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 email@example.com.
– 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
– 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
In the early morning hours of Friday, November 11th, 23-year-old Morgan Deines and an unidentified male friend were near North Junett and North 7th Street. It was just after 2am, when all the bars close. According to statements from Morgan’s friend, they were prowling cars when they found a drunk 28-year-old man asleep in the driver’s seat of a car. They opened the driver’s side door and took his cellphone. They were in the process of taking speakers out of his trunk when he woke up. Morgan’s friend ran towards 6th Avenue. Morgan got into her black Lexus SUV in an attempt to drive away. Moments later Morgan’s friend heard four gunshots. All four gunshots from the 28-year-old’s gun hit Morgan’s vehicle. One shot hit Morgan in the back of the head. Her vehicle continued for about a block before stopping when it bumped into a parked car. Morgan would die a short time later at the hospital becoming Tacoma’s fifteenth homicide this year.
It is worth noting that while Tacoma tends to have a fairly open policy on using lethal force to protect yourself or your property, it does require that you be in potential danger. Firing a gun at a fleeing car does not qualify. Shooting someone in the back of the head is murder.
Police arrested the 28-year-old man on the 22nd. During that time there was precious little released to the public about the case. Typically when only a small amount of information is available it is either because the police genuinely have nothing or they have something they are actively working on. In this case it appears it was the latter. I do not consider this site a ‘news’ site and do not write about homicides until I feel I have sufficient information to do so. This is why this entry is two weeks after the incident.
As long time readers will know, I believe that an individual should be judged by more than their last actions. There are those who may think that someone who is thought to be a thief deserves whatever consequences occur. To those I ask that they recall their own worst actions and see that we all have made bad decisions at one time or another. More to the point, regardless of those actions and decisions everyone has friends and loved ones who now have a hole in their life where their friend used to be.
Morgan Pahkala Deines was born in Eugene, Oregon. She had a love of water and weather. She enrolled at Oregon State University to study Atmospheric Science. Nothing would excite her more than a thunder storm. Later she came to Tacoma where her mother lives. She had many tattoos and piercings and loved to express herself. She had an outgoing personality that tended to be infectious. When she was younger, she was a Girl Scout and volunteered at a food bank called Food For Lane County.
As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Morgan and want to share memories of her. All comments are moderated and approved by me before they appear. Inappropriate comments will be deleted.
– Jack Cameron
Which Park? Alderwood Park
Who Or What Is It Named After? As far as I can tell, Alder, a kind of wood.
Where Is It? 208 Brown’s Point Blvd. Road, Tacoma, WA 98422
Child Area? Yes
Bathroom? No, but the Library next door has one.
Amenities? Picnic Tables, Benches, Covered Area, Trails.
It’s easy to forget that Northeast Tacoma is even part of Tacoma. Situated just across Commencement Bay, many if not most people look over there not even realizing it is still part of Tacoma. For the second park in this ongoing series we went to Alderwood Park.
At first it appears to be just a small park with a play area for the kids located right next door to Mary Rose Kobetich Library. This makes it a perfect place to take kids if you’re in the neighborhood. The play area is substantial, but this park has much more to offer.
The majority of the nearly 7 acre park is full of wooded trail that wind all around it. These are easy to follow trails that take minimal effort. In many ways it reminds me of a tiny version of the trails in Pt. Defiance Park.
Alderwood Park was created in 1980 but there were significant improvements made around 2010. While some of those improvements remain, the Wildflower Garden is now truly wild.
Lastly, just beyond the play area you’ll find a small grass field big enough to play Frisbee but not big enough for soccer. As parks go, Alderwood Park has a little bit of everything. With the library right next door, this is easily one of my favorite places in Northeast Tacoma.
Photos and Content by Jack Cameron
Next Week: Alling Park