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.
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.
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.
*If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence contact the Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or click here.
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
It was April 18 just after 3:00 am when Joshua Everman’s 31-year-old fiancé called 9-1-1 from their apartment in the 1200 block of Pearl Street. A month earlier she’d been charged with domestic violence 4th degree assault. That resulted in a restraining order that had been lifted just one week before her 9-1-1 call. In her call she said that Josh had shot himself during an argument they had about a gun.
Police spoke to his fiancé. She said they had been arguing and she had gone to deal with their 4-month-old baby when he shot himself. Her hands were covered in blood. Josh was on the bed in the bedroom. He had been shot in the left side of the head. But he was right-handed. There were no powder burns around the wound indicating the gun was fired from at least a foot away. And then there were the two bullets lodged in the wall at the same trajectory as the bullet that had hit him.
Paramedics took Josh to the hospital where he later died becoming Tacoma’s seventh homicide this year. His fiancé was arrested and charged with first degree murder.
I spent some time on Josh’s Facebook page. There are dozens of photos of him, his fiancé, and their two kids camping, traveling, and having adventures. It’s clear that their life together wasn’t all bad. It’s stunning to think that I’m looking at a murderer and her victim. And I can’t help but think of the children. One four and the other four months. There’s a senselessness to this. It didn’t need to happen.
When one is in a domestic violence situation it is easy to rationalize. It’s not that bad. Others have it worse. It’s just a rough patch. The cemetery has many people in it who thought exactly the same way.
It’s impossible to overstate the loss of Joshua Everman to his family, to his friends, to his children. It’s something that will echo throughout their lives.
As always, the comment section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Josh and want to share memories of him. My thoughts go out to those impacted by his murder.
Forty-two year old Daniel Stueart was known to his friends as Danny Rasher. On April 13th, around 7:30pm Danny was at a homeless encampment in the 9900 block of Steele Street when he encountered someone with a gun. The gunfire alerted others who contacted authorities. Danny had already died by the time first responders arrived. Danny became the sixth Tacoma homicide this year.
I could not find much information about Danny. His Facebook page says he attended John Brown University studying psychology. He then attended the University of Arkansas but left for a job. He had at least one child. A son. Other than that, I wasn’t able to find much more. Not that more information would ever complete a full picture of who Danny was to his friends and family.
Typically Tacoma averages about one homicide a month. This is our sixth in just over three months, nearly double our typical rate over the last ten years. The reasons for this increase are difficult to discern. We’ve experienced an increase in population, our police department is underfunded, and any number of other factors may be to blame. What is clear is more people are being murdered in Tacoma than usual and each of them impacts the community.
Danny’s murder remains unsolved. Crime Stoppers of Tacoma-Pierce County is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever killed Danny. You can use the P3 Tips App on your smart phone to anonymously submit the information, or call the hot line at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477)
As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew and loved Danny.
Twenty-seven year old Emmalee Masker sat in a car with a seventy-one year old man she had known for the better part of a decade. It was January 16th. The weekend. They sat in the parking lot in the 4800 block of Tacoma Mall Blvd. The one with a Mexican restaurant on one side and Chuck E. Cheese on the other.
Over the years the man had given her money when she needed it. But the man was out of money. In fact he had recently declared bankruptcy. This was apparently too much for the man. He pulled a pistol and shot Emmalee multiple times. Then he shot himself in the head.
Emmalee Masker was dead when police arrived. She was the third Tacoma homicide this year and the second to be shot and killed. Neither Emmalee or the man who killed her were married. The details of their relationship are likely known only to them. Anything else is speculation.
Emmalee liked turtles. She would post images of them that she liked on Pinterest. She did the same thing with interesting nail designs. It’s difficult to get a feel for what a person was like in life simply by looking at what they left behind online, but for those who knew and loved Emmalee she has left behind so much more. There is an echo left when a loved one dies. It is the sort of thing that is hard to fully grasp until one has the misfortune to experience it. Like everyone, Emmalee was more than simply what we find of her. And like everyone who is murdered, we have lost the chance to find out what more she could have been.
As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of Emmalee who might want to share thoughts or memories of her. All comments are moderated and approved by me before they appear.
– Jack Cameron