In the early evening of December 19th, 21-year-old William Edwards was outside a convenience store in the 2700 block of South 12th Street. His girlfriend sat in a nearby car. He was there to buy an iPhone. He met up with two men outside the Central Tacoma convenience store.
The seller handed him the phone to look at it. William started backing away with the phone once he had it. One man grabbed him as William backed away. Court documents say that William became irate, grabbed the other man’s shirt and pulled out a handgun putting it to the man’s head. “Don’t ever run up on me.” He shouted, “I’ll f*cking kill you,”
William demanded the man give him his wallet. At this point the man reached towards his waist as if grabbing his wallet, and removed his own handgun from his waistband firing two shots at William. His girlfriend grabbed William’s gun and put it in a backpack. William was taken to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead. The backpack was found and his girlfriend was detained. The shooter remained on the scene and was questioned by police. No charges are expected as the circumstances show the shooting to be a matter of self-defense.
William Edwards is the eighteenth Tacoma homicide of 2016. It has been an especially violent year. The last time we had this many homicides in a year was 2006. It is difficult to say what, if anything, has led to the increase in violence. Often it turns out that the violence has not really increased so much as shootings one year are more accurate than another.
At TacomaStories we focus on the victim and insist that a man is not his last or worst actions. Unfortunately, William’s common name makes an Internet search for more information about him difficult. This is why the comments section is reserved for those who knew William who might want to share memories of him. All comments are moderated and approved before being posted. Also if any friend or family member has a photo of William they would like me to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Jack Cameron
Which Park? Baltimore Park
Who Or What Is It Named After? Baltimore Street
Where Is It? 4716 N. Baltimore Street
Child Area? Yes
Amenities? Basketball Court
At just under two and a half acres, Baltimore Park is the smallest park I have visited so far for these articles. In fact if you are driving down Baltimore Street towards the water you may notice as much of it is behind a large flat building that is the Ruston Senior Center.
Baltimore Park has been around since 1981. The play area for the children takes up a small corner of the park. It appears to be for smaller children. There big toys with tiny steps and a swing set.
In another corner of the park you’ll find a paved basketball court with two hoops.
The rest of the park consists of an occasionally tree-lined gravel trail around a large, flat grass field. The field would be perfect for kite-flying, playing soccer, or sun bathing. Of course since it is close to winter right now, none of that was happening during my visit.
As parks go, Baltimore Park is about as basic a park as you can get. Nothing particularly good or bad about it. And with Point Defiance nearby this park is definitely a neighborhood park. If you’re here, you probably live in the area or you’re from the attached senior center or the VFW Hall across the street.
– Jack Cameron
Next: Brown’s Point Lighthouse Park
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
Which Park? Alling Park
Who Or What Is It Named After? Frank Alling
Where Is It? 1134 South 60th Street, Tacoma WA, 98408
Child Area? Yes
Amenities? Tennis Court
In early 1912, a man named Frank Alling visited the mayor of Tacoma, W.W. Seymour. Frank was well known in the community. He had created a bird sanctuary on Fox Island. He had a fruit stand that was literally world famous with his being the first Washington Apples to be shipped to Asia. His wife had died four years before this meeting and at the age of 73 he knew he did not have long left. He had no children and no other family. He told W.W. Seymour that upon his death he wanted to donate the land he owned near Wapato Lake to the city to make a park where children could play. He wanted that park named Frank Alling Park and he wanted to be buried in that park. Frank died later that year. His wishes were granted. His ashes are buried near a Lombardy poplar tree at the park that he planted.
Established in 1912 Alling Park is among the oldest parks in the city. At just under six acres it is not a large park. It has a small play area for children with big toy and a swing set. (Unfortunately no one has let me borrow their six-year-old to determine the quality of these play areas and my own 19-year-old son is useless in this particular endeavor.)
The rest of the park is mostly a giant sloped field surrounded by a gravel path. When my girlfriend and I visited the park, there was a man walking his dog, Ruby through the lap around the park. There are few trees, but each of them is different and some are very old.
In the opposite corner from the playground you’ll find a tennis court. The net appeared to be in good shape which was a bit surprising because to be honest the park gives off a bit of a vibe of being neglected though I cannot point to anything in particular that made me feel this way.
It is nice to see that over a hundred years after his death, Frank Alling’s wishes are still being respected.
Next: Baltimore Park
29-year-old Tyrell Stokes was one of over 50 people who attended a party at an afterhours private club at 5224 South Tacoma Way on Saturday, October 22nd. A little before 2am on Sunday the 23rd, the rapper who was celebrating a recent record deal hit the stage. At 2:08am police heard between 20-30 gunshots. They responded to the scene and found many of the patrons fighting with each other and with first responders. Tyrell was still inside the club. He was shot. Outside, his brother and another man were also shot. They were all taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital where Tyrell died of his wounds two hours later. His brother and the other victim are expected to survive.
This is Tacoma’s fourteenth homicide this year. It’s also the fourth homicide in less than a month and the third unsolved homicide in less than a month. There was also a shooting at the Safeway on South 72nd and Portland Avenue a few weeks ago that left a man in critical condition. While this recent increase in violence is concerning, it is not all that unusual. It’s easy to see patterns where there is only coincidence. However, given the number of recent unsolved shootings, it’s difficult to say what might be causing this uptick.
Despite over 50 witnesses, Tacoma Police have had difficulty getting information due to many of the witnesses being inconsistent or uncooperative. Crime Stoppers is offering up to $1000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for this triple shooting. You can call them and remain anonymous at 1-800-222-TIPS.
As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Tyrell and want to share memories of him.
– Jack Cameron
On October 7th, Friday evening around 6:45pm the dinner rush was going strong at Tacoma’s legendary Frisko Freeze. 26-year-old Terry Webb approached two men sitting in a car in the parking lot. He produced a gun and attempted to rob the two men. He was unsuccessful. One of the two men in the care was also armed. The man in the car shot Terry. A friend of his drove him to the hospital where he later died from his gunshot wound.
This is the tenth Tacoma homicide this year. No charges are expected to be filed. I have been chronicling homicides in Tacoma for ten years now. In all that time, I have never seen charges filed in a situation where someone is protecting themselves, or their property. Robbery and burglary may not be death penalty level crimes, but if your intended victim is armed and kills you, if you’re in Tacoma, your killer will not likely be charged with a crime.
From a certain standpoint, this makes perfect sense. People should be allowed to protect and defend themselves. That is understandable. However, there is another aspect to this. The person who was Terry Webb cannot be summed up in his last actions. Like all of us, he had friends. He had family. He may have made bad decisions, but who among us has not? I am not trying to make Terry out to be someone better or worse than he was. I did not know him and can only share what I found from what little research I could find and how I feel about people in general.
I also know from talking to others who have been in similar situations that shooting another person is no simple thing. There is suffering that goes with taking a life. I understand that and do my best not to vilify what had to have been a difficult choice. But a killer’s life goes on. I choose not to focus on that in these posts because I prefer to focus on the victim who has no more stories to tell.
If you happen to be a friend or family member of Terry Webb and have a photo you would like me to use for this post, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, the comments section is moderated by me and reserved for those who knew Terry and might want to share memories or thoughts about him.
– Jack Cameron