It was 1am on January 5th at 25-year-old Brian Cendejas’s grandmother’s home in the 3800 block of North 21st Street. Brian and a few friends were drinking. One of his friends had a ball of cocaine the size of a softball. There was also a 9mm pistol. A 26-year-old was at least three feet away from Brian when he shot him in the left side of the head. He and two others grabbed the cocaine and ran off. Authorities arrived a short time later. Brian was transported to St. Joseph’s hospital where he later died.
Charging papers say that they made jokes and tried to come up with a credible story as to how Brian got shot. When they were arrested a few days later, they claimed that Brian shot himself, but the evidence and the fact that Brian was right-handed destroyed their claims. Brian’s killer is currently out on bail and has been charged with manslaughter.
Brian Cendajas was the first homicide of 2020. He was also a friend of my son’s. They used to skate together. My son says he was always a friendly guy and someone he really enjoyed spending time with. He had an infectious laugh. And he loved skating. Who and what he may have become later in life we will never know as that has been stolen from us.
As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Brian and want to share thoughts or memories of him. There is a GoFundMe page set up for Brian’s family. Please donate if you have the means.
On the evening of October 18th, 52-year-old Dung Mai was working on a house with a 46-year-old friend. The two had known each other most of their lives. Dung had lived with his friend’s family for years. Many described them as close as brothers. Neighbors report hearing the two arguing about money. A little after 8:30pm, Dung’s friend shot him in the head, killing him. Dung Mai is the twenty-second Tacoma homicide of 2019.
When Dung was found, he had $2,000 in cash on him and a plane ticket to Vietnam. It’s not known if these items have anything to do with his death. His friend was arrested for Dung’s murder shortly after police arrived.
Dung Mai’s murder is also the ninth domestic violence related homicide in 2019. Domestic violence homicides are the most common kind of killing in Tacoma.
I was unable to learn to much about Dung Mai and was not able to locate a photograph of him. As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew the Dung Mai and would like to share thoughts or memories of him. Also, if one of his loved ones has a photo of him they’d like me to include in this article, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The day before his death, 38-year-old Jahleen Mitchell got $50 from his mother and gave half of it to a homeless man in need. He was a former military police officer and was planning on being a commercial pilot. On the afternoon of September 5th he had an altercation with a 40-year-old man in People’s Park near South 10th and L Streets. It isn’t known how the altercation started. What is known is that Jahleen did his best to avoid the conflict, running into the park. A knife fell from his backpack while he was running. The man chasing him picked it up. Jahleen lost his footing and fell. His attacker stabbed him and punched him repeatedly. Jahleen managed to get back to his feet and headed towards a nearby convenience store where other pedestrians tried to help him. Jahleen’s attacker then ran off. Jahleen was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he later died from his wounds becoming the twentieth Tacoma homicide of 2019.
Jahleen’s attacker was later arrested and charged with first and second degree murder. If he’s convicted he will spend the rest of his life behind bars thanks to Washington’s ‘Three Strikes’ law and two previous convictions for violent crimes.
This sort of homicide is the very definition of senseless. Even the attacker’s father admits this never should have happened. For the first time in over a decade we’ve had more twenty homicides in a year.
Jahleen was born in Jamaica but moved with his family to Tacoma at the age of six. He graduated from Mt. Tahoma High School and was the proud father of an eight-year-old daughter. His family meant everything to him and his generosity was one of his defining traits. It’s impossible to overstate the impact Jahleen’s murder will have with his family and friends. It’s the sort of damage one only understands if they’ve lost someone in a similar manner.
As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for friends and family of Jahleen.
Around 2:30am on September 1st, 2019, two people were shot in the 6300 block of McKinley Avenue. Neighbors called about hearing gunshots, but by the time police arrived both individuals had been transported to a hospital in private cars. One of them was 23-year-old Davontre Denzell Robinson-Harris. Though he made it to the hospital, he did not survive his injuries. He is the 19th Tacoma Homicide of 2019.
There are few details of Davontre’s death. And police have yet to make an arrest as far as I can tell. One of the difficulties of writing about Tacoma homicides when the crime rate is increasing is that the media tends to focus less on the crime regardless of the severity. What someone in the media sees is an East Side shooting of an African American man in an area known for gangs. They don’t pay attention to the fact that Davontre had five children who now do not have a father. They’re too busy looking at the next story.
I think about those five children. And I think about Davontre’s family and friends. When I’m writing these articles I try my best to keep me out of it and focus on the victim. I apologize for interjecting myself in this instance, but it’s the murders where there is a lack of information, where the media is all but ignoring that it happened, that remind me why I do this. I’m writing this months later because this is an emotionally taxing thing that I do. And I know it’s just a tiny sliver compared to what Davontre’s people are going through.
There is a GoFundMe account set up in Davontre’s name. All of the money goes to his mother. https://www.gofundme.com/f/davontre039s-funeral
As always, the comment section is reserved for those who knew Davontre and want to share thoughts of memories of him.
On the evening of August 19th, 18-year-old Chase Seibold had just left a casino with his uncle when he asked to stop and talk with a group of people he knew near East 32nd and East R street. The group and Chase argued and yelled. A delusional 26-year-old homeless man mistakenly thought the yelling was directed at him. He pulled out a shotgun he would later tell police he found in a park and opened fire hitting both Chase and his uncle. Chase’s uncle survived. Unfortunately Chase died from his wounds becoming the 18th Tacoma homicide this year.
Police used a K-9 to find the homeless man hiding under a vehicle in a nearby backyard and arrested him. The man did not know Chase or his uncle.
It’s difficult to process random violence like this. Chase was only 18 years old. We are denied the experience of what or who he could have been. He has a young son who will grow up with no memory of his father. His family and friends will never be the same and yet Chase made no deadly mistake.
Though it is only August, we’ve already matched the amount of homicides we had in all of last year. People in neighborhoods like Tacoma’s East Side have gotten used to the sound of gunshots on a nightly basis. And it’s getting worse. One of the difficulties we have with increased violent crime is remembering that each number and statistic comes with a human cost that can’t truly be calculated.
We can count the number of homicides. We might even be able to count the friends, family, and loved ones of the victims. But we cannot know the number of lives someone like Chase would have touched had he not been murdered. We cannot know what we’ve lost as a community with each act of violence.
As always the comment section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Chase and want to share memories of him.
38-year-old Lawrence Jeffries was a family man. When the mother of his sixteen-year-old daughter called him from a Lake Tapps gathering on the night of Saturday, August 3rd saying that her 36-year-old boyfriend was yet again causing problems and she wanted to be picked up, Lawrence drove over to pick her up. When he got there, the boyfriend got in his face and started a fight. Lawrence won that fight and picked up his ex.
Hours later, Lawrence’s sixteen-year-old daughter called saying the boyfriend was at their house in the 2000 block of East 44th Street and that he wanted the girl’s mother to come home and to bring Lawrence with her. The boyfriend claimed he just wanted to talk.
When they arrived, Lawrence and the boyfriend talked briefly before the boyfriend pulled a pistol from behind his back and shot Lawrence twice. He then fled in a car, running Lawrence over in the process.
Police quickly arrested the boyfriend who has a lengthy criminal record and has been charged with first degree murder.
Lawrence had five children and by all accounts was a man dedicated to his family. He was a good man and a good father. It is impossible to overstate the impact of his loss to his children, his family, and his friends.
As always, the comment section is moderated and reserved for family and friends who want to share thoughts or memories of Lawrence.
– Jack Cameron
Sixteen-year-old Jemone 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 Jemone 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 fourteenth 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. Jemone’s killer has been charged with first degree murder.
Jemone’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
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 thirteenth 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
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 twelfth 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.
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