
This is the sixth Tacoma homicide this year and the seventh Tacoma homicide since 2011 involving a child under three years of age. Typically when I write about homicides I try to do as much research as I can on who the person was in life. When it comes to deaths like these, the person didn’t even get to find out who they were and Tacoma is less than it could be because of the loss.
As is so often true with these situations, I simply don’t have a lot to write because the victim didn’t get to live long enough for there to be much to write about.
Sayvon’s mother is currently pregnant. The unborn child’s father is the man now being charged with the murder of Sayvon Jordan Jr. Sayvon’s own father is currently in prison.
– Jack Cameron
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