First Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Mary Hoffer

mary hoffer

It couldn’t go on like this. Mary Hoffer knew that the fights with her boyfriend had to stop. It was constant. Neighbors in the apartment building in the 800 block of South 8th Street had become used to the yelling, the screams, the things breaking. It had to stop. She told her coworkers that she would meet up with them on January 4th, Friday night after she sat down and had a civilized talk with her 37-year-old boyfriend.

Mary never showed Friday night. She didn’t answer phone calls. She wasn’t online. When she didn’t answer her door on Saturday, her coworkers called the police. Police arrived and found Mary dead. She had been beaten and strangled becoming the first Tacoma homicide this year.  They also found her boyfriend dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The two of them were from Warsaw, Indiana. Mary was known to be a generous person. In 2015 she organized a GoFundMe for someone who had lost everything. My thoughts go out to her family and to all who knew this couple. Death has a way of rippling through the lives of those still living. It’s impossible to estimate the impact someone makes until they are gone.

As always the comments section is reserved for those who knew Mary who might want to share any thoughts or memories of her.
– Jack

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15th Tacoma Homicide of 2018: LaMont ‘Monty’ Rushton

james rushton

44-year-old LaMont ‘Monty’ Rushton had been homeless for a while, but like most homeless individuals he was trying to get it together. His six-year-old son was being raised by Monty’s mother. He wanted to get him back. He thought that maybe he would go up to Alaska and work on a fishing boat. Dangerous work, but everyone knew stories of someone who knew someone who went there for a season and came back with thousands. Maybe he’d make friends up there. He was a friendly guy. People tended to like him. This was just temporary.

It was Thursday, December 14th, a little after 11:30pm in downtown Tacoma. Monty was walking near South 26th and A Street when he spotted a young man taking a smoke break and asked him for a smoke. The young man handed him a smoke. Monty thanked the young man and walked on until he was confronted by a 29-year-old man. It was dark. The young man was at least 30 feet away. He heard Monty say, “Please don’t.” It appeared to the young man like the other man had challenged Monty to a fight and Monty had declined. Monty wasn’t a fighter. The other man ran away.

Monty headed towards the young man asking for help. Not realizing Monty was injured the young man initially ignored him. When he got closer the young man realized Monty had been stabbed multiple times in the chest and leg. The young man and his coworkers contacted paramedics and tried to help him, but Monty died a half hour after getting to the hospital becoming Tacoma’s fifteenth homicide this year.

A few days later, Monty’s killer was arrested at a nearby homeless camp. A large knife was found in the man’s tent. This is the second homeless killing in downtown Tacoma in the last month. And with any luck, the last killing this year.

As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of Monty to share memories or thoughts about Monty. All comments are moderated and approved before they appear.

– Jack

13th & 14th Tacoma Homicides of 2018: Evitan De Biaso & Deonte Mitchner

The plan seemed simple enough. A 16-year-old offered to sell a gun to a 13-year-old he smoked pot with a few weeks ago. The deal was to go down December 9th. The 16-year-old had no gun to sell. He was bringing three friends with him and they were going to rob the kid. According to charging papers, two of those friends were 19-year-old Evitan De Biaso and 21-year-old Deonte Mitchner. The third friend stayed in the car with Deonte’s two young children. Evitan and Deonte hid in bushes in an alley near the 1300 block of East 35th street.

Things did not go according to plan. The 16-year-old led the 13-year-old to the ambush, but the 13-year-old brought a friend. When Evitan and Deonte jumped out, the 13-year-old ran with the 16-year-old chasing him. The 16-year-old heard gunshots and knew that neither of his friends had guns. Around 4:50pm Tacoma police found both Evitan and Deonte dead of gunshot wounds. Evitan and Deonte become the thirteenth and fourteenth Tacoma homcides this year. The 16-year-old and the driver have been arrested. The unidentified shooter remains at large. People with knowledge of the incident are asked to call the Tacoma Police Department at 253-591-5968.

If TacomaStories has a theme it is to echo Bryan Stevenson’s “We are more than the worst things we’ve done.” Evitan and Deonte were more than these actions. Both men were fathers. Both had loving, caring families. Evitan has a daughter on the way who will never meet her father. Deonte has a 1-year-old and a 5-year-old who will never spend another Christmas with their father. It’s all too easy to judge and discard other people. We do not do that here. I know I have said it before, but every loss of life creates a hole in the lives of countless others.

As always the comments section is reserved for the friends and family of Evitan and Deonte who might want to share any thoughts or memories of them. All comments are moderated and approved before appearing.
– Jack

Twelfth Tacoma Homicide of 2018: Antonio Douglas

Antonio Douglas

It was just after 11pm on December 4th. Some teenagers had pulled off the road in the 3700 block of Marine View Drive in Northeast Tacoma. They were smoking marijuana and passing around a stolen pistol. Seventeen-year-old was in the driver’s seat of the Toyota Camry. He pulled the clip out of the gun and handed it to his 17-year-old friend in the back. Charging papers say the friend told them that Antonio told him the gun was empty. His friend pointed the gun at the driver’s seat and pulled the trigger. The bullet went through the seat, through, Antonio’s arm and into his torso. Antonio opened the driver’s side door and fell out of the car. The others in the car drove him to his Aunt’s house. When his aunt saw that he had been shot, she told them to take him to the hospital. Antonio later died at the hospital becoming Tacoma’s twelfth homicide this year.

I was not able to find much online about Antonio. He was seventeen years old. So is his friend. His friend’s life will never be the same and Antonio’s life has ended long before it should have. The tragedy of this is as obvious as it is painful. While the tragedy is most felt by friends and family of Antonio, this is a tragedy for all of us because we will never get to see what Antonio could have been. Antonio’s friend has been arrested and charged with first-degree manslaughter.

This is the very definition of a homicide that should not have happened. If they hadn’t been playing with a gun, if his friend would have checked for a bullet in the chamber of the pistol, maybe if they’d driven him directly to the hospital, maybe if they hadn’t been smoking marijuana. There are a hundred things we could point at and say it shouldn’t have happened, but none of that changes the reality of the situation. We lost a child. And that matters. I write about these homicides so they will be remembered. We can’t save Antonio, but we can remember him, remember what happened, and hope it doesn’t happen again.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for friends and family of Antonio who might want to share any thoughts or memories about it.
– Jack Cameron

Eleventh Tacoma Homicide of 2018: Jiskoko “Jish” Shaw

Jisgogo Sha

It was just after 9:30pm on Saturday, November 19th. In a parking garage in the 700 block of Commerce Street in downtown Tacoma, two transient acquaintances were talking. One was 33-year-old Jiskoko Sha. Friends called him Jish. The talking became an argument. The argument became physical. At some point the other man pulled a knife. A short time later a passerby found Jiskoko bleeding from a stab wound. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he later died, becoming Tacoma’s 11th homicide this year.

Police soon arrested the 36-year-old man who stabbed him, but prosecutors declined to press charges and released him pending further investigation.

The parking garage in which this happened is somewhat notorious for criminal activity though this is the first homicide to occur there.

I have been writing about homicides in Tacoma for eleven years and yet I still have difficulty fully explaining just what happens when someone in your life is murdered. Part of the reason for this site is to add a little more depth beyond the news headlines and to remind us that this isn’t just a homeless person getting killed in a bad area. This is a world ending. The world of Jiskoko Shaw is over. The impact of that echoes through the lives of his loved ones. Each of them feels a hole that cannot ever be fully patched. And Jish has been denied any possible future. His Tacoma Story ends here. But his memory remains. And who he was will not be forgotten by those who loved him.

As always the comment section is moderated and reserved for family and friends of Jiskoko Shaw who want to share memories or thoughts about him and his life.

– Jack Cameron

Tenth Tacoma Homicide of 2018: DeAngelo Reese

deangelo reese

In the early morning hours of August 17th, 36-year-old DeAngelo Reese was riding bicycles with a female acquaintance in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. Near South 21st Street a 46-year-old man approached them. The man said to them, “”You’re not gonna be hanging around here, these are my streets.”

DeAngelo stopped his bicycle and said, “We do what we want.” The two then continued riding.

The man ran after them, at which point DeAngelo got off his bike and said, “Don’t run up on me.” The two of them got into a physical fight. DeAngelo pulled a knife. The man knocked it out of his hand and picked it up. DeAngelo ran toward a traffic circle on South 21st and Sheridan. He lost his footing, tripping on a curb. The man caught up to him and stabbed him repeatedly.

Shortly afterward, a passerby approached in response to the commotion. The man ran, getting into his girlfriend’s car as she drove away. DeAngelo was taken to a local hospital where he later died from his wounds becoming Tacoma’s tenth homicide this year.

Both the man who stabbed DeAngelo and his girlfriend were arrested and charged in DeAngelo’s murder days later.

This is the sort of murder that used to be fairly commonplace in Tacoma, especially in the Hilltop neighborhood. These days this kind of homicide is a rarity in this town. It can be easy to dismiss something like this as fairly trivial, but that of course ignores the hole left in the lives of DeAngelo’s loved ones that can never fully be repaired.

As always the comment section is reserved for those who knew DeAngelo and want to share thoughts or memories of him with us. Each comment is approved and moderated before it appears. All other comments are deleted and not seen.

My thoughts go out to DeAngelo’s loved ones.

– Jack

5 Question Friday With Tacoma City Councilman Justin Camarata

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Photo by Silong Chhun

Earlier this year City Councilman Robert Thoms was deployed to Afghanistan as part of his commitment to the National Guard. Rather than have an election for a post that would only be necessary for a few months, the city asked for applicants and appointed one from the list of applicants. I was one of those applicants, but the city rightly chose Justin Camarata to fill that spot. When I saw Justin’s name on the list of potential appointees, his name along with a couple of others were people I honestly felt would do a better job than myself.

As Justin winds up his short tenure as councilman, I thought it might be good to have him do a 5 Question Friday and let us know what he thought of the experience. Here’s Justin:

1. Why did you choose to throw your hat into the ring to be a City Councilman?

I won’t lie – I’ve been interested in doing this for a long time. I love this city, I love policy and politics, I love working with a broad range of people, and I felt I had things to contribute and the ability to get into the weeds when necessary. It all happened pretty fast, but the timing was right and I think there was excitement over what we could get done with my being there.


2. What do you wish you knew before you began serving as a City Councilman?

The biggest one would be that if something seems like an obvious or easy policy fix from the outside, there’s a 95% chance it isn’t. There are often studies to commission, individual councilmember concerns to address, other governmental jurisdictions or City departments that need to (or want to) weigh in, and generally you can’t just wave something into or out of existence. I sort of knew and expected this to a degree, but seeing things from this perspective has been really eye opening and I think I’ll always view government a little differently as a result.
3. What are some of the highlights of your time on the council?
The City’s relationship with the Puyallup Tribe has been improving this year–getting to know their tribal council, being a guest at events they’ve hosted, and cosponsoring the resolution to place their flag in Council chambers has been something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. There are still big things to work through with them but given how strained it’s often been in the past, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Tacoma history has been happening and I’m genuinely happy to get to be part of that.

Working on housing issues has been frustrating at times, especially as the market has absolutely exploded over the past year or two, but knowing we’re doing things that will help literally tens of thousands of people keep a roof over their heads is gratifying. Be on the lookout for a big renters rights ordinance very soon, in addition to a continued focus on adding a lot more affordable housing inventory.

Voting to appoint the first woman to be the new Director of Tacoma Public Utilities, during the first time the Council got to vote on that appointment, was pretty cool. Jackie Flowers is incredibly talented and accomplished, including in municipal broadband (we need that for Click), and she’s going to do an amazing job in a role that’s really critical for the overall quality of life in Tacoma.

Beyond all of this, I’ve also been on a tour of organizations and events throughout the city. I’ve met with businesses, labor unions, political groups, neighborhood councils, faith organizations, business districts and associations, and activist groups and gone to dozens of events. It’s been a blast and I’ve met so many great people who deeply love and care about Tacoma in their own ways and want to help it succeed. That’s absolutely been a highlight.

4. What’s something many people don’t know about the City Council?

Six of the nine of us are in our early 40s or younger, and six of the nine of us (though not the same six of the nine) are transplants to Tacoma from other places. I personally think that’s really great, because Tacoma as a city is likewise full of people who wound up here for some reason or another and chose to stay.

Also, this Council is very accessible. If you want a meeting with any of us, or with Mayor Woodards, you can probably get one. One of the things I love about local government in a city like ours is that you can get involved, meet key people, and have a real impact on things in a way you can’t at the national level. I think people often assume their local leaders are out of touch and inaccessible, but that is not the case at all. You’ll see us in many of the same places you go to yourself and we’re generally always happy to talk.

5. What are your post-City Councilman plans?

I’m still figuring that out. I’m definitely not going anywhere, and I’m going to keep working on things just like I was before I joined Council, whatever form that takes. Short term, I’ve got a stack of books I want to read and my wife and kids wouldn’t mind a vacation.

Thanks to Justin for serving as City Councilman and taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. If you or someone you know would like to join me for a 5 Question Friday drop me a line at jackcameronis@gmail.com.