3rd Tacoma Homicide of 2020: Steven ‘Tony’ Haggard

Tony Haggard

48-year-old Steven Anthony Haggard, who went by Tony, was in his truck in the parking lot of the Jack In The Box in the 5200 block of Tacoma Mall Blvd. on the last Saturday morning in February. An unknown Black male in his late 20s or early 30s approached him on foot. He had black hair worn in braids or dreadlocks pulled into a pony tail. The sides and back of his head was shaved. He may have had a black eye from some previous altercation.

Tony and this man got into an argument that ended when the man shot Tony. He then drove off in Tony’s truck leaving him to die. Steven ‘Tony’ Haggard is the third homicide victim this year in Tacoma.

Because this is an unsolved homicide not a lot is known about the exact motive for the murder. What is known is that Tacoma has lost someone who was known for his generosity and willingness to help others out. His daughter, Kendra has lost a father. And we’ve all lost a world in which Tony is still a part of the future.

Haggard’s family was not wealthy and a GoFundMe campaign has been set up in his name to help pay for funeral costs and other expenses.

CrimeStoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Tony’s killer.

As always the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Tony and want to share thoughts or memories of him.

– Jack Cameron

2nd Tacoma Homicide of 2020: Ernest Guy Searcy

Ernest-Searcy

It was a cold Tuesday morning on January 14th when 48-year-old Ernest Searcy encountered another 48-year-old man on East L and Puyallup Avenue. They did not speak long and at no time did Ernest behave in any sort of threatening manner, but this did not stop the other man from shooting him twice then driving away. A passerby jotted down the license plate number of the man’s car and the man was arrested a short time after that. An individual administered CPR to Ernest until paramedics arrived, but they were unable to revive him. Ernest Searcy is the second Tacoma homicide of 2020.

Ernest was born in New Jersey. Growing up, Ernest was someone who picked things up very quickly. He’d create his own dances and write and perform raps. His grandmother nicknamed him ‘Speedy’. After high school he joined Job Corp and met Shalonda Nelson. The two of them had a daughter named Diamond. Though the relationship did not last, his love for his daughter never faded. He moved to Tacoma to reconnect with her. It wasn’t easy. Eventually they did reconnect and he started going to church with her.

When he wasn’t making music or spending time with his daughter, Ernest was a licensed forklift operator. He was someone who liked to laugh and had a habit of lightening the mood of any room he was in.

When a senseless killing like this happens, it’s difficult to understand or reconcile because there is a sudden hole in the lives of everyone who knew the victim. It’s something that changes lives in a way that can only be truly understood by others who have lost someone to violence.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Ernest and want to share thoughts or memories of him.

  • Jack

First Tacoma Homicide of 2020 Brian Cendejas

Brian Cendejas

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.

  • Jack

22nd Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Dung Mai

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 jackcameronis@gmail.com.

  • Jack Cameron

21st Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Bennie Branch

Bennie Branch

It was just after 2:30am on September 8th when 24-year-old Bennie Branch was pulled over by a Tacoma police officer in the 3400 block of Portland Avenue. Bennie had multiple warrants out for his arrest, but his family say he was in the area checking on his mother who was homeless. There are conflicting reports as to what happened and the Pierce County Sherriff’s Department is still investigating. Media reports do not say why the police officer pulled Bennie over. Family members say that Bennie ran from the police officer and was shot in the back. They found a pistol on the ground near Bennie. Family members claim this was an airsoft pistol that shot pellets. Bennie Branch is the twenty-first Tacoma homicide of 2019.

I have never written about a police involved shooting that did not have conflicting reports of exactly what happened. However, it is uncommon for the police departments involved to release so little information. This may be due to a recent change in state law that requires any police involved shooting to be investigated by a separate agency which is why the Pierce County Sherriff’s Department is investigating the Tacoma Police Department shooting.

Typically there are one or two police involved shootings in Tacoma every year, but like every other metric for homicides in this city, police involved shootings have increase. This is the third police involved shooting of 2019.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for friends and family of Bennie who want to share thoughts or memories about Bennie.

  • Jack Cameron

20th Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Jahleen Mitchell

Jahleen Mitchell

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.

  • Jack Cameron

19th Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Davontre Denzell Robinson-Harris

Davantre Denzell Harris

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.

  • Jack Cameron

18th Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Chase Seibold

Chase Seibold

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.

  • Jack Cameron

16th and 17th Tacoma Homicides of 2019: Antoine Jamir Holmes and Rigoberto Villagomez-Dillon

On the night of August 13th, the familiar sound of gun fire could be heard around midnight near East 38th Street and East Roosevelt Avenue. When the gunfire stopped, five people had been shot. One, 26-year-old Antoine Jamir Holmes was dead when authorities arrived. Another, 19-year-old Rigoberto Villagomez-Dillon would die later at St. Joseph’s hospital. Two teenage girls and one woman were also treated with non-life-threatening injuries.

Antoine and Rigoberto are the sixteenth and seventeenth Tacoma homicides this year. I was not able to find much information about either individual nor was I able to find out details about the shooting. This is due to a combination of factors. Some people do not have much of an online presence. Since there has been no arrest in this case, there are no charging documents detailing the event. And sadly, when it’s a shooting on Tacoma’s East Side, the media tends to treat it as unimportant and spend little time focusing on it.

This shooting was part of an increase in gang violence in recent months. There was at least one additional shooting that left a person paralyzed in what is thought to be retaliation for this shooting. It’s easy for some to dismiss gang violence as something that is far removed from their lives, but the truth is that our connection to gang violence is far closer than we might think.

While I cannot say much about the victims, I can say that they have family and friends who will never be the same in the wake of these killings. What is a forgotten headline in last summer’s newspaper will remain a life altering event in the lives of some.

As always the comments section is reserved for those who knew the victims and want to share thoughts or memories of them.
– Jack

15th Tacoma Homicide of 2019: Lawrence Jeffries

Lawrence Jeffries

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