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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
– 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
In the early morning hours of Thursday April 16th, two or three men arrived at the apartment of Larnell Griffin on South 40th and S. Lawrence Street. One of them had a dispute with Larnell over a cellphone. According to a witness Larnell put his hands up and backed up. When his attacker did not lower the weapon, Larnell struggled to disarm him and was shot. Police arrived at 1:45am to reports of shots fired. Larnell was taken to Madigan Hospital where he died.
The murder of Larnell Griffin is only the second homicide in the city of Tacoma this year. And yet, despite the lack of lethal violence in Tacoma lately and an active manhunt, local media have all but ignored this killing. I found exactly one article on komonews.com with no mention of Larnell’s attacker and no articles at king5.com or kirotv.com. Our local paper, The News Tribune, Crime Stoppers, and this site are the extent of the media coverage in the death of 33-year-old Larnell Griffin.
Of course this is nothing new. All major local television is based out of Seattle and in Seattle, Tacoma is often still regarded as a place where these sort of shootings happen every day. Thankfully the crime rate in Tacoma has continued to go down.
However, no matter how low the crime rate might get, those who are friends and family of its victims are still devastated by their loss. No lack of coverage by the news can minimize what’s happened. According to Larnell’s Facebook page he was married. Photos show a young child. Whenever a life is lost, countless lives are changed.
As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim. Those who knew Larnell are encouraged to share their thoughts and memories. Each comment is approved by me to keep negative comments to a minimum.
To the friends and family of Larnell, I’m sorry for your loss. Here’s hoping his killer is apprehended and brought to justice quickly.
– Jack Cameron
Update: The person police believe is responsible for the murder of Larnell was arrested on the evening of 04/21.