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
A woman called the police from her house in the 3500 block of Fawcett Avenue a little after 9:30pm on Saturday night. She said that her 22-year-old daughter, Sophia had fired multiple gunshots inside the house and may have killed herself. Police responded and tried to talk with Sophia but she would not respond. She had a handgun in her hand and walked down the stairs approaching the officers. One of the officers opened fire, killing her. Sophia Strickland became the 14th Tacoma homicide of 2012.
This is the third Tacoma Police involved shooting this year. As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim to share memories of Sophia. Lately, some comments on other posts have been the sort that blame or attack the shooter. This is not the place for that. My purpose in writing about these homicides is to make sure that the memory of those who were taken from Tacoma are remembered and not just mentioned on the news for a day or two and forgotten.
Though we’ll never know what Sophia’s intent was when walking down those stairs, I believe that people are more than whatever their last moments were. My heart goes out to her friends and family.
– Jack Cameron
Monday night two Lakewood officers were patrolling Gravelly Lake Drive near I-5 in a patrol car when they spotted a stolen vehicle. The vehicle got onto I-5 heading North. The police officers chased the vehicle until it got off on the East Portland Avenue exit. Shortly after that, the police were able to do a maneuver to stop the stolen vehicle. At this time, according to police reports, the man in the car opened fire on them. The officers returned fire hitting 35-year-old Michael Crawford. Last night Michael died from his injuries. No police officers were hurt.
This marks the twelfth Tacoma homicide of 2012 and the second police involved homicide. We’ll likely never know all of the details that led to Michael choosing to open fire on police officers. Especially given recent local history, he had to know that doing so was a no-win situation. My heart goes out to both Michael’s family and the officers involved in the shooting. One of the reasons I include police involved shootings in the homicides I write about is that too often the media defines someone by their final act. Michael Crawford was certainly more than a car thief. As always, the comments section is reserved for those who knew Michael and want to share their memories with us.
– Jack Cameron