Category Archives: 2019 Homicides

15th Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Jerome Pratt

Jerome Pratt

Sixteen-year-old Jerome Pratt was standing with friends on front porch of a house in the 4600 block of South J Street on July 30th. A minivan drove by. The occupants of the van recognized Jerome. They believed he had threatened two of them in the van previously. They went around the block so that one of them could switch seats. They pulled up on the house and fired seven shots. Six hit the house. One hit Jerome Pratt in the head. He was transported to Tacoma General Hospital where he died of his injuries after fighting for his life for five hours.

This is the fifteenth Tacoma homicide this year. Typically we have roughly half this number of homicides by the end of July.

Tacoma police picked up the shooter along with two accomplices in the van days later. Jerome’s killer has been charged with first degree murder.

Jerome’s friends called him “Junior”. He had a larger than life personality. His family loved him dearly. The murder of and by teenagers are among the most tragic. Teenagers are just figuring out who they are and have yet to become who they could be. We’ll never get to know who Junior might have been. That’s been stolen from his friends and loved ones.

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

There is a GoFundMe set up in Jerome’s name.

– Jack Cameron

14th Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Hashim Wilson

HashimWilson

On the morning of Sunday, July 21nd, 28-year-old Hashim Wilson was pulled over by a Tacoma Police officer near South 40th and G Street. According to police reports Hashim exited the vehicle with a rifle and pointed it at the police officer. When he failed to obey commands, the officer shot him. Hashim was taken to a nearby hospital where he later died of his wounds becoming the fourteenth Tacoma homicide this year.

This is the third Tacoma police involved shooting this year. Willem Van Spronsen was shot just a week earlier, and a 53-year-old homeless woman armed with a knife was non-fatally shot weeks before. Typically there are one or two police involved shootings in Tacoma every year. But like other homicides, police involved shootings seem to be increasing as well.

Hashim and his partner lived in Sammamish.  He had a daughter who was the light of his life. He loved gardening and eating healthy. And he had a habit of putting family and friends above everything.

We may never know the details of Hashim’s last moments. But those who knew him will always remember the impact he had on their lives.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for friends and family of Hashim who want to share thoughts or memories of him.

– Jack Cameron

13th Tacoma Homicide of 2019 Willem Van Spronsen

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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 Spronsen 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 Spronsen 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.

Tenth Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Tyree Jevon Gipson-Faison

Tyree Gipson

On June 3rd at around 2:30am in the 3800 block of South Yakima, Tyree Jevon Gipson-Faison was shot. When police arrived they found a crowd standing around. Some were giving aid to Tyree. Paramedics arrived and transported him to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he died about an hour later from his wounds becoming the tenth Tacoma homicide this year.

There was not much more information about this incident that I could find. No arrests have been made as far as I can tell. The homicide itself received very little coverage and all too often, I don’t have much more to work with than what has been reported. It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a minor homicide. Every murder shatters multiple lives that are changed forever due to the sudden loss. I want to write more but I don’t have more information to share.

I also was unable to find much information about Tyree online. Quite often the only information I’m able to discover is what I can find online and so I have to rely on friends and family to fill in the picture of who he was. This is what the comments section is for.

Tyree’s death is the second homicide this year in this location and the fifth homicide within a block of this location since 2014. After hours clubs in this area have been a problem for years.

Typically by June we have five homicides in the city. This year it’s ten. We are losing too many Tacomans to homicidal violence.

As I mentioned, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim who want to share thoughts or memories of Tyree.

– Jack Cameron

Ninth Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Phyllis Hamilton

Phyllis Hamilton

52-year-old Phyllis Hamilton lived with her two sons (ages 26 and 27) in a house in the 1400 Block of South Madison Street. She was an avid reader and absolutely devoted to her sons.

On the evening of April 29th, something happened inside the house to set off her 27-year-old son. He burst into his brother’s room carrying a shotgun and wearing a bandoleer of shotgun shells. His brother was so afraid that he climbed out the window onto the roof and ran down the alley. The oldest son then set off in his mother’s Cadillac SUV trying to chase down his brother firing at least once.

Police pulled over the SUV and arrested the man. Then they headed back to his mother’s home where they discovered Phyllis Hamilton dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Phyllis is the ninth Tacoma homicide this year.

Phyllis was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. Friends say she was incredibly sweet.

If there is a pattern in the sharp increase in homicides this year, it is the sheer senselessness of the killings. Again and again I find myself writing about a crime that simply should not have happened.

As always, the comment section is moderated and reserved for friends and family who knew Phyllis and want to share memories.

– Jack Cameron