Hot Town Summer In The City

The Fourth of July brings to Tacoma one of the best fireworks displays in the country. From the right lawn on the North End, you can see not only Tacoma’s exceptional waterfront fireworks display, but in the distance you can see Seattle’s as well. It’s a time that brings thousands of people to my neighborhood and for the most part, it’s a fun experience.

While most of Tacoma was watching the fireworks display, thirty-one year old Jason Outler was doing that other great summer pastime in the Northwest; having drinks with friends at a bar. Outler had a job at the Harmon Brewing Company, a downtown bar in a building that once housed Harmon Mattress Factory. People say he was very friendly and a dedicated father to his young daughter. He had plans two move in with his fiancé soon. By all account Jason Outler was one of those guys that make Tacoma a good place.

Right around last call, Outler asked a stranger for a ride. The stranger agreed but asked to be paid. Outler got in the Crown Victoria. When they arrived at Outler’s home in the 3100 block of North 8th Street, the driver asked for more money than he originally did. What happened next isn’t entirely clear, but the situation escalated very quickly. Soon the two were fighting in the street. Neighbors called the police. The police were already on their way when the driver pulled out a pistol. It appears that Outler attempted to the leave the scene and was shot four times in the back and once in the head. The driver of the vehicle then drove off.

A day and a half later, Tacoma detectives contacted a family and said they needed to talk to a twenty-year-old who lived there. A few hours later the man turned himself in. Further investigation showed that Jason Outler was murdered for nothing more than money for a ride.

The murder of Jason Outler is the very definition of a senseless killing. I think what makes this more striking to me is the fact that I personally have a lot in common with Jason Outler. A thirty-one-year-old single father living in the North End of Tacoma with a good circle of friends who loves nothing more than to play with his child or have a drink with his friends. Up until July 4th, this described both Jason Outler and me. In a very real sense Jason Outler’s death could very easily have been my own and this is probably why it’s taken me a few days to write anything about it.

I have a lot of friends who hear about things like this and can’t understand why I think Tacoma is one of the best places in the world to live. Most of these people don’t live here and so I understand. What it comes down to is this. There isn’t a major city in the country that hasn’t had its share of murders like that of Jason Outler. Anyone paying attention knows that these things happen everywhere. And leaving doesn’t change that. More importantly, the only way to make things better in a city like this is to try to change things. You can’t really do that by leaving.

I realize that I’ve been focusing on the bad aspects of Tacoma for quite a while. There’s a number of reasons for this. The main one being that it’s easy. Following the newspaper and websites on the hunt for homicides is simple. This is what newspapers report. What’s much more difficult is what I have planned next.

What I’ve tried to do is put a human face on these homicides. I want the tragic deaths of these people to be more than a blurb on page B-2. I’m going to attempt to continue to do this, but in addition to that, I’m going to begin telling you a few of the things that make Tacoma great.

In coming weeks, I’ll tell you about Pete Lira, a national champion barber working in downtown Tacoma, the remodeling of the Parkway Tavern, one of the oldest Taverns in Tacoma, and Comic Book Ink, one of the best comic book shops in the state. These are a few of the articles I have planned with a hell of a lot more on the way. These articles will appear once a week. And as always, I’ll keep you up to date on the darker sides of things in Tacoma as well.


9 responses to “Hot Town Summer In The City

  1. Jack,
    In searching everything Tacoma, I happened upon your blog about my nephew, Jason Outler.  I just wanted to react and connect with someone there since we are so far away.  His memorial is to be held this Saturday in his hometown of Gainesville, Florida, and anyone who might read this has our thanks for everything that was done for my sister, his Mom, when they were there last weekend.  A memorial was held there by his fiancee and her parents and over 200 people came to celebrate what a great man he was.  You\’re exactly right–he was just out doing what should be totally safe and ok to do–and here is another totally senseless waste of a life filled with promise and love of a child and new marriage.  Are you going to follow the case out there or if you know of how I could keep up with it without involving my sister or tormenting her anymore, please email me or blog it here. 
    I noticed that there is a gang problem in your city–was the way Jason killed done in that style?  Could this young Samoan be involved in that type of killing? 

  2. Jack,
    Jason was a good friend of mine in college.  We attended Columus State Community College together shortly before he made his move to WA.  He was and always will be very close to my heart.  This is the first I have heard of his death, we reconnected only briefly this past spring.  My prayers will be with his family and loved ones this holiday.  Would you know if there are any programs I may contribute to for his daughter?  I feel compelled to help in any way I can, Jason was a wonderful man.  Any information you may provide would be deeply appreciated.

  3. As this blog has not been updated since last July I am not sure either of you will recieve this message, but I had to try and pass on the information so I knew I had tried.
    Jasons trial was this week and will wrap up on Monday or Tuesday of next week, if you are interested in the outcome of this sense less murder.  So far I do not believe there will be any media coverage.
    Donations for Avery Outler can be made to the HARMON BREWERY in Tacoma Washington.  They have had fund raisers for her and are donating the procedes of one of their beers to her as well.
    I hope this is of some help,

  4. Jack and all who may read this blog,
    I was at the sentencing of Jason Outlers killer yesterday and you will be thankful to know he received a 37-1/2 year sentence for the brutal execution of Jason last 4Th of July (06).
    At 20 he won\’t even be eligible for parole until he is in his early 50\’s and that\’s with "good" behavior!!
    Rest in Peace Jason.  Thank God some times the justice system really works!!

  5. I was just going through old photos at my dads house and just saw a bunch of Jason outler photos he lived with us in Gainesville for a while my brother and him were best friends. He was a great guy…extremely fast by the way!!! Super athlete. Just wanted to write on this because he will never be forgotten to me.

  6. I’ve read this blog many times over the last 10 years, and never really wanted to acknowledge it’s sad truth. Jason was one of my college roommates in C-bus. Our birthdays are the 1st and 2nd of December, but a year a part, and one of my fondest memories in life was going out for our birthdays (my 21st) during finals week one year, and being the only two customers in one of the biggest restaurant/bars in town. We sat at the giant bar by ourselves and drank a shot at midnight to salute each other, which we repeated for a few years until we ended up on opposite sides of the country. I always continued the tradition, even when we lost touch for a spell, and I was trying to look him up to reconnect the winter of 06 when I found this blog. It broke my heart. Jason and I were fast friends, and had a lot of great times. Our friendship had an enormous impact and influence on my life. I think about that dude all the time, and look forward to midnight every December 1st/2nd, to toast my old buddy, even though I have to set my alarm these days to wake up and do it. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without having had Jason in it. Cheers to all who shared his friendship, and cheers to you, Jason!

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