Third Tacoma Homicide of 2017: Audreyanna Newell

20170915_151347From time to time I fail to report a Tacoma homicide. It is never intentional. If a homicide happens in the city of Tacoma, I write about it. But sometimes I miss one due to my own inattention or a lack of media coverage. Audreyanna Newell was a 29 years old. Years ago her she sang Christmas carols with her mother on a airplane flight. More recently she lost her brother and grandmother. Like many people, she turned to drugs to numb the pain. The drugs caused mental problems. As 2017 began Audreyanna was a beautiful young woman with a diagnosed mental illness struggling with drugs and homelessness. She was incredibly vulnerable. Audreyanna was released from a Seattle jail on January 17th.

Two days later she met a 26-year-old man. They bought two six packs of beer at a convenience store in Seattle. They then took the Link Light Rail to Sea-Tac where they got in the man’s car and drove to 5800 block of Marine View Drive in Northeast Tacoma. At around 6:30pm someone reported hearing a gunshot. The next morning a man walking his dog found Audreyanna’s body in a gravel area on Marine View Drive. She’d been shot once in the back of the head.

Some beer and the bag from the convenience store was found near her. Police traced the beer to the convenience store where they obtained video footage of the two. They identified the 26-year-old man and charged him with second degree murder.

Audreyanna’s death was the third Tacoma homicide this year. She is also one of two homicides this year of homeless individuals. Being homeless exposes people to all sorts of potential dangers. Unfortunately one of those dangers is meeting up with violent individuals willing to take advantage of a homeless person’s vulnerability.

The 26-year-old man responsible for Audreyanna’s murder pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to 18 years, 4 months in prison. Audreyanna’s mother said to her daughter’s killer, ““I have an idea that you will never be the same again and I hope that this will be the defining moment in your life and that you will rise from this occasion with a new direction and a new purpose for living,” Such kindness and forgiveness is awe inspiring.

I would like to extend a personal apology to the family and friends of Audreyanna Newell for my failure to write about her death sooner. As always the comment section is moderated and reserved for friends and family of the victim who want to share thoughts or memories of Audreyanna. All other comments will be deleted.

– Jack Cameron

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Seventh Tacoma Homicide of 2017: Frankie Santos

Sunday afternoon neighbors near the 5600 block of South Lawrence Street called 911 because 58-year-old Frankie Santos was behaving erratically and had a handgun. When police arrived, Frankie was yelling. The three officers told him to drop the handgun. Instead he fired the handgun in their direction. All three officers responded by opening fire on Frankie Santos. Frankie was dead before the paramedics arrived.

Frankie Santos is the seventh Tacoma homicide this year. It is the first police involved shooting in Tacoma this year. The use of lethal force by police officers is always problematic, but when they are dealing with an armed individual firing a gun, their viable options quickly become limited.

I was not able to find much online about Frankie Santos. I could not tell you why he was behaving the way he was or how or why he had a gun in his hand. What I can say is that this final incident of Frankie’s life is not all that Frankie was. In his 58 years of life he had friends and family. He had people he cared about and people who cared about him. If there is one thing I have come to believe in eleven years of covering Tacoma’s homicides, it is that we are not our worst actions. We are much more than that. More to the point, the loss of a life does not just mean the end for Frankie Santos, it means a hole in the lives of the people who knew him.

It is all too easy to look at a police involved shooting of an armed man firing a gun and act as though it were a movie or a television show where the ‘bad guy’ got what was coming to him. The reality is someone’s son is dead. And while I would not condemn anyone for returning fire at someone shooting at them, I also will not pretend that Frankie Santos losing his life has no meaning.

As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Frankie and want to share remembrances of him. If you knew Frankie and have a photo of him, you would like me to share on this page, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

– Jack Cameron

What’s In A Name? (Or When Is A Border Agent Not A Border Agent?)

21055850_10209793927868757_994380700046984243_oEarlier this week, after quite a lot of drama, the environmental activist group Redline Tacoma announced that they would change their name in response to criticism over the term ‘Redline’ which has negative racial connotations. Names are important. One does not want to accidentally offend people. More importantly, one does not want to give off the wrong impression of what the company does…except when one does. The above photo was taken by City Councilman Marty Campbell this morning here in Tacoma. It’s a Dodge Charger with the letter BPS on the door. It clearly states that these letters stand for Border Protective Services.

Contrary to any implication from their name, Border Protective Services does not have anything whatsoever to do with border patrol, immigration, or federal authorities. They are a local private security firm. What’s interesting is if you plug in ‘Border Protective Services Tacoma’ into Google you will not find them. Whether this is due to bad search engine optimization or due to a purposeful attempt to hid who they are is unknown. It actually takes quite a bit of looking to find any information online about them at all, which lends credence to the idea that their hidden digital footprint is purposeful.

A search of Washington State companies shows that Border Protective Services was created February 21st of this year with an address in Spokane. One of the people involved in the company is listed as John Catterson. Catterson’s LinkedIn profile interestingly does not mention BPS. According to his profile he is a former special investigator for the United States Air Force and currently works as an independent contractor, a background investigator for the Spokane Police Department, and a Partner in Triple Lantern LLP. Triple Lantern has a LinkedIn profile, but the link to their official website leads to an empty page. The LinkedIn profile describes Triple Lantern as “Triple Lantern, a veteran owned small business is a full spectrum asset protection company structured to meet the investigative, assessment, education and protection needs of our clients. Founded upon the principle of relevant perspective, we strive to see the world through the eyes of our clients, and more importantly view your company through the eyes of your competitors.” It was founded in 2012.

The other man involved in both BPS and Triple Lantern is Derrick Aalderts. I was not able to find much of anything on Mr. Aalderts. He does not seem to have a LinkedIn or Facebook account under that name.

On ZipRecruiter.com there is a recently expired ad for a ‘Security Officers’ to work in ‘numerous locations throughout Thurston, Pierce, and King Counties starting at $13 an hour or just less than $2.00 an hour more than minimum wage. Requirements include no criminal history ‘that would prevent an applicant from obtaining an Armed Security License’*, two years of work history, a GED or High School diploma, a driver’s license, and an ability to work independently with minimum supervision. The ad also describes Border Protective Services using the exact same words used to describe Triple Lantern.

To put all of this into perspective there is a private security company with no known offices or online presence operating in Tacoma paying their armed employees $13 an hour to work at unspecified areas doing unspecified things wearing uniforms and driving cars that identify them as “Border Protective Services” operating with a bare minimum of supervision in a city that happens to have a for-profit prison that houses over 1,000 illegal immigrants.

Now before I go on there are a couple of other things I should mention. For the most part, private security companies and workers are a vital part of our society. Many of these men and women are highly trained military veterans with extensive exemplary records. I could find no complaints to the Better Business Bureau regarding BPS. I found no online reviews of the company anywhere I looked. As far as I am aware, BPS is a professional company providing professional services. Catterson’s background certainly sounds exactly like the sort of person one would want running a protective services company.

That said, the sketchy contact information, low pay, and deceptive name are significant red flags in my opinion. Like I said at the beginning of this article, names are important. Redline Tacoma recognized that and did something about it. I doubt that Border Protective Services will be changing their name any time soon. Then again, since they lack an online presence, when people go looking for them, they are likely to find this article which clearly states that they have absolutely nothing to do with the United States Government or immigration enforcement.

– Jack Cameron

* Washington State’s Armed Security License requires that you be 21, have a current firearms certificate issued by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, and get a fingerprint and background check.

UPDATE: I was able find the website for Border Protective Services. It does not have much more information than I’ve already shared.

 

Sixth Tacoma Homicide of 2017: Oscar Blackwater

blackwaterHis name was Oscar Blackwater. He was 74 years old. He was one of Tacoma’s homeless population. A friend went looking for him Monday morning. His body was found on a trail in the 3500 block of Pacific Avenue. An autopsy would reveal that he died from blunt force trauma to the head and chest. He was beaten to death on the streets of Tacoma.

Oscar’s death is the sixth homicide in Tacoma this year. His murder is the latest incident in a series of assaults and robberies on Tacoma’s homeless population. One victim stated that he was not only beaten and robbed of valuables but they also stole his pants.

The homeless are among our most vulnerable citizens. Tacoma’s homelessness problem is so significant that the city declared a State of Emergency. New efforts to create more sustainable and safe homeless camps has met with mixed results so far.

At the time of this writing police have no information on the suspect or suspects responsible for Oscar’s murder. Anyone with information on Oscar’s death is asked to contact the Tacoma Police Department.

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

UPDATE: CrimeStoppers is offering $1,000 reward to information that leads to the conviction of Oscar’s killer. Anyone with information is urged to call 800-222-TIPS (8477).

UPDATE 2: Oscar’s family is trying to bring his body back home to Arizona. They’ve started a GoFundMe to make this happen. https://www.gofundme.com/bring-home-oscar-blackwater

– Jack Cameron

Fifth Tacoma Homicide of 2017: Kaia Josie Krempl

Kaia Josie Krempl lived a very short, violent life. She was less than five weeks old when her mother died. Police arrived to investigate her death on January 17th. It would later turn out to be a stomach infection. They noticed her newborn twin babies appeared to be sick as well. This was especially true for Kaia.

Kaia arrived at a local hospital in critical condition. She was not just sick. She was severely injured. A CT scan showed a skull fracture with severe brain damage. In addition to her skull, her left shoulder was broken as were a few ribs.

It would be almost two full months before Kaia died from her injuries. Kaia’s brother had also been injured. His injuries were less severe. He recovered. Kaia’s 30-year-old father has pled guilty to her murder and has been sentenced to 23 years in prison. Prosecuting papers indicate he used his phone to do an Internet search on what to do when you’ve beaten your baby.*

Homicides like this are difficult to write about both because of the subject matter and because quite often when someone dies months after the incident, it does not make the news. This particular homicide only seemed to be reported when Kaia’s killer was sentenced.

Kaia Josie Krempl is Tacoma’s fiffth homicide this year. Given that the Summer is almost over, our homicide rate is about half of what it was this time last year. Here is hoping it continues to drop.

My thoughts go out to Kaia’s family. I cannot imagine what they are going through and hope they have a chance to heal.

– Jack Cameron

 

*The answer for anyone who found this page using similar search terms is call 911 for paramedics and police, turn yourself in, and get help.

5 Question Friday With Attorney Chris Van Vechten

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There are few things that are worth what we pay. A good whiskey. A good cigar. A good lawyer. Chris Van Vechten may be able to give you suggestions for the first two, but for the last one, he does not have to because he embodies it.

I first encountered Chris Van Vechten when I read a Facebook post of his that I completely related to. It turns out that we have many similar sensibilities. I asked him if he would be willing to join me for Five Question Friday. Turns out he had a lot to say.

Here’s Chris:

1. What attracted you to practicing law?

For most of my life, the people around me said I would be a lawyer because “you like to argue” but I rejected that interpretation of myself and initially branched into other worlds.

My father was a professor of physics and electrical engineering who had once been nominated for a Nobel Prize in Physics.  He was also a one-term county councilmember, and a small business owner.  He had many admirers among the intellectual elite, and I grew up in his shadow, just as he had with his father and grandfather etc.  I felt a lot of pressure growing up to do something “big” with my life.  Seven years of higher education to wage war in a local courtroom doesn’t feel like much when your dad was head of research and development for IBM back in the 1970s.

So after graduating from the University of Puget Sound in 2007, I went to go work in the State Legislature, before trying to land a job as a lobbyist and ultimately assuming a role as a field organizer for the Democratic Party during Obama’s big wave in 2008.  After our victories, the recession was on full bore and I was extremely frustrated with myself for lack of opportunities, so I started an online newspaper with podcasts modeled after my old college radio show and started interviewing and debating interesting people like Tim Eyman and Krist Novoselic.  I thought I could make money off this by selling advertising.  I thought wrong.

By this point, I was pretty pissed off, so I decided to run for Tacoma Public School Board despite the fact that I didn’t go to school here, wasn’t a parent, wasn’t a teacher, and was only 24 years old.  I did a lot better as a candidate than one would think.  I raised more money than my 5 opponents combined, was endorsed by the teachers union and State Auditor Brian Sonntag, and finished 800+ votes ahead of the incumbent.  But I still lost.

Shortly thereafter I got married and my father-in-law was pressuring me to move out to Idaho to manage one of the three assisted living communities he had inherited, which was a dream opportunity for my new wife Jen.  So, long story short, I found myself living in an Alzheimer ward of my father-in-law’s memory care community in Twin Falls, Idaho….I had to get out.

Law School was my out, and I enrolled in the summer of 2010.  I enrolled in Seattle University because it was the closest law school to Tacoma, where I still plotted a school board run at the time.

2. Who is a typical client for you? 

My clients seem to represent every cross-section of our community. I’ve represented: professional athletes; politicians and elected officials; the homeless and the addicted; business owners and working class heroes; soldiers who serve our country, and immigrants – documented or otherwise – who seek to join it; high school drop-outs, college students, and fellow attorneys; people as young as 15 and as old as 81; residents of countless communities; the famous, the infamous and a lot of people who wish to remain unknown; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But if you look at the statistics, the typical criminal defendant is poor – very poor.  And while that might suggest there is a connection between poverty and crime, I can assure you that drug addiction, domestic violence, sexual assault and theft are just as common in Gig Harbor as it is in Tacoma.  Go to divorce court if you don’t believe me.

The statistics reflect a conscious choice to prioritize prosecution of a certain socioeconomic demographic.  That’s not any one individual’s fault by the way.  We are all guilty of being complicit in this social arrangement.

3. What is the biggest misconception you feel people have about the legal system?

Boy, that’s a tough one.  I’m not sure I can say what is the “biggest misconception” out there among the public, but one thing that is gnawing at me at this moment is the word “treatment.”  Both the Left and the Right seem to be advocating treatment these days over punishment without actually articulating what “treatment” is or how it would work.

It has to be understood that at various times in our history, torture has been called “treatment” (aka, the burning of witches and heretics in the name of purifying their souls for the afterlife).  So while the sentiment might sound progressive, in practice, it would often times be more humane to take some of my clients out into the street and whip them rather than to force them into classes that don’t work and which they can’t afford, and then to periodically sanction them with jail for failing to make payments in these classes until jurisdiction runs out.

I had a client earlier this year who was released from jail and told to get (1) a domestic violence evaluation and comply with treatment (which no insurance or government agency will pay for and which was going to run him more than  $1200); (2) a chemical dependency evaluation and comply with treatment (for his drinking and heroin problems); (3) a mental health evaluation and comply with treatment (for his PTSD, the result of having been shot in Iraq); (4) to abide by a no contact order that forced him to shoulder the expense of renting alone; and (5) to not drive without an ignition interlock device and accompanying license and insurance (for the DUI he had picked up) which meant that his attendance at all these treatment hearings was contingent on him living on and securing treatment at facilities with access to the bus line.

For someone with so many problems and stuck in a system that doesn’t really provide the resources for this ordered “treatment” – the results were predictable.  He is now stuck in the cycle of being released from custody only to be arrested again and again for failure to “comply” with the court’s impossible orders.

However, in the broader sense, I don’t think people realize that the legal system is not designed to result in “all out” wins for one side or the other.  It’s designed to create so much pain and risk for both sides involved that a compromised settlement naturally ensues.  That frustrates a lot of people involved.

4. What common mistakes do you see clients making before talking to you?

They wait to their detriment.  They don’t understand that law enforcement is actively destroying evidence related to their case as the days go by, like video and 911 recordings that they are not required to keep if not requested within a certain period of time (click here to see a warning from Puyallup Municipal Court).  They don’t realize that memories are fading and witnesses are disappearing.  They’re hopeful the State will forget about them or not file charges and as the weeks and months go by that seems realistic until suddenly the prosecutor’s office decides to dig up something from the previous year and files charges.

There was a car salesman where I grew up whose slogan was “If you don’t come see me today, I can’t save you any money.”  Same is true for me.  If you don’t come see me today, I may not be able to save your freedom, future, or long-term finances.

5. You’re from Portland. You went to school in Seattle. Why did you choose to live and work here in Tacoma?

I never wanted to leave Oregon, but my father was third-generation University of Chicago and my mom attended Northwestern in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, so there was a lot of pressure for me to go to school in the Windy City.  I gave it a try for a year and hated it.  The Midwest didn’t agree with me.

My dad was a professor at Oregon State University and I could have gone there for $20 a credit, but I was stupid and fell for Princeton Review Rankings and so in the process of applying to come back to the Pacific Northwest, I only applied to “well ranked” and expensive schools like Reed College in Oregon.  The University of Puget Sound – which at the time was ranked on par with Harvard for academics – offered me a scholarship.  Honestly, I had never even heard of Tacoma before but I needed to get out of the Midwest, so I moved here in 2004 because it was close enough to Oregon to make feel “at home.”

My first year here was kind of a blur.  I had fallen in love with my best friend in high school and my affections were not reciprocated and combined with other problems I didn’t handle rejection as gracefully as I wish I could have.  So my first year in Tacoma I didn’t do much but try to rebuild myself.

My second year here, I attended a campus meeting of the Young Republicans (cuz why not) and listened to State minority leader Richard DeBolt ask the audience if they knew who their state representative was.  None of us knew.  He told us to go home and google it, find out and send them an email introducing ourselves.  And if they did not respond, run against them.

I went home, learned that Dennis Flannigan was my state representative, sent him an email introducing myself, and warned him I would file to run against him if he did not respond.  I think I was 20 years old then.

I got an email the following day telling me that Representative Flannigan “needed to see me” in his office immediately.  I was scared shitless.  I showed up in a three piece suit.  Dennis was wearing blue jeans and had a robot at the front door of his office named after a colleague in the legislature.  Turned out Dennis was a civil rights activist of historical significance who was familiar with the work of my great, great uncle Carl – who was a civil rights activist as well, though of a different sort.   “Now that I don’t need to worry about you running against me, how would you like to be my intern in Olympia?” he offered.

The internship changed my life.  It taught me the importance of community – something I didn’t really have in Oregon.  It introduced me to a fellow intern who three years later became my wife.  And it gave me a lot of confidence in myself.  It also rooted me in this community.  I went to Law School in Seattle, but commuted on the bus from Tacoma every day to do it.  I considered running for mayor of Seattle earlier this year, but decided it was better to stay in Tacoma.  I would rather serve in heaven than rule in hell.

 

I want to thank Chris Van Vechten for joining me for Five Question Friday. You can find Chris online at http://www.soundlawyering.com/.

If you think you or someone you know would be a good person for Five Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Tacoma Girls Rock Camp

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I was recently contacted by the good people at Tacoma Girls Rock Camp. They thought my readers would be interested in their program. I agreed. Here they are to tell you all about it.

1. What is Tacoma Girls Rock Camp?

Tacoma Girls Rock camp is a music education program for girl-identified youth. We are passionate about getting women involved in music and feel there’s a lot to learn in creative collaboration with others. The weeklong day camp provides group music lessons and the opportunity for each camper to play an integral part in the formation of a band and creation of an original song. Campers will also be exposed to workshops like: A History of Women in Music, Songwriting and Screen Printing. The program takes place from July 31st – August 5th, when the girls showcase all their hard work on stage for the community. (https://www.grctacoma.org/)

2. What is the background of the people putting on Tacoma Girls Rock Camp?

CasiCasi Brown: I grew up in the South Sound region playing the harp, obsessing about bands and taking 3 hour bus rides to to attend all-ages shows in Seattle. I was first introduced to the Girls Rock’n’Roll program in the summer of 2010 when I volunteered as a camp counselor with Rain City Rock Camp, where I fell in love with the program. I am passionate about building educated and empowered communities and see art and other creative endeavors as a great tool for positive social change. I organized Bellingham Girls Rock Camp as my senior project with Fairhaven College and am excited to be starting Tacoma Girls Rock Camp. We have a lot of great ideas and hope to become a central figure in the all-ages music community.

 

HarlieHarlie Jane Carter: Born and raised in Tacoma, I spent my high school years downtown at Tacoma School of the Arts, SOTA. This is where I first gained the confidence to express myself through many different art forms, from songwriting to photography. I went on to attend The Evergreen State College and discovered a passion for working with youth. I studied techniques for creative positive learning environments while working and interning within various elementary schools, including a year of service through AmeriCorps. I aim to to transform my love for music, this city, and education into a safe space for girls to step a little outside of the box and express themselves.

3. What should campers expect?

Campers should foremostly expect to have fun, form friendships and experience the challenges and rewards of creative collaboration. While our focus is music and the goal is to support campers in their band’s creation of an original song, we will offer other workshops like: screen printing, songwriting, a history of women in music – and are open to other ideas! We anticipate that most campers will come with no previous knowledge of music and leave having written, performed and recorded an original song.

4. How can people help Tacoma Girls Rock Camp?

If people like what we’re doing they can make a monetary donation,  lend us gear for the week of camp, or volunteer their time. All money will go to support the week of program, provide scholarships for campers and enable us to begin the nonprofit application process. All gear will enable us to instruct and empower the girls to form bands to write and perform an original song. In addition to instruments, we’ll need amps, microphones, microphone stands  guitar straps, chords, tuners… (https://www.grctacoma.org/instrument-donation/)

If you would like to volunteer your time we are looking for individuals take on full and part time roles like: camp counselor, band coach, roadie, instrument instructor, workshop leads, and morning rockstar. We are also offering high school specific volunteer opportunities for students ages 15-18. Positions include: stage design;  photography; design, marketing and social media management; audio recording. If you’re interested please check out this link (https://www.grctacoma.org/info/) or contact us with any questions at GRCTacoma@gmail.com

5. How can people sign up to be campers?

Registration is available for campers here (https://www.grctacoma.org/registration/). Interested youth should fill out the application with their parent or guardian and create a brief short story, comic strip or essay telling us why they want to be a part of our program and what their goals are for the week. The cost of camp is $350. However, we want everyone who want’s to be a part of the program to participate and will provide full and partial scholarships to make it affordable to everyone.

I would like to thank the people at Tacoma Girls Rock Camp for taking the time to join me for 5 Question Friday. Do you have a business, an event, a cause, or just a cool story you would like to share on 5 Question Friday? Contact me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

– Jack Cameron