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Visions of Tony

Tony McDougald

Tony McDougald

I think it’s important to remember people. TacomaStories.com is about the people of Tacoma and how our stories create the city we live in. When it comes to my writing about the homicides in Tacoma, I’m writing about stories that were cut short. They can no longer tell their story so someone has to do it for them.

Earlier this year, Tony McDougald was shot in the back while breaking into the garage of a house near South 38th Street. I personally knew Tony, but had not seen him since Middle School in 1988. Recently, I was approached by someone who was close to him once. She asked that she remain anonymous and wrote about her story of Tony.

I’ve chosen to post this because regardless of anything else, Tony deserves to be remembered. I do not vouch for the authenticity of what she has written. These are her words and memories, not mine but I will say that everything she says sounds like the Tony I remember.

If you have memories of Tony that you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments. Or if you have something longer to share or if you have anything to write about anyone in or from Tacoma, you can email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com .

Thanks for reading.

–          Jack Cameron

When I first heard that Tony was dead, I was shocked and like many, I had and still have many questions. I first met Tony when we were just kids. Back then his brother was dating my friend and she introduced us. To be honest, I liked him for his attitude at first. I thought he was charming, sweet and funny. All that aside, I really hadn’t seen what his face looked like for the first 2 weeks I knew him. So I can say I honestly liked him for his personality. As timed progressed, I learned he was a renegade of his own kind. A true individual. A guy with a kind heart that would mumble “I love you” with a cigarette hanging from his mouth and then scream the F. word at someone driving past and flip them off. Oh, and did I mention what a sight he was? Yes, many people said “Bon Jovi”. Well if you call ratty, torn, bleached jeans, band t’s and well the “hair”. I suppose he was. Thinking back about how he was just really makes me laugh. He had wanted long hair and his mom wanted him to keep it short. They made a deal. He had to perm his hair or cut it off. Well, of course he opted for the perm. His mom’s plan backfired on her. His perm made him look more like a sheep dog, than a kid. Luckily for me, he wasn’t too bad under that mop of hair. Like many girls before and after me, he was my first love.

I had the chance to really get to know Tony before we started dating. And then during the 8 months or so of our relationship, Tony shared many things with me. He made me laugh, and he made me cry for him and his pain. One of the first secrets he shared with me was that when he was younger, he was a victim of abuse. That was very traumatic for him, as  am sure you can imagine. He also shared with me that his mom wanted a little girl so badly that she named him Anthony Lynn. Not “Len” like all the media has been calling him. God, that had to suck to know he could never be what she truly wanted. But that never stopped him from trying. The day after he had his tonsil’s removed, his mom’s dog, “Willie” got out and was headed for 56th Street. That dog was so stupid it would have ran right into the traffic. Despite the fact that Tony’s throat felt like it was on fire, he ran after that dog. Holy hell, that kid could run. He stopped that dog about three feet from the road. His mom was so happy she cried. It was heart wrenching to see that she was more concerned about her dog than her own son. My heart broke for him.

As you can tell his family was very dysfunctional, his dad was on the road driving most of the time trying to support a family of five. Which left his mom home alone to take care of three boys. She had her hands full with trying to work full time at Sears and taking care of the boys. Tony and I really ended up bonding over having a bad home life. He saved me on more than one occasion. My father would get drunk, and he would become verbally and physically abusive. I had no one to help me. My mom was working and I tried calling the cops. They just told me it was my problem and to call a crisis number to get counseling and “deal with it”. Tony was there to help time and again. Once, Tony banged on the front door to distract my dad so I could sneak out to the garage to hide. My dad always had a gun on him, and Tony knew this but he still chose to take the risk anyway. Yet another time my dad came home plastered and had been in a bar fight. He was angry and was going to take his rifle and go back to the bar with it. Tony stayed on the phone with me for three hours while I hid from him. I was terrified of what he was going to do, but Tony did his best to keep me calm. I could go on and on with examples but I won’t. This is about his tragic life not mine.

Towards the end of our relationship Tony lived with me for about a month. He had a friend over one night and the friend found my dad’s revolver. I freaked out on him and said it was loaded. He then aimed it at Tony and me and we both yelled at him. He pointed it up at the wall, about two feet away from Tony’s head. He pulled the first trigger and nothing happened. He said “Oh it’s fine. The safety is on!” Well if you know anything about a revolver, they have a double pull action trigger before it fires or you cock the hammer then pull the trigger once. There is no safety. As he was proclaiming the safety was on, he shot off a .44 hollow point bullet through the walls of my house and continued through my window. Only God knows where the rest of the bullet went. Because of this incidence, this was the final straw, Tony wanted nothing to do with guns. From what I have heard from others he still felt the same way all these years later. That window never has been fixed. Up until seven years ago I was blamed for it until I finally told my parents the truth about that night.
We had a less than stellar falling out. I found out through others that he had eyes for another girl. I confronted him and it started with him admitting to me he had kissed the girl. I was insulted and hurt.  I lost my temper and punched him in the face. I know it was childish. I am still ashamed of my behavior. So he hit me back and we scrapped for a few seconds in his kitchen. I actually remember thinking, ‘Crap we’re breaking the rules, fist fighting is supposed to be done in the back yard.’ Well then his dad jumped in. UH-OH! I thought I was in trouble! He actually popped Tony in the mouth and screamed at him, “You never hit a girl no matter the reason”. Hell, I felt I deserved it, I started it after all. So I walked out of his life. For forever, or so I thought.

After we parted our ways, I saw him here and there. As the years went by I had heard rumors that he was strung out on drugs. I wanted absolutely no part of that and still felt that way. So when a mutual friend would say that he had asked about me. My reply would always be no,no,no. Don’t you give my number to him. I want no part of that. I would make it very clear that they were not to give him any information out about me. A few years passed and one day he shows up at my work. Great, just fan-fricken-tastic! He ended up being the latest new hire. Well I guess sometimes you have to face your past whether you want to or not. I was married. He had his girl and they had just had a baby. So I made it very clear there would be no round two, now or ever. He was fine with that and we made a mutual agreement that we were there for work and nothing more.

It was during this time that we started talking again, just like the old times. I finally mustered up the balls to ask him why he was strung out and what the hell was he thinking. He basically told me about some hardship he had gone through, how he became so angry he didn’t even know who he was. And some other things. He confessed to me that he was responsible for killing a kid at Jack-In-The-Box. My reaction of course was something like “What in the hell are you talking about?!” He then further explained that he was working at Jack-In-The-Box as the guy who cooked the E-coli burgers. He said, “I was working that day, I killed that kid!” I said “Holy F. you have got to be kidding me.” He just looked up at me with tears in his eyes and shook his head. He sat and cried for a few minutes. He then went on to tell me that he had tried to go to the family to apologize. They told him that he was a murderer and it was his fault, that they hated him and he deserved the same thing. This totally devastated him. At first he tried to tell himself he was just doing his job. But that soon faded. It started with drinking and evolved from there to the hardcore drugs. He said he couldn’t handle having that on his conscience. He got to the point where he didn’t care if he lived or died. After his daughter was born that was the only thing that kept him alive. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. He never lied to me before. I can’t prove one way or another, but I choose to believe him. He truly had a sad life.

Later, I called Tony on the phone when I found out that he had been clean and sober for quite some time and that his band had a cult following. I called to tell him how I was so proud of him and I had missed him (not the drug addict Tony). He bragged about how he was getting married and we laughed. His mom had always wanted us to get married. We laughed about the old times. I’m so glad I got to talk to him that one last time. Apparently this was just a couple of weeks before he found his mom dead, his woman left him, and his band had a falling out. The band was the majority of his support of staying clean. (I am NOT blaming anyone)! The only thing he had left was his daughter and I’m not really sure he got to see her. So again, his whole world came down around him and he did what most people in his situation do. They go back to their old bad habits, because it helps to dull the pain. No one could have stopped him, his path had already been written. My only regret in all of this, is that I never got to see him play a show. He made it. He was a real rock star! He lived by his own rules. He was like so many before him. They made it, then fell.
In closing I just want to say, Tony was a wonderful person with some very bad habits.

R.I.P. Toeknee, I Will Always Love You.

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Sixth Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Tony McDougald

At 4:40am Monday morning, a South Tacoma homeowner and his wife were woken up to the sounds of dogs barking. In the past few weeks, they’d had previous attempted break ins. Back in March, less than a block away, Marvin Plunkett was shot and killed. This neighborhood is no stranger to violence. So when the homeowner went out to investigate the noises he heard in his garage, he was armed with a pistol. He’d already told his wife to call 9-1-1. He confronted the two burglars and held them at gunpoint. Then the two men decided to charge him. He reacted by firing his weapon. One of the burglars was 36-year-old Tony McDougald. After being shot, Tony managed to run away into the alley where he died. The other wounded burglar remained near the garage where the homeowner used a first aid kit until the police and ambulance arrived.

The death of Tony McDougald  is the sixth Tacoma homicide in 2011 and the second death of a would-be burglar in the last seven weeks. As in the case of Jamarr Johnson, no charges will be filed against the homeowner. The message from Tacoma authorities is clear: If someone breaks in and you have a reasonable fear for your life, you can shoot them.  I don’t entirely disagree. I would argue that it’s the South Tacoma Way. I don’t think that burglary should be punishable by death, but you break into MY house, it just might be.

I grew up a block away from this latest homicide of South 40th and Fawcett. It was and is a lower middle class neighborhood full of gravel alleys, detached garages, and dogs. Like other kids in that area, I went to Whitman Elementary School and Stewart Middle School. And it was at Stewart Middle School that I first met Tony McDougald.

It was only this morning that I learned that it was Tony who had been killed. I’m still processing it. I haven’t seen Tony in over twenty years. To be honest, I always assumed that he was in prison. It wasn’t that Tony was a bad kid. He just rarely, if ever, followed the rules. He was shorter than most of the other kids our age, but he made up for that with personality and attitude.

In middle school in 1989 Tony wore ripped jeans, metal band shirts, a jean jacket, and hair that would not have looked out of place in a Bon Jovi video. He was rock n roll at a time when I was just figuring out who I was. I don’t remember how we became friends. I remember that we had a lot of conversations about the crazy stuff that he’d do. There was one morning our English class was all supposed to meet for a field trip and everyone was there but Tony. Someone asked where Tony was and just then we saw him running down the sidewalk with a security guard chasing him. There was no doubt that he was a criminal. Even back then. That said, he was still my friend and he was great to talk to. He was smarter than anyone ever gave him credit for. Most teachers saw the rocker outfit and just assumed he was a dumbass.

I don’t know what happened to Tony between 1989 and last Monday morning. From what little I know, he likely didn’t change too much. He was probably a good friend to the people who knew him. He probably broke rules when he felt like it. And while he probably never expected to die of gunshot wounds in an alley after trying to burglarize a place, I don’t think it would have surprised him.

One thing I know that the homeowner could not have known is that Tony wouldn’t have hurt him. The Tony I knew wasn’t really a violent guy. Tony was likely just running towards the guy to get away. But there’s no way the homeowner would have known that. He reacted in the way most people would in that situation. It wasn’t a murder, but it was a tragedy.

Tony was the first person I ever met who lived by his own set of rules. And even at thirteen years old he knew that there were consequences for living that way, but being like everyone else wasn’t even a possibility for Tony. I’m not sure I’d be the same person I am today without having had Tony as a friend in middle school. He was my first brush with rebellion. In a world of copies, Tony was a true original. He may have been a criminal, but he wasn’t a bad guy.

Update: A memorial for friends and family of Tony McDougald is planned for Saturday, June 4 at 11 a.m. at Elk Plain Community Church (4115 224thStreet E, Spanaway). The public is welcome.