The streets of Tacoma are safer than they’ve been in years.
It’s been 94 days since there was a homicide in the city of Tacoma. In 2013 we only had ten homicides. Tacoma earned its reputation as a dangerous city in the early 1990s when California gang members relocated to Tacoma’s Hilltop. In 1995 I was in Los Angeles and ran into some gang members there. I told them I was from Tacoma and they respected that. Now, a generation later, Tacoma has changed in a lot of big ways.
Downtown isn’t quite the ghost town it used to be. You’ll still find empty shops, but it’s a far cry from the mid-1980s when there were just blocks of empty buildings including Tacoma’s Union Station. Similarly, Hilltop isn’t nearly the crime magnet that it was years ago. You’ll still find gangs and street crime in Hilltop but it’s the exception rather than the rule.
One of the reasons I write about homicides in Tacoma is to simply show how rare they really are. I’ve seen bumper stickers and t-shirts that say, “Keep Tacoma Feared” and while I can relate to that sentiment, I don’t think that’s what Tacoma needs.
I’ve also seen people talking about Tacoma being a ‘second city’ with some sort of endless comparison to Seattle. We’re 30 miles away from a much bigger, much more-well-known city. This is true. Half the time when a movie is filmed in Tacoma, they call it Seattle. Recently when the mayor of Tacoma was interviewed on PBS after the State of the Union, they did it against a backdrop of Seattle’s skyline. There seems to be this idea that we are somehow the Randy Quaid to Seattle’s Dennis. I disagree with this idea.
Tacoma has never been interested in being Seattle. We’ve never tried to be. As a life-long Tacoman, I’ve spent almost no time comparing Tacoma to Seattle. We’re entirely different cities. Yes, Tacoma is smaller and less well known, but what most of us Tacomans know is that we don’t care. We’re too busy doing our own thing to worry about what Seattle’s doing.
Part of the issue as I see it is that Tacoma refuses to be identified by any one major thing. We aren’t just the Port. We aren’t just the Tide Flats. We’re not just our museums. We’re not just our poets. We’re not just our bars or our breweries. We’re just our incredible waterfront or our world class Pt. Defiance Park & Zoo. We’re all of these things and more. The one thing we can shed if we cared to is our reputation as a dangerous town. We simply aren’t anymore. I’m not saying bad things don’t happen here, but compared to a lot of places, it’s a rarity.
You can keep fearing Tacoma if you like. For the rest of us, we’re just going to keep Tacoma.
- Jack Cameron
Last Sunday afternoon near the 4500 block of Asotin Street a man went into his back yard and found the dead body of 27-year-old Darek Wagner. He’d been repeatedly stabbed. Darek was from Kalama, Washington. At this time there is no further information about what Darek was doing in Tacoma, who he may of been with, or how he ended up in a South Tacoma back yard.
Police are asking anyone with information about this case to contact them at 253-798-4721.
As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family who might want to share their thoughts about Darek.
- Jack Cameron
Santiago Sanchez Cortes’ employer was concerned. He had not called or shown up for work for several days. Before this, Santiago was known as a good worker who never missed a day. His employer reported him missing to the police. The last time anyone had seen the 59-year-old man was October 1st.
Police investigated his disappearance and found the last person who Santiago had talked to on the phone. Further investigation revealed that the woman had gambling debts, had used Santiago’s debit card and sold his truck. Soon they had witnesses who had heard her admit to killing Santiago. She had since been arrested along with an accomplice.
Unfortunately, there’s very little information right now as to what happened to Santiago. His body has yet to be recovered. He is the ninth Tacoma homicide this year.
As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim who want to post remembrances of their lost loved one.
- Jack Cameron
Around 4pm last Friday, 17-year-old Jalon Bea was near South 43rd and South G Street with a group of people. There was a shot. Jalon was hit in the chest. His father was able to make it to St. Joe’s Hospital before Jalon died from the gunshot wound.
Jalon was a student at Stadium High School and the eighth Tacoma homicide victim this year. He was the first teenager homicide this year. The investigation at the time of this writing is still ongoing and little information has been released.
It’s always a tragedy when someone so young is killed. As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Jalon and want to share memories of him.
I will write more information when and if there is more released.
Update: A 19-year-old man has turned himself into police for the shooting of Jalon Bea. A rally to celebrate the life of Jalon is being held at Lincoln Park on Tuesday October 16th.
Update 2: Charging documents state that Jalon was standing with a group of people who were passing around a .38 Revolver. One of the people in the group believed he had unloaded the gun and was playing around with it. He pointed it at Jalon, and pulled the trigger. The shooting was accidental and a tragic reminder that guns must always be treated as if they are loaded. The 19-year-old shooter has been charged with first degree manslaughter.
- Jack Cameron
The city of Tacoma managed to be fairly quiet when it came to homicides this summer. Unfortunately, last Saturday we added one more killing to the year’s totals.
A little after 10 pm on Saturday night at 54-year-old Lawrence Howse arrived home at Sky Terrace. He entered the code for the secure parking garage and parked his black BMW. Before the garage door shut, two men slipped inside and confronted him and robbed him. Then one of the men shot Lawrence. The two men then left. Police believe they headed north on Broadway.
Around 10:30pm a passerby found Lawrence, called 911 and started administering CPR. Fire crews arrived shortly afterward and pronounced Lawrence dead on the scene.
Back in 1995 I lived on the second floor of Sky Terrace. It’s been through some renovations since then and converted from apartments to condominiums. It was a good place to live though, close to downtown Tacoma and the Stadium District shops. Each apartment has a balcony with a great view of the water.
Police say this was a crime of opportunity.
The two suspects are still out there. Crime Stoppers described the suspects as ‘two black males in their late teens or early 20’s with average builds. The first suspect was seen wearing a white shirt and dark pants, and had a light complexion. The second suspect was wearing a dark shirt, dark pants, and his hair may have been worn in an afro or short braids.’ Crime Stoppers is offering $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the killers.
Police spokeswoman Loretta Cool is asking anyone who saw anything suspicious Saturday night near South 4th and Broadway or Stadium Way to call 253-591-5968.
As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim.
- Jack Cameron
UPDATE: 09/27/13 Tacoma Police have arrested two people in connection with the death of Larry Howse.
The text came a little after 8pm on Thursday night. One of my close friends who lives near North 46th and Ferdinand sent the following message: ‘Wow. Someone just shot up our neighborhood!’ I quickly called him. He told me that he was working in the back yard when he heard a series of gunshots then silence, then a few more gunshots. He went inside the house and told his wife and infant son to get on the floor. He then went into the bedroom, got his pistol, and locked the doors.
Outside what had happened was that a neighbor had fired off his pistol from his back porch before walking up and directly confronting 55-year-old neighbor Frank Rossiter, Jr. He then shot and killed Frank and threatened other neighbors before leaving the area. The shooter was a known heavy drinker who neighbors called ‘a bit crazy’.
Tacoma police swarmed the area and would later discover the shooter went to a friend’s house in Gig Harbor where he killed himself.
Frank Rossiter, Jr. by all accounts was a well liked guy. He was the father of a 12-year-old boy. He liked fishing. His son and my friend’s older son are friends.
This is the sixth homicide this year in the City of Tacoma. Sadly, this is about average for our city. Most years we have between 12-15 homicides. Each loss is felt by hundreds of friends and families. In this case a boy has lost his father. The purpose of this site is to focus more on the victim than the perpetrator because the shooter tends to get most of the attention from the media.
On Saturday I had dinner with my friend. We talked about the recent murder. While not a close friend of the victim, he knew of him. My friend mentioned that his older son told him after the murder that the shooter would frequently threaten to shoot kids who cut through his yard. His son had never bothered to tell him until after the murder. Every neighborhood has a crazy guy in it. Unfortunately this one was actually dangerous.
As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim. Share your thoughts and memories of Frank with us. His Tacoma Story deserves to be told.
- Jack Cameron
Terric Davis’ life ended in Tacoma last night after only three years on this planet. A little after 11pm, his mother took him to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital because her child was having trouble breathing. An examination showed signs of blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen, clear signs of abuse. Twenty minutes later, Terric Davis’ died. His mother’s boyfriend has been arrested in connection with the murder. Terric’s 2-year-old sister was taken into protective custody by police.
This is the fifth Tacoma homicide this year and the second Tacoma homicide in which the mother’s boyfriend murdered a toddler. A little over a month ago two-year-old Chayson Colley-Jones was murdered.
I would love to write more about Terric’s life, to tell you of all of the friends he made, the things he accomplished, and the dreams he had. Unfortunately, these things will never be known and never happened and cannot be written about. These Tacoma stories have been stolen from all of us and we are all a little poorer because of it.
- Jack Cameron
Two-year-old Chayson Colley-Jones spent his last night in a downtown apartment building on Saturday, March 30th. His mother was going out to celebrate her birthday. Chayson was being watched by his mother’s 19-year-old boyfriend who had moved in five weeks earlier. At 4am Sunday morning someone called the police because they saw the boyfriend with a badly injured Chayson in the lobby of the apartment building.
The police arrived and found Chayson not breathing. His mother’s boyfriend told them that the child had fallen. Chayson was taken to the hospital where he died hours later. His injuries were extensive and extreme. The two-year-old’s blood alcohol level at the time of his death was .12. There was also evidence that he’d been raped. The boyfriend has been arrested and charged for his crimes.
It’s difficult to imagine a worse crime than the death of Chayson Colley-Jones. There is no rational understanding of horrific final hours of Chayson. Murders such as this are often shown as an example of why we must continue to have the death penalty. Here in Washington we still have the death penalty and that did not deter Chayson’s murderer which may be just as powerful an argument against such a practice.
Chayson’s murder is tragic. He was someone who never got to show Tacoma what he could have been. He has been lost to us and the city is a little worse off for it. The only consolation is that the person responsible has been apprehended and that events such as this are rare.
Typically I ask that comments be left strictly for those who have memories to share of Chayson. Sadly, I fear his life was far too short for any comments at all. If friends or family of Chayson are reading this, please share your favorite memories with us. My thoughts are with you.
Rest in peace, Chayson. You are not forgotten.
- Jack Cameron
A little after midnight on Friday March 29th police received phone calls reporting gun shots near South 72nd and Pacific. At the nearby Morgan motel they found 42-year-old Donald Phily dead from gunshot wounds.
At the time of this writing there is still very little information being released to the public. There are probably a couple of reasons for this. One is that in the first few hours of a homicide investigation the police like to keep information quiet because it helps find the person responsible. (If someone has information that the news never reported then they know that person might be valuable to the investigation.)
The other reason that there is very little news coverage of this homicide is that the Morgan is known for frequent criminal activity and while crime in Tacoma is nowhere near the levels that it used to be, someone getting killed on the South Side of Tacoma in a cheap motel room isn’t what some news outlets would call ‘newsworthy’.
I do my best to report every homicide that happens in Tacoma because every death affects friends and family of the victim. They’re all important deaths. If I had the time and the resources, I’d cover more than just homicides.
My heart goes out to the friends and family of Donald Phily and I hope his killer is brought to justice. As always, the comments section is reserved for the victim’s friends and family to share their memories of Donald. These victims of homicides may be gone, but we can preserve the memories of them for others because each of them is a Tacoma Story.
- Jack Cameron
Sara Barrett was putting her life back together. She had three children, all boys. Her youngest just turned twenty-one. She had recently become a grandmother. She was also estranged from her husband of over twenty years. On Wednesday morning she posted on Facebook, ‘Good Morning and Happy Hump day everyone. Today is a good day and will be an even better night :))))’ Before the next morning, 42-year-old Sara Barrett would be found dead in a motel room at the Motel 6 off of South 72nd Street and her estranged husband would be arrested after making a phone call to a local TV station where he confessed to her murder and then leading the police on a chase that ended across the Narrows Bridge.
Sara is the second Tacoma homicide of 2013. Her marriage had been on and off for last few years. In 2007 her husband tried to smother her with a pillow. There were two restraining orders filed during that time but they were denied when Sara didn’t show up for court.
In many ways the death of Sara Barrett is a textbook case of domestic violence. These situations are difficult. It’s easy for some to say she simply needed to get away from her abuser, but he wasn’t just that to her. He was her husband of over twenty years. He was the father of her children. It’s not easy to see that person as a deadly danger. Sara seems to be someone who always saw the best in people. It’s likely one of the things that made people love her. She will be missed.
As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Sara and want to share memories of her. The purpose of writing these articles is so that the people who are taken from us in this city are remembered.
Here’s hoping we can go a long time before I write another one.
- Jack Cameron