On the night of Wednesday January 4th, 31-year-old Theresa Greenhalgh and 22-year-old Mary Buras were in an upstairs bedroom of a house in the 3700 block of Yakima Ave. near Lincoln Park. A 36-year-old man was doing heroin in the room. The man’s 36-year-old sister and 15-year-old nephew were also in the house. At some point the man began hearing voices and yelling at Theresa. He would later say voices were telling him to kill her. He attacked her with his fists and a framing hammer. When his sister got in the way, he hit her as well. His sister and nephew left the house. The man then proceeded to attack both women, using a hatchet to behead them. His sister and nephew returned to the house the next day. Charging papers state that they helped the man clean up. On the night of the 6th they started a fire in the house in an attempt to cover up the crime. All three have been arrested.
This is Tacoma’s first two homicides this year. Theresa Greenhalgh leaves behind three children, ages ranging from five-months-old to nine-years-old. It is easy to get caught up in the gruesome details of a crime like this and forget that this is not a movie or television show, but two people who were here in Tacoma on New Year’s Day and have been taken from this world against their will. These murders will echo in the lives of dozens of friends and relatives for years. It is difficult to overstate the damage done on both a personal and community level when crimes like this occur.
As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew the victims and want to share thoughts or memories of the victims. The comments section moderated and each comment is approved before it is published.
Mary Buras has a CrowdFunding Page to help pay for her cremation.
– Jack Cameron
38-year-old Bruce Randall Johnson II did not have a good day on November 30th. He had been fired from his job as a barber and Sam & Terry’s barber shop up on Tacoma’s Hilltop where he had worked for the last eight months. He had gotten into an argument with his wife in which he had locked her out of the house they shared in the 400 block of East 52nd Street. When police knocked on the door he did not answer. When the landlord unlocked the door, he and his two children, an eight-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son, were on the third floor. When a police officer came up the stairs, Bruce opened fire, killing him.
It is unknown what exactly caused Bruce to behave the way he did on November 30th. In recent weeks friends and coworkers say he had become increasingly volatile. In mid-November he was spotted dressed as a plainclothes police officer at the Tacoma Mall, wearing a Sheriff’s cap and carrying a rifle case. He had been fired from the barbershop for altercations with customers and disagreements with staff.
Multiple people who knew him called said that Bruce was ‘troubled’. We will likely never know the mental state he was in or what caused him to take the actions that he did. We do know that there were people who enjoyed his company.
During the eleven hour standoff, Bruce would refuse to leave the house, at times using his children as human shields, at other times firing his guns at unknown targets. At one point his son was near the front door and a SWAT team member removed him from the house. Near 3:30am, a Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy outside the house fired one round through a window killing Bruce Johnson.
Bruce Johnson is the seventeenth Tacoma homicide this year and the second police involved shooting this year. TacomaStories treats police involved shootings like we treat any other homicides. This is because we operate under the concept that no one should be judged by their worst actions alone.
As always the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Bruce and want to share thoughts of memories of him.
If a family member or friend has a different photo they would like me to use for this site, you can send it to email@example.com.
– Jack Cameron
Ask most police officers and they will tell you that the most dangerous calls are Domestic Violence calls. For this reason at least two officers must respond to any Domestic Violence call. 45-year-old Tacoma Police Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez had responded to hundreds of these calls in his 17 years in the Department. When it came to domestic disputes Jake was known as someone with a lot of success in deescalating situations. On the afternoon of November 30th, Jake and another officer responded to a call at a three-story house in the 400 block of East 52nd Street.
An animal control officer had encountered a very upset woman. Her husband had locked her out of the house. The animal control officer contacted the police. Jake and his partner knocked on the door, but there was no answer.
They contacted the landlord to get a key. The landlord knocked on the door saying they were going to unlock the door. Jake started going up the stairs to talk to the man and check on the couple’s two children, a six-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter. Jake yelled, “Get out!” to his partner and the man’s wife as three shots were fired, followed by three more.
Jake was hit multiple times. His partner returned fire and got the man’s wife out of harm’s way. Jake would later die at Tacoma General Hospital. After an 11-hour stand-off the man responsible for his death was killed by a Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy.
Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez is the 16th Tacoma homicide this year and the 11th officer to die in the line of duty in the history of the Tacoma Police Department. This is the first TPD officer killing since I started TacomaStories back in 2006. The last one was in 1997.
Jake spent most of his career on Tacoma’s East Side in the same neighborhood he gave his life protecting. He would attend community meetings. Many locals knew him by name. He had three children, a grandchild, and he was engaged to be married. By all accounts Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez was the textbook definition of a good cop.
Jake had a quick wit and could be very funny. His demeanor helped him defuse tense situations. Colleagues say that on a domestic violence call, Jake was the officer you wanted with you. He will be missed by his brothers and sisters in uniform, his friends, his family, and this city he chose to serve.
As always the comments section is moderated. All comments must be approved. The comment section is reserved for those who knew Jake and want to share thoughts or memories of him.
– Jack Cameron
In the early morning hours of Friday, November 11th, 23-year-old Morgan Deines and an unidentified male friend were near North Junett and North 7th Street. It was just after 2am, when all the bars close. According to statements from Morgan’s friend, they were prowling cars when they found a drunk 28-year-old man asleep in the driver’s seat of a car. They opened the driver’s side door and took his cellphone. They were in the process of taking speakers out of his trunk when he woke up. Morgan’s friend ran towards 6th Avenue. Morgan got into her black Lexus SUV in an attempt to drive away. Moments later Morgan’s friend heard four gunshots. All four gunshots from the 28-year-old’s gun hit Morgan’s vehicle. One shot hit Morgan in the back of the head. Her vehicle continued for about a block before stopping when it bumped into a parked car. Morgan would die a short time later at the hospital becoming Tacoma’s fifteenth homicide this year.
It is worth noting that while Tacoma tends to have a fairly open policy on using lethal force to protect yourself or your property, it does require that you be in potential danger. Firing a gun at a fleeing car does not qualify. Shooting someone in the back of the head is murder.
Police arrested the 28-year-old man on the 22nd. During that time there was precious little released to the public about the case. Typically when only a small amount of information is available it is either because the police genuinely have nothing or they have something they are actively working on. In this case it appears it was the latter. I do not consider this site a ‘news’ site and do not write about homicides until I feel I have sufficient information to do so. This is why this entry is two weeks after the incident.
As long time readers will know, I believe that an individual should be judged by more than their last actions. There are those who may think that someone who is thought to be a thief deserves whatever consequences occur. To those I ask that they recall their own worst actions and see that we all have made bad decisions at one time or another. More to the point, regardless of those actions and decisions everyone has friends and loved ones who now have a hole in their life where their friend used to be.
Morgan Pahkala Deines was born in Eugene, Oregon. She had a love of water and weather. She enrolled at Oregon State University to study Atmospheric Science. Nothing would excite her more than a thunder storm. Later she came to Tacoma where her mother lives. She had many tattoos and piercings and loved to express herself. She had an outgoing personality that tended to be infectious. When she was younger, she was a Girl Scout and volunteered at a food bank called Food For Lane County.
As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Morgan and want to share memories of her. All comments are moderated and approved by me before they appear. Inappropriate comments will be deleted.
– Jack Cameron
32-year-old Dustin Kopp lived under the Highway 16 overpass by Cedar Street with other homeless individuals. On Tuesday October 18th, a man asked him to watch his stuff while he was gone. When the man returned his stuff was gone. Dustin told him who the thief was. Later the alleged thief confronted Dustin. He hit Dustin with a baseball bat and shot him with a BB gun. The BB managed to pierce his heart. Dustin was dead within minutes. The hole from the BB was so small that it wasn’t until the medical examiner found it that the authorities realized it was a homicide. Police quickly located and arrested the shooter who confessed to the killing.
Dustin Kopp is Tacoma’s thirteenth homicide this year. If it were not for the unusual manner of death, it’s likely that this particular homicide would not have even been reported in mainstream media. Indeed, a recent article about the increase in violence in Tacoma in the last few weeks did not even mention this one.
I could not find much online about Dustin, but I know from experience that there are those who knew him and cared about him. From time to time I will receive emails from old friends of homeless individuals who were killed. They will say that my article is the only thing they could find on the individual.
That is one of the reasons I started writing about homicides in the first place. I wanted to at least share what happened to the people taken from our city. I don’t have the time or resources to write their full life story, but I think the least I can do is write how it ended.
As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew the victim. Also, if anyone has a photo they would like to share of Dustin, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terry Northcutt at his daughter’s wedding.
Voravangso ‘Two’ Phanmana
Typically when a homicide happens in Tacoma I wait for the name of the victim to be released and for the authorities and other media outlets to report what happened. Sometimes I am unable to do that because the only people who know what happened are dead or murderers.
Around 1:00am on Friday, October 14th neighbors reported hearing multiple gunshots in the 3600 block of Portland Avenue East. They found 61-year-old Terry Northcutt and 45-year-old Voravangso ‘Two’ Phanmana dead of gunshot wounds in the yard of a house where Voravangso lived. Terry occasionally stayed there as well. Terry and Voravangso are the eleventh and twelfth Tacoma homicides this year. Neither man had a significant criminal history. More than a week after the shooting the possible motive as well as the person or people responsible is unknown.
Voravangso had a mother and an 11-year-old daughter. Terry had a daughter who got married a couple of years ago.
The loss felt by the family and friends of these men is only increased by the mystery of their demise. Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of anyone responsible. If you have any information about anything that happened in that area on the night of October 13th or the early morning hours of October 14th contact Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).
If you would like to share thoughts or memories of Terry or Voravangso, you can leave a comment on this post. Every comment is moderated. Any inappropriate comments will be deleted.
– Jack Cameron
On the evening of July 10th 59-year-old Emmitt Taylor Jr. was drinking at a homeless camp with a woman he knew near the 1100 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way. They were joined by a 24-year-old man. At some point the man and Emmitt got into an argument. The argument got loud but eventually Emmitt chose to walk away. The other man followed. Emmitt was found a short distance away bleeding from the head. He was dead when paramedics arrived.
The 24-year-old man has been arrested and charged with first degree manslaughter.
This is Tacoma’s eighth homicide this year. And the second one that went virtually unreported by the press until someone was charged with his killing. Unfortunately, I was unable to find out much about Emmitt. This I have found is quite common with the homeless population. They rarely leave a digital footprint, but they are every bit as worthy of remembrance.
Associated Ministries is performing a moment of blessing at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and South 11th Street today, July 20th from 3:30pm -3:45pm
Emmitt’s only daughter contacted me and provided the photo above. She said he did all he could as a father and grandfather. He will be missed.
As always the comments section is reserved for friends and family who knew him to share any thought or memories they might like to share.
– Jack Cameron