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
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.
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 email@example.com.
– Jack Cameron
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