On the morning of Sunday, July 21nd, 28-year-old Hashim Wilson was pulled over by a Tacoma Police officer near South 40th and G Street. According to police reports Hashim exited the vehicle with a rifle and pointed it at the police officer. When he failed to obey commands, the officer shot him. Hashim was taken to a nearby hospital where he later died of his wounds becoming the thirteenth Tacoma homicide this year.
This is the third Tacoma police involved shooting this year. Willem Van Spronsen was shot just a week earlier, and a 53-year-old homeless woman armed with a knife was non-fatally shot weeks before. Typically there are one or two police involved shootings in Tacoma every year. But like other homicides, police involved shootings seem to be increasing as well.
Hashim and his partner lived in Sammamish. He had a daughter who was the light of his life. He loved gardening and eating healthy. And he had a habit of putting family and friends above everything.
We may never know the details of Hashim’s last moments. But those who knew him will always remember the impact he had on their lives.
As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for friends and family of Hashim who want to share thoughts or memories of him.
– Jack Cameron
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 Spronsen 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 Spronsen was shot and killed by four Tacoma Police officers becoming the twelfth 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.
Sometime after 10:30pm on January 16, 2018, a garage in the 400 block of 59th Street caught fire. Firefighters arrived on the scene around 10:45pm. About this time neighbors heard what may have been gunshots or possibly explosions from the fire. They reported seeing a man with a rifle crawling on the lawn shortly after the fire. The man with the rifle was 27-year-old Michael Bender, a Marine and veteran of two tours in Afghanistan. One in 2010 and another in 2012.
Tacoma police officers arrived responding to the call. They made repeated requests for the man to put the rifle down. Then gunfire was exchanged. A total of seven Tacoma Police Officers opened fire on Michael Bender. He was the only one at the scene hit with any bullets and died at the scene becoming Tacoma first homicide of 2018.
Michael enlisted in the Marines in 2009. He was a Combat Engineer with the rank of Corporal. He had also been stationed overseas in Okinawa and Japan when he wasn’t serving in Afghanistan. He was discharged in 2012. He was known to have a big heart and be fiercely loyal to those he worked and fought alongside.
We may never know what caused Michael’s actions on the last day of his life and I am not one to speculate. What is known is that we’ve lost one more life from our city, Michael’s family and friends have a hole in their lives and will never be the same. Michael’s family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for funeral costs. Here’s the link: https://www.gofundme.com/rip-michael-bender
As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of Michael who want to share thoughts or memories of him. It is monitored. Each comment is approved before it posts.
– Jack Cameron
Sunday afternoon neighbors near the 5600 block of South Lawrence Street called 911 because 58-year-old Frankie Santos was behaving erratically and had a handgun. When police arrived, Frankie was yelling. The three officers told him to drop the handgun. Instead he fired the handgun in their direction. All three officers responded by opening fire on Frankie Santos. Frankie was dead before the paramedics arrived.
Frankie Santos is the seventh Tacoma homicide this year. It is the first police involved shooting in Tacoma this year. The use of lethal force by police officers is always problematic, but when they are dealing with an armed individual firing a gun, their viable options quickly become limited.
I was not able to find much online about Frankie Santos. I could not tell you why he was behaving the way he was or how or why he had a gun in his hand. What I can say is that this final incident of Frankie’s life is not all that Frankie was. In his 58 years of life he had friends and family. He had people he cared about and people who cared about him. If there is one thing I have come to believe in eleven years of covering Tacoma’s homicides, it is that we are not our worst actions. We are much more than that. More to the point, the loss of a life does not just mean the end for Frankie Santos, it means a hole in the lives of the people who knew him.
It is all too easy to look at a police involved shooting of an armed man firing a gun and act as though it were a movie or a television show where the ‘bad guy’ got what was coming to him. The reality is someone’s son is dead. And while I would not condemn anyone for returning fire at someone shooting at them, I also will not pretend that Frankie Santos losing his life has no meaning.
As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Frankie and want to share remembrances of him. If you knew Frankie and have a photo of him, you would like me to share on this page, email me at email@example.com.
– Jack Cameron
On the Friday morning of January 29th on Tacoma’s South Side two police officers recognized a known fugitive sitting in the passenger seat of a car in the 3300 block of South Sawyer Street. In the driver’s seat was 32-year-old Jacqueline Salyers. When the officers attempted to approach the car, Jacqueline hit the gas. As the car barreled towards them, one officer fired at the car hitting Jacqueline with one bullet. The fugitive escaped on foot carrying a rifle and as of this writing has not yet been apprehended. The officers called for paramedics but Jacqueline died on the scene.
This is Tacoma second homicide this year and the first police involved shooting this year. Some have asked me why I count police involved homicides. The reason for this is that even when it is justified a life taken is a life taken. I would include vehicular homicides, but that gets fairly complicated. Ultimately, I’m a big believer in the thought that we are not just the worst things people know about us. There is a fairly small but vocal group that feels otherwise and thinks a criminal is a criminal. I know that a criminal is often a mother, a daughter, a dear friend, or a sister. Sometimes that ‘criminal’ isn’t even a criminal.
My point here is that at TacomaStories I focus on the victim and what was right with the victim. I try to write articles imagining the victim can read it. I wasn’t able to discover much about Jacqueline. As always, I leave it to those who knew her to share stories and memories of her in the comments section. All comments are moderated by me.
– Jack Cameron
Wednesday afternoon 40-year-old Jason Galaviz knocked a woman down at a bus stop and stole her cellphone near S. 56th and Washington Street. He then ran towards his truck. In his truck was a dog and a woman. As he got to the truck, he turned on the two people following him and pulled out a handgun. An off duty police officer happened by the scene and identified himself. The woman got out of the truck. The police officer asked Jason to drop his gun. When he refused, the police officer shot him once. Jason got into his truck, driving it into a sign a short distance away. He was taken to an area hospital where he died shortly after arriving. The woman was questioned and released. The dog was taken by animal control.
The death of Jason Galaviz is the seventh Tacoma homicide this year and the second Tacoma Police involved homicide of this year.
When it comes to situations like this, it’s easy to write off the person who was shot as just another criminal. A person’s background can often add context to events, but even the most hardened criminal is more than the sum of their crimes.
Jason Galaviz had five children who lost a father. He had friends and relatives who care for him. He was despite anything else, a fellow human being. We can condemn his actions. We can even understand the actions of the police officer. But none of this relieves Jason of his basic humanity.
The death of a person is always a tragedy. Jason’s death will never be forgotten by his friends and family. The 23-year veteran of the Tacoma Police Department who shot him will never forget what he felt he had to do. Homicides are never forgotten by those directly connected to the victim.
As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim to share happier memories of him. All comments are moderated.
Sunday night Tacoma Police were called to a house in the 3400 block of South Proctor Street that they were familiar with. There was a noise complaint. It was just after 10pm.
Earlier in the day 48-year-old Stephen Cunningham was in an altercation with a man. The man left. When the police knocked on Stephen’s door his mother says he thought that the man had returned. Stephen answered the door with a gun in his hand. The details of the confrontation have not been released and so it’s unclear what happened next. But the encounter ended when a 34-year-old six-year veteran of the Tacoma Police Department shot and killed Stephen Cunningham. This is the first homicide involving the Tacoma Police Department in over a year.
Interviewed by KIRO 7, Stephen’s mother said that she did not blame the police for their actions and understands that had Stephen not been armed, the situation would have turned out differently.
Stephen had a concealed carry permit. The gun he carried was legal. It’s reasonable that a gun owner might answer his door with a gun in his hand if he expected trouble. Unfortunately, without the information of what happened during his encounter with the police, it’d pointless to speculate on whether or not the shooting is justified.
Regardless of the justification for the death of Stephen Cunningham, a mother lost her son on Mother’s Day. Friends and relatives lost someone they cared for. And another life is gone from the city of Tacoma.
As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim who might want to share thoughts or memories of Stephen. All comments are approved by me before they appear on the page.
If anyone has a photo they’d like me to use of Stephen, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Jack Cameron