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 Derek Wagner. He’d been repeatedly stabbed. Derek was from Kalama, Washington. At this time there is no further information about what Derek 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.
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
It’s been brutally cold lately in Tacoma. The other night I walked from my house to my friend’s without a coat. His place is just four houses away. I was so cold when I got there that I stayed for an hour just to warm up. A little over two miles away on Saturday morning, 23-year-old Tyliah Young was found in an alleyway near S. 12th and Ainsworth. Her body was frozen. There was frozen blood present causing police to believe it was not the elements that killed her. Today the medical examiner released her cause of death as multiple gunshots to the head.
Tyliah was from New York and had talked of going back there where she had family. Friends and family say she was a happy person. She had two young daughters.
Some people will say that a homicide on Tacoma’s Hilltop is nothing new. They will say that it’s an area famous for violent crime. And they’re right about that much. However, Hilltop’s reputation is far worse than the reality. In the years since the gang and crime filled days of the early 1990s, Hilltop has emerged as a better neighborhood full of new businesses and an active community. As a life-long citizen of Tacoma, there was a time when I wouldn’t even drive in Hilltop at night. Now, I feel safe walking those same streets.
Tacoma’s first homicide of 2013 is tragic and here’s hoping it’s one of the few this year. As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family if they want to share thoughts or stories about Tyliah for others to read. I’m sorry for your loss.
Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for Tyliah’s murder. http://www.tpcrimestoppers.com/case.php?id=555
- Jack Cameron
A woman called the police from her house in the 3500 block of Fawcett Avenue a little after 9:30pm on Saturday night. She said that her 22-year-old daughter, Sophia had fired multiple gunshots inside the house and may have killed herself. Police responded and tried to talk with Sophia but she would not respond. She had a handgun in her hand and walked down the stairs approaching the officers. One of the officers opened fire, killing her. Sophia Strickland became the 14th Tacoma homicide of 2012.
This is the third Tacoma Police involved shooting this year. As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim to share memories of Sophia. Lately, some comments on other posts have been the sort that blame or attack the shooter. This is not the place for that. My purpose in writing about these homicides is to make sure that the memory of those who were taken from Tacoma are remembered and not just mentioned on the news for a day or two and forgotten.
Though we’ll never know what Sophia’s intent was when walking down those stairs, I believe that people are more than whatever their last moments were. My heart goes out to her friends and family.
- Jack Cameron
Early Tuesday morning six people in a Honda on Tacoma’s East Side. They’d spent most of the evening drinking and partying. At some point, an argument erupted between two people in the car. Both had guns. Around 1am, shots were fired in the car. The car crashed into a fence in the 6200 block of McKinley Avenue. One woman was injured and 20-year-old Tristan Dillard was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
At this time the shooter has not been arrested as it is being determined whether or not the shooting was self-defense. Police say that the shooter is being entirely cooperative.
This is the thirteenth Tacoma homicide this year. From the sounds of things, this was a tragic incident that should not have happened. As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew the victim and want to share their memories of him.
- Jack Cameron