Seventeenth Tacoma Homicide of 2016: Bruce Randall Johnson II

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38-year-old Bruce Randall Johnson II did not have a good day on November 30th. He had been fired from his job as a barber and Sam & Terry’s barber shop up on Tacoma’s Hilltop where he had worked for the last eight months. He had gotten into an argument with his wife in which he had locked her out of the house they shared in the 400 block of East 52nd Street. When police knocked on the door he did not answer. When the landlord unlocked the door, he and his two children, an eight-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son, were on the third floor. When a police officer came up the stairs, Bruce opened fire, killing him.

It is unknown what exactly caused Bruce to behave the way he did on November 30th. In recent weeks friends and coworkers say he had become increasingly volatile. In mid-November he was spotted dressed as a plainclothes police officer at the Tacoma Mall, wearing a Sheriff’s cap and carrying a rifle case. He had been fired from the barbershop for altercations with customers and disagreements with staff.

Multiple people who knew him called said that Bruce was ‘troubled’. We will likely never know the mental state he was in or what caused him to take the actions that he did. We do know that there were people who enjoyed his company.

During the eleven hour standoff, Bruce would refuse to leave the house, at times using his children as human shields, at other times firing his guns at unknown targets. At one point his son was near the front door and a SWAT team member removed him from the house. Near 3:30am, a Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy outside the house fired one round through a window killing Bruce Johnson.

Bruce Johnson is the seventeenth Tacoma homicide this year and the second police involved shooting this year. TacomaStories treats police involved shootings like we treat any other homicides. This is because we operate under the concept that no one should be judged by their worst actions alone.

As always the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Bruce and want to share thoughts of memories of him.

If a family member or friend has a different photo they would like me to use for this site, you can send it to jackcameronis@gmail.com.

– Jack Cameron

Sixteenth Tacoma Homicide of 2016: Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez

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Ask most police officers and they will tell you that the most dangerous calls are Domestic Violence calls. For this reason at least two officers must respond to any Domestic Violence call. 45-year-old Tacoma Police Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez had responded to hundreds of these calls in his 17 years in the Department. When it came to domestic disputes Jake was known as someone with a lot of success in deescalating situations. On the afternoon of November 30th, Jake and another officer responded to a call at a three-story house in the 400 block of East 52nd Street.

An animal control officer had encountered a very upset woman. Her husband had locked her out of the house. The animal control officer contacted the police. Jake and his partner knocked on the door, but there was no answer.

They contacted the landlord to get a key. The landlord knocked on the door saying they were going to unlock the door. Jake started going up the stairs to talk to the man and check on the couple’s two children, a six-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter. Jake yelled, “Get out!” to his partner and the man’s wife as three shots were fired, followed by three more.

Jake was hit multiple times. His partner returned fire and got the man’s wife out of harm’s way. Jake would later die at Tacoma General Hospital. After an 11-hour stand-off the man responsible for his death was killed by a Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez is the 16th Tacoma homicide this year and the 11th officer to die in the line of duty in the history of the Tacoma Police Department. This is the first TPD officer killing since I started TacomaStories back in 2006.  The last one was in 1997.

Jake spent most of his career on Tacoma’s East Side in the same neighborhood he gave his life protecting. He would attend community meetings. Many locals knew him by name. He had three children, a grandchild, and he was engaged to be married. By all accounts Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez was the textbook definition of a good cop.

Jake had a quick wit and could be very funny. His demeanor helped him defuse tense situations. Colleagues say that on a domestic violence call, Jake was the officer you wanted with you. He will be missed by his brothers and sisters in uniform, his friends, his family, and this city he chose to serve.

As always the comments section is moderated. All comments must be approved. The comment section is reserved for those who knew Jake and want to share thoughts or memories of him.

– Jack Cameron

Walking In The Park On Wednesdays #3: Alling Park

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Which Park?  Alling Park

Who Or What Is It Named After? Frank Alling

Where Is It? 1134 South 60th Street, Tacoma WA, 98408

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Child Area? Yes

Bathroom? No

Amenities? Tennis Court

Overview:

In early 1912, a man named Frank Alling visited the mayor of Tacoma, W.W. Seymour. Frank was well known in the community. He had created a bird sanctuary on Fox Island. He had a fruit stand that was literally world famous with his being the first Washington Apples to be shipped to Asia. His wife had died four years before this meeting and at the age of 73 he knew he did not have long left. He had no children and no other family. He told W.W. Seymour that upon his death he wanted to donate the land he owned near Wapato Lake to the city to make a park where children could play. He wanted that park named Frank Alling Park and he wanted to be buried in that park. Frank died later that year. His wishes were granted. His ashes are buried near a Lombardy poplar tree at the park that he planted.

Established in 1912 Alling Park is among the oldest parks in the city. At just under six acres it is not a large park. It has a small play area for children with big toy and a swing set. (Unfortunately no one has let me borrow their six-year-old to determine the quality of these play areas and my own 19-year-old son is useless in this particular endeavor.)

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The rest of the park is mostly a giant sloped field surrounded by a gravel path. When my girlfriend and I visited the park, there was a man walking his dog, Ruby through the lap around the park. There are few trees, but each of them is different and some are very old.

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In the opposite corner from the playground you’ll find a tennis court. The net appeared to be in good shape which was a bit surprising because to be honest the park gives off a bit of a vibe of being neglected though I cannot point to anything in particular that made me feel this way.

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It is nice to see that over a hundred years after his death, Frank Alling’s wishes are still being respected.

Next: Baltimore Park

 

Fifteenth Tacoma Homicide of 2016: Morgan Pahkala Deines

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In the early morning hours of Friday, November 11th, 23-year-old Morgan Deines and an unidentified male friend were near North Junett and North 7th Street. It was just after 2am, when all the bars close. According to statements from Morgan’s friend, they were prowling cars when they found a drunk 28-year-old man asleep in the driver’s seat of a car. They opened the driver’s side door and took his cellphone. They were in the process of taking speakers out of his trunk when he woke up. Morgan’s friend ran towards 6th Avenue. Morgan got into her black Lexus SUV in an attempt to drive away. Moments later Morgan’s friend heard four gunshots. All four gunshots from the 28-year-old’s gun hit Morgan’s vehicle.  One shot hit Morgan in the back of the head. Her vehicle continued for about a block before stopping when it bumped into a parked car. Morgan would die a short time later at the hospital becoming Tacoma’s fifteenth homicide this year.

It is worth noting that while Tacoma tends to have a fairly open policy on using lethal force to protect yourself or your property, it does require that you be in potential danger. Firing a gun at a fleeing car does not qualify. Shooting someone in the back of the head is murder.

Police arrested the 28-year-old man on the 22nd. During that time there was precious little released to the public about the case. Typically when only a small amount of information is available it is either because the police genuinely have nothing or they have something they are actively working on. In this case it appears it was the latter. I do not consider this site a ‘news’ site and do not write about homicides until I feel I have sufficient information to do so. This is why this entry is two weeks after the incident.

As long time readers will know, I believe that an individual should be judged by more than their last actions. There are those who may think that someone who is thought to be a thief deserves whatever consequences occur. To those I ask that they recall their own worst actions and see that we all have made bad decisions at one time or another. More to the point, regardless of those actions and decisions everyone has friends and loved ones who now have a hole in their life where their friend used to be.

Morgan Pahkala Deines was born in Eugene, Oregon. She had a love of water and weather. She enrolled at Oregon State University to study Atmospheric Science. Nothing would excite her more than a thunder storm. Later she came to Tacoma where her mother lives. She had many tattoos and piercings and loved to express herself. She had an outgoing personality that tended to be infectious. When she was younger, she was a Girl Scout and volunteered at a food bank called Food For Lane County.

As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Morgan and want to share memories of her. All comments are moderated and approved by me before they appear. Inappropriate comments will be deleted.

– Jack Cameron

Walking in the Park On Wednesday #2: Alderwood Park

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Which Park?  Alderwood Park

Who Or What Is It Named After? As far as I can tell, Alder, a kind of wood.

Where Is It? 208 Brown’s Point Blvd. Road,  Tacoma, WA 98422

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Child Area? Yes

Bathroom? No, but the Library next door has one.

Amenities? Picnic Tables, Benches, Covered Area, Trails.

Overview:

It’s easy to forget that Northeast Tacoma is even part of Tacoma. Situated just across Commencement Bay, many if not most people look over there not even realizing it is still part of Tacoma. For the second park in this ongoing series we went to Alderwood Park.

At first it appears to be just a small park with a play area for the kids located right next door to Mary Rose Kobetich Library. This makes it a perfect place to take kids if you’re in the neighborhood. The play area is substantial, but this park has much more to offer.

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The majority of the nearly 7 acre park is full of wooded trail that wind all around it. These are easy to follow trails that take minimal effort. In many ways it reminds me of a tiny version of the trails in Pt. Defiance Park.

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Alderwood Park was created in 1980 but there were significant improvements made around 2010. While some of those improvements remain, the Wildflower Garden is now truly wild.

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Lastly, just beyond the play area you’ll find a small grass field big enough to play Frisbee but not big enough for soccer. As parks go, Alderwood Park has a little bit of everything. With the library right next door, this is easily one of my favorite places in Northeast Tacoma.

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Photos and Content by Jack Cameron

Next Week: Alling Park

 

Walking In The Park On Wednesday #1: 21st Street Park

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Which Park?  21st Street Park

Who Or What Is It Named After? It is named after S. 21st Street. If Highway 509 did not start directly after you cross Pacific Avenue heading out of town,21st Street would lead to this park.

Where Is It?  2101 Dock Street, Tacoma, WA 98402

Amenities? Bathrooms

Overview: There are over sixty parks in the city of Tacoma. I have decided to visit all of them and write about them here on TacomaStories.com. For the most part, I will be visiting a park once a week and going through an alphabetical list.

First up is one of Tacoma’s newest parks. 21st Street Park was created as part of the recent efforts to revitalize Tacoma’s waterfront. It was created by Tacoma’s Metro Parks, designed by firm AHBL, and is maintained by the Foss Waterway Owner’s Association, the owners of the nearby building full of condos, The Henry. AHBL used century-old lumber in constructing an arbor covering in the center of the park as an effort to commemorate the old mills that used to dot Tacoma’s waterfront.

This is one of those parks where if you blink, you’ll miss it. Just past the glass museum and partially under the Highway 509 overpass, you’ll see a parking lot splitting two grassy areas. You’ve arrived at 21st Street Park. As you pull in, on your left side you’ll see a sizable grass area perfect for playing fetch with the dog, playing Frisbee or just sitting on the grass.

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On your right you’ll find public restrooms, another grassy area and an arbor. The long flat stones in the small field are good for sitting on (or climbing if you’re a small child). They are similar to stones used in the nearby Chinese Reconciliation Park. This sort of symmetry is a nice touch.

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The park is bordered by Dock Street on one side and a sidewalk on the other. There are a few benches for those who don’t want to sit on the stones. There is a small perhaps unintentional trail to the nearby water. You’ll also notice the near constant sound of trains going by as the tracks are just on the other side of Dock Street.

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The small amount of space 21st Street takes up is well used. It isn’t a good park for exploring, but if you’re looking for a piece of nature right by Downtown Tacoma, it’s a good spot.

Next Week: Alderwood Park

– Jack Cameron

Fourteenth Tacoma Homicide of 2016: Tyrell Stokes

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29-year-old Tyrell Stokes was one of over 50 people who attended a party at an afterhours private club at 5224 South Tacoma Way on Saturday, October 22nd. A little before 2am on Sunday the 23rd, the rapper who was celebrating a recent record deal hit the stage. At 2:08am police heard between 20-30 gunshots. They responded to the scene and found many of the patrons fighting with each other and with first responders. Tyrell was still inside the club. He was shot. Outside, his brother and another man were also shot. They were all taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital where Tyrell died of his wounds two hours later. His brother and the other victim are expected to survive.

This is Tacoma’s fourteenth homicide this year. It’s also the fourth homicide in less than a month and the third unsolved homicide in less than a month. There was also a shooting at the Safeway on South 72nd and Portland Avenue a few weeks ago that left a man in critical condition. While this recent increase in violence is concerning, it is not all that unusual. It’s easy to see patterns where there is only coincidence. However, given the number of recent unsolved shootings, it’s difficult to say what might be causing this uptick.

Despite over 50 witnesses, Tacoma Police have had difficulty getting information due to many of the witnesses being inconsistent or uncooperative. Crime Stoppers is offering up to $1000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for this triple shooting. You can call them and remain anonymous at 1-800-222-TIPS.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Tyrell and want to share memories of him.

– Jack Cameron