Monthly Archives: December 2019

13th Tacoma Homicide of 2019 Willem Van Sporsen

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Less than three miles from where I’m writing this there sits a for-profit prison capable of housing 1,575 individuals, most of whom are in the Northwest Detention Center at 1600 East J Street simply for not being in this country legally. While one might be able to debate the merits of the immigration system, there is no moral argument to be made that incarceration should be something others profit off of.

It’s the sort of thing that can bother a person. Willem Van Sporsen was such a person. 65-years-ols, a former member of the John Brown Gun Club, a self-described anarchist, with a history of protesting what he felt was wrong came to the end of his rope in the early morning hours of July 11th. Armed with a rifle, flares, and other incendiary devices, Willem arrived at the Northwest Detention Center to cause trouble. Specifically he wanted to damage the vehicles ferrying prisoners in and out of the prison.

He successfully caught a vehicle on fire. Soon police arrived. There was an exchange of gunfire and Willem Van Sporsen was shot and killed by four Tacoma Police officers becoming the thirteenth Tacoma homicide this year.

Willem lived on Vashon Island and was an avid activist. Shortly before he was killed, Willem sent out a three page manifesto saying that he saw the Northwest Detention Center as a symbol of rising fascism and lamenting that he would likely be killed in his action. It isn’t difficult for me to understand the motivations of Willem. It is also not difficult to understand the actions of the police officers. What was likely most unknowable for Willem was the impact the loss of his life is having now to his friends and his family.

When something like this happens, it is easy to get swept up in the headlines and forget about the individual impact the loss of a man’s life has on those who knew him. Though Willem’s loss is hurtful, there is perhaps some solace in the fact that he was killed doing what he’d done all his life, standing up for what he believed in.

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

– Jack

12th Tacoma Homicide of 2019 Gardner Bee Chittenden

Gardner Bee Chittenden

On the afternoon of July 10th, 18-year-old Gardner Bee Chittenden was with a 22-year-old friend in the 8000 block of South Thompson Ave. It was just after 3:30pm when that 22-year-old fatally shot Gardner. Gardner was taken to the hospital. His friend was arrested. Gardner later died of his injuries becoming the twelfth homicide this year. His friend was later released after the prosecutor declined to press charges pending further investigation, saying it was an accidental shooting.

The friends and family of Gardner Bee Chittenden did not get a long time to spend with him in this life, but by all accounts Gardner put his all into living it. He was a skater who never let a skinned knee or a bruised elbow stop him from getting back on the board. He was close with his mother and protected his sister. Gardner Bee Chittenden was a teenager you remember.

Firearms are part of our culture in this country. All too often, our indulgence in our culture makes us forget the deadly and permanent nature of a gun.

As always the comment section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Gardner and want to share thoughts or memories of him. There is a GoFundMe set up for his family at this link.

– Jack

11th Tacoma Homicide of 2019 Jennifer Forsman

Jennifer Forsman

The twelve-year-old girl could hear her parents arguing on the early Sunday morning of June 9th. This wasn’t new. Her parents had divorced two and half years ago. They slept in separate bedrooms in a house in the 500 block of East 75th Street. Her and two of her older sisters all lived under one roof. Her father was upset that her mother was in a new relationship. By 6:15am, she’d gone out to the living room where they were fighting. At some point her father got a gun. He shot her mother once in the arm and once in the head and shot himself. The twelve year old girl took her siblings to the neighbor’s house and called 9-1-1. Police arrived and found that the bullet had ricocheted off her father’s head. He could make a full recovery.  Her mother on the other hand was dead. 37-year-old Jennifer Forsman is the eleventh Tacoma homicide this year.

The man who shot Jennifer was arrested and successfully hung himself while in custody four weeks later.

Jennifer was the mother of four daughters, ages 12-19. She worked as a barista at a University Place Starbucks where she’d been for over a decade. Family members say she was always a very positive person who tended to see the best in people. She was well liked and a good mother.

Whenever I tell people that I write about Tacoma homicides they tend to respond by saying, “A lot of gang shootings, right?” But the truth is that situations like the one that led to Jennifer Forsman’s murder are much more common when it comes to homicide. Domestic violence is one of the biggest dangers we tend to ignore.

I don’t know why Jennifer and her ex-husband lived together. It may have been as simple as the rent in Tacoma rising too fast for either to afford places of their own. Perhaps they wanted to live together for the children. Whatever the case, it is a tragedy that there wasn’t more help available for her. Domestic situations are never simple and solutions are rarely easy.*

I can’t imagine what the Forsmans’ children and families are going through. There is a fundraiser set up for the Forsman family at this link.

The comments section is reserved for friends and family of Jennifer Forsman who might want to share thoughts or memories of her. All comments are moderated and approved before they post.

-Jack

*If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence contact the Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or click here.