Category Archives: Tacoma History

Second Tacoma Homicide of 2012: Wayne Williams

On March 18 or 19th Wayne Williams entered a room in a house on the 2300 block of Tacoma Avenue South. It was the last place he’d be seen alive. He was 54 years old. He was there with a 27-year-old acquaintance named John Jones who lived with his mother. Jones and Williams did drugs together according to Jones’ statement. On Tuesday March 20th, Jones slept out on the couch rather than in his room. The following day Jones’ mother went into his room after smelling a fowl odor. There she found the body of Wayne Williams. His head and legs had been severed with a handsaw and placed into bags.

Jones has offered various scenarios as to how Williams died. Evidence shows that Wayne tried to fight off his attacked and was eventually strangled to death.

The death of Wayne Williams marks the first homicide in a few weeks for the city of Tacoma. Unfortunately, at this time there isn’t a lot of information about who Wayne Williams was or why he met such a gruesome end. Prosecutors say that the severing of his legs and hands would have taken hours with the handsaw the found in Jones’ room.

As always, if you knew Wayne Williams, the comment section is for you to share your memories of him. I moderate the comments to avoid unwelcome or offensive comments.

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5 Question Friday With Tamara Clammer From Brown Paper Tickets

Just a couple of blocks down from the Tacoma Dome, you’ll find a gigantic building with interesting shops. It’s like a mall, if malls had people in them that cared about working there. Freighthouse Square has always been a place for artistic or creative sorts to sell their stuff. It has gone through many changes over the years. The one thing that hasn’t changed is that there are people passionate about the place. Tamara Clammer is one of those people. She’s put together something called the I CAN! Celebration and I think it’s something readers will be interested in.

1. What is the I CAN! Celebration?

I CAN ! is a free, family-oriented, interactive arts event on Saturday, March 31st in the Rainier Room and some of the currently available spaces at Freighthouse Square. This event is being created by the community, for the community, by combining resources that are already available within the community.

My primary goal is to help revitalize Freighthouse Square while simultaneously creating a way to interact with artists and crafters that focuses on inspiration and the creative process rather than just admiring and purchasing a finished product.

My secondary goal is to test the theory that an exciting event can be created with little or no budget simply by gathering together and each of us providing a bit of what we have to offer.

Many of Freighthouse Square’s merchants and local artists are joining together, and we are hoping you will join us, too.

City Blocks will be setting up a large LEGO sculpture and an interactive LEGO and DUPLO building area as the centerpiece for this event. Lucy Schwartz from the Freighthouse Art Gallery will be teaching watercolor painting demos. Just Sage will Emcee and perform a set of comedic magic. Heidi Stoermer will be singing and playing acoustic music. Ryan Henry Ward will be storytelling and painting. Dayton Knipher will share her artistic photography with us and explain how to get the best results from a digital camera. Sharon McBride will be reading Tarot. Suni Cook Boucher will share her talents for creating beautiful artwork from items that might otherwise be recycled or, worse, thrown away. Brown Paper Tickets will be sponsoring a Scavenger Hunt that will explore all of the merchants’ shops at Freighthouse Square. There will also be games of Giant Checkers, using the permanently installed dance floor and traffic cones. Boxcar Grill will be catering the green room for our participants. And, www.NorthwestAuthors.org  will be joining us at Freighthouse Square for their Spring Book Fair. They will share the stage with us to read excerpts from their works. Other artists may be joining us for live painting during the event.

2. What is your first memory of Freighthouse Square?

I first came to Washington in 1987, when I was stationed at Fort Lewis. Growing up in a town of 300 in the cornfields of Illinois, Freighthouse Square was my first real exposure to diversity, arts, culture and the first real sense of community. This is where I tried my first Indian, Greek, Vietnamese, German and Filipino foods, where I saw stiltwalkers in real life at a Mardi Gras event in the food court, where I first discovered the artwork of Jody Bergsma, metaphysical concepts and tools, artwork that was created by adults for the purpose of making art rather than students simply as a high school elective, and where I saw an entire room full of antiques that, along with the whistle and rumble of a train passing by, made me feel at home. I recognized plates that my grandma had, glasses from the 50’s that were my mom’s favorites, strange things, beautiful things, so many interesting things in one place that it was as if I’d entered a completely new and yet somehow familiar world.

3. Why did you start the I CAN! Celebration?

In early January, I wandered through Freighthouse Square for the first time in several years and was initially disappointed to see that so many of the spaces were empty and that part of the building was closed off for repairs. After meeting Lucy Schwartz at the Freighthouse Art Gallery and talking a bit about what could be done to help, she provided me with the contact information for the new property manager, Lonee Peschon. While meeting with Lonee, we decided that a free community event would help bring new life and energy to the building. Not wanting to compete with the merchants by selling things, and not having a budget to work with, I began asking people if they would like to participate, pro bono, in an interactive community art day. I am able to put time, energy and passion into this project because I am a part of Brown Paper Ticket’s community service outreach program, called “the Doers.”  My specialization is to do things to help the arts and the Maker community to grow and thrive. Through my job, I am free to be a force of positive change.  While typing out a preliminary plan for the Freighthouse Square event, I abbreviated this as ICAD. My partner, Just Sage, said, “It’s too bad you can’t think of something that starts with N, because then it would be I CAN!” And so, the word Day was replaced with Network and the 1st Annual Interactive Community Arts Network (I CAN!) began to take shape. But what is the network, you ask?

All of us, together!

4. What can people do to help?

We still have room for more artists, crafters, and performers who are interested in providing hands-on experiences, whether it’s showing someone how to sculpt with clay, knit or crochet a scarf, weave a rug, spin yarn, needlefelt, turn an iPhone into a tabletop robot, entertain by breaking the 4th wall, or in whatever way someone might feel compelled to share what they make or do with the community. If you’d like to participate, please e-mail me at Tamara@BrownPaperTickets.com.

People can also help us advertise I CAN by telling their friends and bringing their families. We’ll be open from 10am-4pm, and the schedule will be posted at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/231586 .

They can also follow Freighthouse Square (Official) on Facebook for updates, and return to Freighthouse Square often to shop for gifts, eat lunch, or just relax and stroll through the Art Gallery.

5. What do you see for the future of Freighthouse Square?

I see a lot of potential. I walk past the vacant storefronts but in my imagination I see a fruits and vegetables stand on the south end near Boxcar Grill. In the rooms along the way towards the food court I see a small fabric store that carries colorful bolts in fun patterns, yarn, knitting and crochet needles, notions, patterns, and classes to help get you started. I see a bookstore that specializes in the works of local authors with periodic readings and signings, and that offers workshops on how to get your own works published.

Past the food court I see an antique shop full of dishes, jewelry, small furniture, and home décor that I recall from my childhood. I see a clothing consignment store where you can support your neighbors while selecting a new spring wardrobe. I see a joke and magic shop that entertains shoppers as they browse. I see a crystal shop with an intuitive healer. I see that there is a new German restaurant, and that they have marzipan in the display case. And further down the hall, I see Freighthouse Handmade, a Co-Op full of puppets, doll houses, scarves, masks, handbags, wooden train sets, upcycled cans that are now lighting fixtures, flowers and candle holders, cards, journals, candies, yard art, and jewelry made from watch parts.

What do YOU see?

If you can see it in your imagination, you can make it into a reality. Just think:

I CAN!

I CAN

… make art!

… make friends!

… make a difference!

See you on March 31st!

Tamara Clammer is a Doer at Brown Paper Tickets. Brown Paper Tickets believes in giving back to the communities where we live, work and do business, being a good neighbor and operating Not Just For Profit.  Tamera’s mission is to help Makers share their knowledge with the world. She also helps people become Makers by facilitating workshops, collaborative projects, and art installations.  Write to her at Tamara@BrownPaperTickets.com

I’d like to thank Tamara for participating in 5 Question Friday. I hope everyone reading this can make it to the I CAN! Celebration. The more people that show up, the more fun it will be.  As always, if you or someone you know wants to participate in 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

Update: I’ve been informed that Tacoma’s mayor, Marilyn Strickland is planning on putting in appearance at the I CAN! Celebration. 

5 Question Friday with Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland

I’ve been extremely lucky when it comes to 5 Question Friday. Very few people I’ve asked to participate have turned me down. Still, I have to admit I was surprised when the Mayor of Tacoma took time out of her busy schedule to answer five questions for a blog that’s been around for less than a year. This is just another example of how cool Marilyn Strickland is.

1. What is your favorite part of being mayor of Tacoma?

Mayor is the best job in politics. One thing I enjoy is the privilege of serving as the ambassador for our city regionally, nationally and internationally.  I am most honored to have the opportunity to visit schools and speak to students. My favorite visit so far was with a second grade class at my alma-mater, Edison Elementary. The students were inquisitive, funny, bright and a reminder of why some of us choose public service.

2. What do you feel is the people misunderstand the most about the mayor’s office?

Great question. Many people don’t distinguish among the silos of government and think that everything ranging from schools to the Port to jails are under my direct jurisdiction. I’ve had residents contact me about a variety of issues such as child custody battles and health care billing. I once received a call at 10pm on Christmas Eve regarding a car illegally parked on a lawn strip.

3. What is your view on the Occupy Tacoma movement?

To the credit of the organizers of Tacoma’s Occupy movement and the Tacoma Police Department, the relationship has mostly been peaceful, mutually respectful and not rife with staged confrontations to create media events and generate controversial headlines.  This movement has inspired some participants to attend city council meetings and testify about issues related to city government.   I sincerely hope the participants will occupy voter registration drives, occupy voting ballots and occupy social service organizations as volunteers to help strengthen our community.

 4. Where would you take a first-time visitor of Tacoma?

Point Defiance, one of America’s most spectacular urban parks.  Stanley and Seaforts, dining with one of the best views of the city.  A show at the Pantages Theater, Tacoma’s most beautiful historic building.  1022 South, cocktails and interesting clientele where old-school meets modern.

5. Where do you think Tacoma could improve?

Tacoma’s self image is finally improving. Some folks, however, need to understand that people come and go all the time.  Businesses succeed, businesses fail and sometimes they just move on.  Instead of over-reacting to departures or interpreting them as some indictment of our community, consider them part of the natural ebb and flow of life in any city.  Stay focused on what’s next. Tacoma is an inclusive, vibrant city with amazing people and strong assets. Great things are happening every day and there is more to come. Keep calm, carry on and love the one you’re with.

I really can’t thank Mayor Strickland enough for participating in 5 Question Friday. As always, if you or anyone you know wants to be part of 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

–          Jack Cameron

Art, Ballet, Flamenco and Dirty Rock

Flamenco Master Jesus Montoya

There is always something going on in Tacoma. It’s one of my favorite things about the place. No matter what you’re into, there’s a good chance you can find it somewhere in Tacoma.

Here are just a few options coming up in the next few days:

Thursday December 15th  6:00pm – 9:00pm

THE ART BUS

Angela Jossy, the self-described Duchess of Downtown has made the Art Bus a monthly event that is always memorable. Tickets are $10. The Art Bus boards at 5:45pm and takes a tour of local art exhibits. She puts this on every third Thursday of the month. At last count, there were 11 seats still available.

For more information, go to http://tacomaartbus.com

Friday, December 16th  8:30pm – 11:30pm    

Flamenco singer Jesus Montoya with guitarist Pedro Cortes and dancer Savannah Fuentes

At The New Frontier Lounge 301 E. 25th Street

This is something special. Jesus Montoya has never played Tacoma before. If you’re interested in Flamenco music or have never experienced it, this is for you. And the New Frontier has a close and friendly atmosphere. There’s not a bad seat in the place.Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at this link: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/213666

For more information on The New Frontier: http://www.thenewfrontierlounge.com/  

Saturday, December 17th 9:00pm – Late

Midnight Salvage Company, Ten Miles of Bad Road, & Devil on a Leash

At O’Malley’s 2403 6th Ave.

You want a loud bar with good drinks and great music? This is the time and place. Three great Tacoma bands all on the same night and there’s NO COVER CHARGE. There’s not much more you can ask for on a Saturday night.  Ten Miles of Bad Road just completed their tour where they brought their dirty Southern rock to small bars up and down the West Coast. If music was violence Ten Miles of Bad Road would be a bar fight. Midnight Salvage Company brings the sort of rock that should still be on the radio. It’s good solid rebel rock with just a bit of asshole. Then there’s Devil on a Leash with a sound that reminds me of the last bar on a long night that no one will remember too clearly.

December 17th & December 18th at 3pm

Tacoma Ballet’s The Nutcracker

There are plenty of Nutcracker performances all over. However, Tacoma City Ballet’s is set apart as the sole production in the area to follow the story, scenic design, costuming and choreography as it was originally created by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

Tickets range in prices from $19 – $60 and can be purchased at

 http://www.broadwaycenter.org/

And that’s just a few of the things going on in the next four days. Tacoma is about as diverse as any city in the world. And it’s all right here. People ask me why I love Tacoma, it’s because of things like these.

– Jack Cameron

About My Tacoma Homicide Posts

Originally, I started writing about homicides in Tacoma because of Tacoma’s reputation as a city of crime. Tacoma has a long and colorful history of crime and corruption. That history continues, but when it comes to homicides, Tacoma really isn’t as dangerous as it used to be. Crime rates have dropped significantly since the 1990s. My original purpose was to show that there really aren’t that many homicides in Tacoma. Usually about one a month.

Since most media reports tend to focus on the killer, I chose to focus instead on the victim. Personally, I don’t think killing someone should make you a household name. So whenever possible, I don’t mention the name of the killer. Another aspect of it is that the victim is usually forgotten and little if anything is written about who the person was. I wanted to write about these people who could no longer share their story, whatever their story was.

Soon after I started doing this, I found a new purpose in writing about these murders. I found that friends and relatives of the victim would often contact me. Some would be old friends who hadn’t seen the victim in years and only found out they had died through a Google search that found my site. Others would be mothers, wives, fathers and children of the victim. It became clear that what I was doing mattered to some people.

There was also the flipside of that coin. Particularly when gangs were involved, I’d get other messages. I’d get threatening emails. Once I got one with information only someone directly involved with the killing would have known. I forwarded that one on to the police. At the time, it occurred to me that while some liked what I was doing there were others who didn’t and some of those others were killers. And so I stopped for a few years.

During that time, I’d occasionally reread the emails from the friends and relatives of victims. I was contacted by one who asked me if I could find the name of the person who killed a woman a few years ago. It took a bit of research since I don’t mention killers, but the person who wrote me wanted to know who killed her mother. I sent her the information I had. I was reminded that what it comes down to is that the victims can no longer tell their story and someone should.

I started writing about Tacoma homicides again in 2011. I plan on continuing to do so for the foreseeable future. Because there have to be limits on something like this, I only write about homicides that occur in the city limits of Tacoma. I include police involved shootings because I am told that they are counted in official homicide statistics and because those victims have a story too. I don’t include vehicular homicides because they are much more difficult to write about. Often charges aren’t filed until much later, and writing about everyone who is killed in a car accident in Tacoma goes a bit outside of what this is for.

When writing about these crimes, I use whatever information is available to me at the time. I read newspaper articles, news sites and television news broadcasts. I also use whatever personal knowledge I might have of the victim, the area or any other information I might have. Whenever possible, I try to write it with a sympathetic ear towards the victim. This year, that’s been a bit difficult. There were two police involved shootings and two instances where a homeowner shot intruders in their house. While it’s debatable whether they were justifiable or not, there were no charges filed in these cases and in each of them, it’s understandable why events occurred the way they did.

I’m not a reporter. I’m not objective. I do have an opinion on each homicide I write about. I try not to let that influence me too much, but it’s impossible to keep my bias out of something I write. I’ll be the first to admit that occasionally I get it wrong. Often this is due to a lack of information on the case at the time that I’m writing about it. This is why I tend to wait until the name of the victim is released. Usually by that time, the story of what happened is out there and reasonably complete.

It’s my hope that telling these stories helps those who have lost someone and gives others a better picture of people Tacoma has lost.

– Jack Cameron

10th Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Devondre D. Davis

Devondre D. Davis

At some point on Wednesday, September 7th, 16-year-old Devondre D. Davis went to the apartment of 20-year-old Anthony Clark on Tacoma’s East Side. Clark has given various accounts of why Devondre was there and what happened what he got there. What is known is that sometime after Devondre arrived he was  shot in the back of the head likely while near the bedroom closet.

Devondre’s body was found in a garbage bin in the 500 block of East 36th Street. Neighbors say Clark asked him if he could dispose of a body in the garbage bin. They then alerted members of the Tacoma Police Department’s Anti-Gang task force who were nearby on an unrelated call.

This tenth Tacoma homicide of 2011 is such a senseless waste of life that I actually have trouble writing about it. This is the second teenager murdered in Tacoma in the last two weeks. Here’s hoping this streak stops now.

Tacoma’s East Side has had its share of violence. Like the rest of Tacoma, it has improved over the years. Much like Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, the East Side is held together by proud citizens who do not accept that this sort of violence has to be a part of their neighborhood.

We may never know the reason Devondre was shot and killed. In many ways, it doesn’t matter why. There isn’t a reason that is justifiable for what happened to him. It is a crime and a tragedy.

Devondre may be gone, but he is remembered. A Facebook Page has been posted in his memory. You can find it here: http://on.fb.me/nLJlg7.

You can also post comments below if you like. My thoughts go out to Devondre’s friends and family.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With News Tribune Columnist Kathleen Merryman

Recent 5 Question Friday participant Luke Byram enjoyed doing 5 Question Friday so much, he asked if he could try his hand at being the questioner. For his first 5 Question Friday, he’s talking to News Tribune columnist Kathleen Merryman. So here are Luke’s questions and Kathleen’s answers.  

1. What is your favorite column you have written?

You know, Luke, I don’t have one. It¹s just a privilege to be allowed to tell the stories of the community I love.

2. What is your favorite column, who’s it written by?

Dave Barry won the Pulitzer for commentary. I wish he still wrote a weekly column. Bloviating is easy. Comedy is hard. Using it to explore important issues without alienating half the readers is genius.

3. What community activities are you involved in?

There are plenty of people out there who are much smarter than I am, and they are developing the ideas behind the big, positive changes in Tacoma. Some of those ideas need muscle, and that’s where my husband and I jump in. Remember the old ‘Give 5’ campaign that challenged all of us to give five hours of volunteer work a week and 5 percent of our income to non-profits? It launched when our daughter was in pre-school, and at the time we thought it was impossible.

Through our daughter’s school years, it got easier. We helped on auctions, special events and at the school store. We’ve both served on boards, but agree that most anyone is better at that than we are.

Groups ask me to speak at events, which, as a shy person, is a huge stretch. The advantage is that I get to learn about groups like CASA  and University Place volunteers, who are doing the work that is transforming this community for the better.

Community groups let me jump in on work parties, pulling ivy, caroling and picketing with First Creek Neighbors, digging and hauling blackberries at McKinley Park, picking up trash on community cleanups in Summit and the Lincoln District, painting over tagging with Dome Top Neighborhood Alliance and Lincoln Lawgs. It’s always a blast.

We¹ve volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and Emergency Food Network (including Plant-A-Row with our garden this summer) and will again.

This summer, we’re on our second house with Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful. That¹s been pretty much all weekend, every weekend except two, since June. It¹s also been a lot of fun, working with delightful people. One of my favorites is Phu Bui, 17, a student at SOTA. His neighbor, the amazing Edwina Magrum, suggested he letter in volunteerism with United Way, and he’s going for it big-time.

When you’re a reporter or columnist, you never know whether you’re doing the community any good. When you paint a house and clean up a yard for a senior or disabled person, you know you’re making one person’s life easier. You’re also making a neighborhood prettier, which fights crime and supports property values. Also, it’s a fabulous weight loss program.

4. How has the newspaper industry changed, what is most startling to you?

My first journalism job was as the Meeteetse Page correspondent for the Cody Enterprise in Wyoming in 1972. I made $10 a week, shot my own photos with real film and wrote my stories on a manual typewriter in a log cabin. And not one of those nice log cabins. It was a drafty settler’s cabin that has since fallen down. No kidding.

When I landed a job as obit writer at The Billings Gazette in Montana, one of my jobs was rolling the ticker tape that was used to transmit copy. Computers have changed everything. Information is much more readily available, as is misinformation. The process of writing and editing is streamlined. Reader feedback is virtually instantaneous.

We network with blogs and Facebook, and have a broader and more immediate connection to the community.

 Newspapers have been quick to adopt new technology, and are figuring out how to make money on new business models. That’s been a bumpy ride, what with furloughs, freezes, layoffs and buyouts.

Our staff is much smaller than it once was, but the people I work with are far more productive on more platforms than we were in olden times.

5. How has Tacoma changed over the years?

For the better, and from the bottom up. When I came to what was then The Tacoma News Tribune 28 years ago from Spokane, a friend asked why I¹d want to live in the official state armpit. Um, a full-time job?

Back then, Pacific Avenue was lined with strip clubs. Gangs ran the Hilltop and the East Side. Salishan was a dangerous dump.

Union Station, the History Museum and UWT put money and confidence back in the downtown.

Hilltop Action Coalition members took their stand on crime, followed by Safe Streets. They demanded, and earned, more effective policing. These are heroes like Sally Peterson, Skip Young and Jeannie Peterson who made walk-about rounds, took photos of gang and drug  knuckleheads at work, recorded the license plates at crime houses and, most importantly, bought their homes and stabilized their neighborhoods.

The city-wide honor roll is pretty long now: Dan Fear, Edwina Magrum, Andy Mordhorst, the Scheidt family, the Grotes, Frank Blair, Darren Pen, Moni Hoy, the Vignecs, Rose Perrino, Laura Rodriguez, Bob McCutchan, David Whited (keep going, and add your name here.)

Leaders at the ground level are moving through neighborhood councils onto the city council and the school board. That keeps the pressure on officials to invest in all parts of town.

We are a smart city, smart enough to know that community gardens fight crime, and taste yummy.

We are a connected city, using social media for everything from crime watches to work party announcements.

We are a city with a sense of humor and a scrappy soul. I can’t see that changing.

Thanks both to Luke Byram and Kathleen Merryman for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. If you or someone you know is interested in taking part in 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.