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5 Question Friday With Richard Wiley

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When I originally registered the domain name TacomaStories.com years ago I was glad it was not already taken. It’s simple and easy to remember. Despite this I was still surprised when I learned a few months ago that Richard Wiley’s new book was called Tacoma Stories. My first thought was that I did not want people coming to this site and learning nothing about the book even if I had nothing to do with the book. My next thought was that I did not want people thinking the book was connected to the website since it isn’t.

I decided the best way to deal with this potential confusion was to contact Richard Wiley and see if he would be interested in participating in a 5 Question Friday. This way if you end up here because of the book, you get a quick interview with the author. And if you’re a regular reader of this site, you get introduced to a new author with a book you should really check out.

Thankfully, Richard agreed to do it. Here’s Richard:

1. Can you give us a bit of background on your writing for those who are unaware?

I started writing more than 40 years ago.  My first novel, Soldiers in Hiding, was set in Japan during World War II.  It was lucky enough to win the PEN/Faulkner Award for best American fiction in 1987.  After that there were seven more novels, almost all set abroad, in Korea, in Japan again, in Nigeria, Kenya, and in 1899 Alaska.  A novel of mine entitled, Bob Stevenson, was set in New York City and came out in 2016.

2. What is your history with Tacoma?

I grew up in Tacoma, at Brown’s Point.  I went to school there, and then, after my family moved to North Jackson Street, went to Wilson High School.  I graduated from UPS, in 1967, then left Tacoma for a decade, came back to work at Tacoma Public Schools – both of my children were born in Tacoma – then left again for a few years in Africa and a twenty-six year stint as an English professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  My wife and I moved back to Tacoma in mid-2015.

3. Can you tell us about your latest book, Tacoma Stories?

The stories are linked, but can also stand alone.  All of the characters meet up at Pat’s Tavern on North 21st Street (now Magoo’s Annex) on St. Patrick’s Day, 1968, in the first story.  Over the course of the next thirteen stories, not in chronological order, we follow one or another of those who were in Pat’s that night, into their pasts and also into their futures.

4. You’re going a bit of a book tour at the moment, where can people catch you?

I will be reading at Elliott Bay Book Company, in Seattle, on Friday, February 15, at 7 p.m.  After that, I’ll be at the Tacoma Public Library’s Brown’s Point branch at 2:30 on March 2; at King’s Books, in Tacoma, at 7 p.m. on March 7, and signing books at The Pacific Northwest Shop on Proctor Street, on March 9 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

And if anyone is in Las Vegas on April 11, I’ll be reading at the Writer’s Block Bookstore at 7 p.m.

5. What is your next project?

I am just now completing a third “Japan” novel, entitled “Cornelius, on Love.”  It is set in Kyoto in 1972.

I’d like to thank Richard Wiley for joining me for 5 Question Friday and for writing a book set in Tacoma. I know I am biased, but I am of the opinion that this city is ripe for storytelling. If you think you or someone you know might be a good guest for 5 Question Friday, let me know at jackcameronis@gmail.com

  • Jack Cameron
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First Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Mary Hoffer

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It couldn’t go on like this. Mary Hoffer knew that the fights with her boyfriend had to stop. It was constant. Neighbors in the apartment building in the 800 block of South 8th Street had become used to the yelling, the screams, the things breaking. It had to stop. She told her coworkers that she would meet up with them on January 4th, Friday night after she sat down and had a civilized talk with her 37-year-old boyfriend.

Mary never showed Friday night. She didn’t answer phone calls. She wasn’t online. When she didn’t answer her door on Saturday, her coworkers called the police. Police arrived and found Mary dead. She had been beaten and strangled becoming the first Tacoma homicide this year.  They also found her boyfriend dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The two of them were from Warsaw, Indiana. Mary was known to be a generous person. In 2015 she organized a GoFundMe for someone who had lost everything. My thoughts go out to her family and to all who knew this couple. Death has a way of rippling through the lives of those still living. It’s impossible to estimate the impact someone makes until they are gone.

As always the comments section is reserved for those who knew Mary who might want to share any thoughts or memories of her.
– Jack

13th & 14th Tacoma Homicides of 2018: Evitan De Biaso & Deonte Mitchner

The plan seemed simple enough. A 16-year-old offered to sell a gun to a 13-year-old he smoked pot with a few weeks ago. The deal was to go down December 9th. The 16-year-old had no gun to sell. He was bringing three friends with him and they were going to rob the kid. According to charging papers, two of those friends were 19-year-old Evitan De Biaso and 21-year-old Deonte Mitchner. The third friend stayed in the car with Deonte’s two young children. Evitan and Deonte hid in bushes in an alley near the 1300 block of East 35th street.

Things did not go according to plan. The 16-year-old led the 13-year-old to the ambush, but the 13-year-old brought a friend. When Evitan and Deonte jumped out, the 13-year-old ran with the 16-year-old chasing him. The 16-year-old heard gunshots and knew that neither of his friends had guns. Around 4:50pm Tacoma police found both Evitan and Deonte dead of gunshot wounds. Evitan and Deonte become the thirteenth and fourteenth Tacoma homcides this year. The 16-year-old and the driver have been arrested. The unidentified shooter remains at large. People with knowledge of the incident are asked to call the Tacoma Police Department at 253-591-5968.

If TacomaStories has a theme it is to echo Bryan Stevenson’s “We are more than the worst things we’ve done.” Evitan and Deonte were more than these actions. Both men were fathers. Both had loving, caring families. Evitan has a daughter on the way who will never meet her father. Deonte has a 1-year-old and a 5-year-old who will never spend another Christmas with their father. It’s all too easy to judge and discard other people. We do not do that here. I know I have said it before, but every loss of life creates a hole in the lives of countless others.

As always the comments section is reserved for the friends and family of Evitan and Deonte who might want to share any thoughts or memories of them. All comments are moderated and approved before appearing.
– Jack

Tenth Tacoma Homicide of 2018: DeAngelo Reese

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In the early morning hours of August 17th, 36-year-old DeAngelo Reese was riding bicycles with a female acquaintance in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. Near South 21st Street a 46-year-old man approached them. The man said to them, “”You’re not gonna be hanging around here, these are my streets.”

DeAngelo stopped his bicycle and said, “We do what we want.” The two then continued riding.

The man ran after them, at which point DeAngelo got off his bike and said, “Don’t run up on me.” The two of them got into a physical fight. DeAngelo pulled a knife. The man knocked it out of his hand and picked it up. DeAngelo ran toward a traffic circle on South 21st and Sheridan. He lost his footing, tripping on a curb. The man caught up to him and stabbed him repeatedly.

Shortly afterward, a passerby approached in response to the commotion. The man ran, getting into his girlfriend’s car as she drove away. DeAngelo was taken to a local hospital where he later died from his wounds becoming Tacoma’s tenth homicide this year.

Both the man who stabbed DeAngelo and his girlfriend were arrested and charged in DeAngelo’s murder days later.

This is the sort of murder that used to be fairly commonplace in Tacoma, especially in the Hilltop neighborhood. These days this kind of homicide is a rarity in this town. It can be easy to dismiss something like this as fairly trivial, but that of course ignores the hole left in the lives of DeAngelo’s loved ones that can never fully be repaired.

As always the comment section is reserved for those who knew DeAngelo and want to share thoughts or memories of him with us. Each comment is approved and moderated before it appears. All other comments are deleted and not seen.

My thoughts go out to DeAngelo’s loved ones.

– Jack

5 Question Friday With Tacoma City Councilman Justin Camarata

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Photo by Silong Chhun

Earlier this year City Councilman Robert Thoms was deployed to Afghanistan as part of his commitment to the National Guard. Rather than have an election for a post that would only be necessary for a few months, the city asked for applicants and appointed one from the list of applicants. I was one of those applicants, but the city rightly chose Justin Camarata to fill that spot. When I saw Justin’s name on the list of potential appointees, his name along with a couple of others were people I honestly felt would do a better job than myself.

As Justin winds up his short tenure as councilman, I thought it might be good to have him do a 5 Question Friday and let us know what he thought of the experience. Here’s Justin:

1. Why did you choose to throw your hat into the ring to be a City Councilman?

I won’t lie – I’ve been interested in doing this for a long time. I love this city, I love policy and politics, I love working with a broad range of people, and I felt I had things to contribute and the ability to get into the weeds when necessary. It all happened pretty fast, but the timing was right and I think there was excitement over what we could get done with my being there.


2. What do you wish you knew before you began serving as a City Councilman?

The biggest one would be that if something seems like an obvious or easy policy fix from the outside, there’s a 95% chance it isn’t. There are often studies to commission, individual councilmember concerns to address, other governmental jurisdictions or City departments that need to (or want to) weigh in, and generally you can’t just wave something into or out of existence. I sort of knew and expected this to a degree, but seeing things from this perspective has been really eye opening and I think I’ll always view government a little differently as a result.
3. What are some of the highlights of your time on the council?
The City’s relationship with the Puyallup Tribe has been improving this year–getting to know their tribal council, being a guest at events they’ve hosted, and cosponsoring the resolution to place their flag in Council chambers has been something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. There are still big things to work through with them but given how strained it’s often been in the past, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Tacoma history has been happening and I’m genuinely happy to get to be part of that.

Working on housing issues has been frustrating at times, especially as the market has absolutely exploded over the past year or two, but knowing we’re doing things that will help literally tens of thousands of people keep a roof over their heads is gratifying. Be on the lookout for a big renters rights ordinance very soon, in addition to a continued focus on adding a lot more affordable housing inventory.

Voting to appoint the first woman to be the new Director of Tacoma Public Utilities, during the first time the Council got to vote on that appointment, was pretty cool. Jackie Flowers is incredibly talented and accomplished, including in municipal broadband (we need that for Click), and she’s going to do an amazing job in a role that’s really critical for the overall quality of life in Tacoma.

Beyond all of this, I’ve also been on a tour of organizations and events throughout the city. I’ve met with businesses, labor unions, political groups, neighborhood councils, faith organizations, business districts and associations, and activist groups and gone to dozens of events. It’s been a blast and I’ve met so many great people who deeply love and care about Tacoma in their own ways and want to help it succeed. That’s absolutely been a highlight.

4. What’s something many people don’t know about the City Council?

Six of the nine of us are in our early 40s or younger, and six of the nine of us (though not the same six of the nine) are transplants to Tacoma from other places. I personally think that’s really great, because Tacoma as a city is likewise full of people who wound up here for some reason or another and chose to stay.

Also, this Council is very accessible. If you want a meeting with any of us, or with Mayor Woodards, you can probably get one. One of the things I love about local government in a city like ours is that you can get involved, meet key people, and have a real impact on things in a way you can’t at the national level. I think people often assume their local leaders are out of touch and inaccessible, but that is not the case at all. You’ll see us in many of the same places you go to yourself and we’re generally always happy to talk.

5. What are your post-City Councilman plans?

I’m still figuring that out. I’m definitely not going anywhere, and I’m going to keep working on things just like I was before I joined Council, whatever form that takes. Short term, I’ve got a stack of books I want to read and my wife and kids wouldn’t mind a vacation.

Thanks to Justin for serving as City Councilman and taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. If you or someone you know would like to join me for a 5 Question Friday drop me a line at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

Sixth Tacoma Homicide of 2018: Robert ‘Big Dave’ Crall

Robert Big Dave Crall
It was just after 5:00am on Thursday March 15th when 54-year-old Robert ‘Big Dave’ Crall took his last cab fare near the 5800 block of South Montgomery. The 19-year-old man got in the cab. They made it about a quarter mile. The 19-year-old pulled a bandana over his face and tried to rob Big Dave. The confrontation ended with Big Dave shot in the chest and the 19-year-old on the run. The shooter would be arrested later that day and implicated in a couple of home invasions and at least one other robbery.

As Robert ‘Big Dave’ Crall lay dying outside his cab with a chest wound, a nearby neighbor held his hand. He becomes the sixth Tacoma homicide this year. Six homicides by March is nearly double our typical homicide rate. It is difficult to find a cause for this sudden uptick in violence in the city. It’s also worth noting that the amount of homicides is not a very good measure of such things as there are aggravated assaults that are just as violent and amount to attempted homicides.

Family and friends say that Robert ‘Big Dave’ Crall was incredibly friendly and generous. He had a 27-year-old son and an ex-wife who he was good friends with. He was funny.  He’d been driving a cab for two years. That particular morning they had asked him to skip work because he was tired, but he went out to do the job like so many of us do.

Once again I have to apologize for the delay in getting this article written. It has been four months since Big Dave’s death. I am sure friends and family still feel like it was yesterday. It’s difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t lost anyone close what it means when there’s a hole in your life where there used to be a smiling person you loved. It’s not just something that happened. It’s something that happens every day when you look at the world and don’t see them in it.

As always the comments section is reserved for those who knew and loved Big Dave. Comments are moderated and have to be approved by me before they appear. By all accounts Big Dave was one of those people who made Tacoma what it is and the city is a little less having lost him.

– Jack Cameron

Fifth Tacoma Homicide of 2018 Tyler Zimmerman

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It’s was almost 2am on Wednesday, February 21st. 27-year-old Tyler Zimmerman was at a friend’s house in the 6110 block of South Fawcett. They decided to purchase some magic mushrooms and invited a dealer over. The 26-year-old dealer showed up with a friend. Tyler handed over $300. The dealer pulled out the mushrooms, but when Tyler saw them he decided they weren’t worth the money and asked for the money back. The dealer refused. A fight ensued. The fight spilled into the yard. At one point the dealer pulled a knife and stabbed Tyler in the back.

“Ow, what did you hit me with? What did you hit me with?” Tyler said before collapsing to the ground. After police arrived, Tyler was transported to the hospital where he later died.

The drug dealer and the drug dealer’s friend were both arrested. This is the fifth Tacoma homicide this year. This is a sharp increase in homicides compared to last year.

Tyler was the oldest of five children and had a seven-year-old daughter. He worked at a company that set up offices. In his off time he liked working on cars. He also liked gardening. He grew roses in his mother’s yard.

There are some who would argue that anyone involved in illegal drugs should not find it unexpected when things turn violent or fatal, but those people lack empathy, compassion, or awareness. Odds are that those same people have close friends and relatives who engage in such behavior and would feel very differently if the victim were one of their own.

Every death matters. Every killing is a loss. Right now there is a seven-year-old little girl who will grow up without her father because another man chose to end her father’s life over $300.

As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Tyler to share memories or thoughts of him. All comments are monitored and approved by me.

I would also like to take this moment to apologize to Tyler’s friends and family for the delay in getting this article written. I have been writing about Tacoma homicides for over a decade. This sort of writing and research takes a toll. I had to give myself some time away and as this is a one-man website, that meant a delay in getting this done. Tyler is not forgotten.

  • Jack Cameron