Monthly Archives: October 2006

Tacoma's 21st Homicide of 2006

Tacoma had gone 42 days without a homicide until last Friday. On Tacoma’s East Side last Friday around 10:30pm 18-year-old Robert Tapia was riding in his girlfriend’s gray 1991 Honda Accord in the 3500 block of East K Street when a group of 6-8 males surrounded the car. Shots were fired as Robert’s girlfriend sped off. In the passenger seat Robert Tapia was mortally wounded. His girlfriend called 9-1-1 as she drove him to Tacoma General Hospital. An hour later 18-year-old Robert Tapia became the Tacoma’s 21st homicide victim for 2006.

Police detained two suspects Sunday in the attacks but released them due to lack of evidence. Initial reports do not cite a motive but claim that it was not gang related despite the fact that the murder occurred in an area known for gang violence.

Given the area, the time of night, and the fact that the vehicle was surrounded by a group of young males, I find it hard to believe that this was not a gang related activity. In fact, I’m wondering exactly how there is any way at all to say that when someone has their car surrounded and is shot that it’s not ‘gang related’. I realize that the Tacoma Police Department wants to at the very least appear to be curbing gang violence (and the past 42 days of no homicides is a good sign they’re succeeding), but I think it’s wrong to mislabel something just for the appearance of success.

However, regardless of the label you put on it, it’s clear that there are at the very least five people who know who shot Robert Tapia. They were there surrounding the car and in many states, they’d be held just as guilty as if they pulled the trigger since they aren’t coming forward. And no matter what the law says about it, it’s people like this that help criminals stay on the street. These are the people who make it possible for someone to think they can shoot someone and get away with it. And it’s these kinds of people we need to get through to if we’re going to make any changes.

When it comes to being a witness to a crime, the addage that ‘if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem’ is very true. I realize this is rarely an easy thing. Movies, television, and society at large tells us that no one likes a rat. And at the very least, when you’re making a statement to police about a crime, you are betraying and exposing a criminal. But sometimes it’s worse that that. Sometimes it’s a relative or a friend. It’s not an easy thing to do, but not doing it isn’t just a crime, it’s a sin. And I don’t mean in some Christian fundamentalist you’ll-go-to-hell sort of way. I mean it marks you. To witness something you know and feel is wrong and not go to the authorities is to put yourself against the common good and against the people of the city you live in. It is this behavior that allows the true criminals to thrive.

Yes, there are consequences to becoming a witness. But really that’s true whether you say anything to the police or not. The only question you need to ask yourself is are you for or against Tacoma being a better place?

Rest in peace, Robert Tapia. Here’s hoping those who know the identity of your killer do the right thing.

Update 10/24/06:
A warrant was issued late yesterday for Jesus R. Mederos in the murder of Robert Tapia. Court documents say Mederos is the brother of Tapia’s girlfriend, Nancy Aguilar. However friends and family say Mederos was a friend of Tapia’s and not Aguilar’s sister.According to court documents that Aguilar and Tapia had been arguing. Mederos went into the house to get a gun. Nancy saw Mederos with the gun and drove off. Mederos fired hitting Tapia in the Torso. Witnesses to the shooting were questioned and identified Mederos as the shooter. No definite motive was mentioned. Mederos’ current whereabouts are unknown.

Given this new information it’s easy to see why it was not considered ‘gang related’ and is a great example of how easy it is to make assumptions given limited information.