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.
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.
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.
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.
Antoine Jamir Holmes
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.
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
Sixteen-year-old Jemone Pratt was standing with friends on front porch of a house in the 4600 block of South J Street on July 30th. A minivan drove by. The occupants of the van recognized Jerome. They believed he had threatened two of them in the van previously. They went around the block so that one of them could switch seats. They pulled up on the house and fired seven shots. Six hit the house. One hit Jemone Pratt in the head. He was transported to Tacoma General Hospital where he died of his injuries after fighting for his life for five hours.
This is the fourteenth Tacoma homicide this year. Typically we have roughly half this number of homicides by the end of July.
Tacoma police picked up the shooter along with two accomplices in the van days later. Jemone’s killer has been charged with first degree murder.
Jemone’s friends called him “Junior”. He had a larger than life personality. His family loved him dearly. The murder of and by teenagers are among the most tragic. Teenagers are just figuring out who they are and have yet to become who they could be. We’ll never get to know who Junior might have been. That’s been stolen from his friends and loved ones.
As always, the comments section is moderated and is reserved for those who knew Junior and want to share thoughts or memories of him.
There is a GoFundMe set up in Jerome’s name.
– Jack Cameron
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
The twelve-year-old girl could hear her parents arguing on the early Sunday morning of June 9th. This wasn’t new. Her parents had divorced two and half years ago. They slept in separate bedrooms in a house in the 500 block of East 75th Street. Her and two of her older sisters all lived under one roof. Her father was upset that her mother was in a new relationship. By 6:15am, she’d gone out to the living room where they were fighting. At some point her father got a gun. He shot her mother once in the arm and once in the head and shot himself. The twelve year old girl took her siblings to the neighbor’s house and called 9-1-1. Police arrived and found that the bullet had ricocheted off her father’s head. He could make a full recovery. Her mother on the other hand was dead. 37-year-old Jennifer Forsman is the eleventh Tacoma homicide this year.
The man who shot Jennifer was arrested and successfully hung himself while in custody four weeks later.
Jennifer was the mother of four daughters, ages 12-19. She worked as a barista at a University Place Starbucks where she’d been for over a decade. Family members say she was always a very positive person who tended to see the best in people. She was well liked and a good mother.
Whenever I tell people that I write about Tacoma homicides they tend to respond by saying, “A lot of gang shootings, right?” But the truth is that situations like the one that led to Jennifer Forsman’s murder are much more common when it comes to homicide. Domestic violence is one of the biggest dangers we tend to ignore.
I don’t know why Jennifer and her ex-husband lived together. It may have been as simple as the rent in Tacoma rising too fast for either to afford places of their own. Perhaps they wanted to live together for the children. Whatever the case, it is a tragedy that there wasn’t more help available for her. Domestic situations are never simple and solutions are rarely easy.*
I can’t imagine what the Forsmans’ children and families are going through. There is a fundraiser set up for the Forsman family at this link.
The comments section is reserved for friends and family of Jennifer Forsman who might want to share thoughts or memories of her. All comments are moderated and approved before they post.
*If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence contact the Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or click here.
On June 3rd at around 2:30am in the 3800 block of South Yakima, Tyree Jevon Gipson-Faison was shot. When police arrived they found a crowd standing around. Some were giving aid to Tyree. Paramedics arrived and transported him to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he died about an hour later from his wounds becoming the tenth Tacoma homicide this year.
There was not much more information about this incident that I could find. No arrests have been made as far as I can tell. The homicide itself received very little coverage and all too often, I don’t have much more to work with than what has been reported. It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a minor homicide. Every murder shatters multiple lives that are changed forever due to the sudden loss. I want to write more but I don’t have more information to share.
I also was unable to find much information about Tyree online. Quite often the only information I’m able to discover is what I can find online and so I have to rely on friends and family to fill in the picture of who he was. This is what the comments section is for.
Tyree’s death is the second homicide this year in this location and the fifth homicide within a block of this location since 2014. After hours clubs in this area have been a problem for years.
Typically by June we have five homicides in the city. This year it’s ten. We are losing too many Tacomans to homicidal violence.
As I mentioned, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim who want to share thoughts or memories of Tyree.
– Jack Cameron