TACOMA, Wash. - It's pretty common that a community will meet with its police officers to voice their concerns about crime. It's routine that they will say that something needs to be done. But it's unique that residents look officers in the eye, demand action, and then point the finger at themselves.
That is what happened in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood Monday night.
They are still reeling from a drive-by shooting a few weeks ago that put two teenaged boys in the hospital and the recent attack on a local couple. Justin Winter and Mishele Dupree were jumped by a group of about 15 teenagers whose ringleader was a girl angry that they had refused to give her a cigarette. It happened on MLK and 19th St.
The recent violence prompted a special Hilltop Action Coalition meeting. The room was overflowing with residents who showed up at the Hilltop Tacoma Police Substation.
Everyone had a cautionary tale. "Gunshots were fired towards our house," said one man. "It's going the wrong direction," said another, "and that's distressful for me."
A friend of Justin Winter and Mishele Dupree also spoke. Justin's jaw is shattered in two places, and his jaw is wired shut.
"All of a sudden," Nikki Weather said through tears, "I just see my friend get punched in the face, and then they're stomping his face on the ground. To me you don't stomp somebody's face unless you plan on killing them. And I couldn't do anything, and I felt really helpless."
Other neighbors promised something can be done. "If you aren’t doing something about it, you just aren’t doing anything," said one proud resident. "Get involved, get involved. If you aren’t involved, then I don't know what to tell you."
Neighbor after neighbor got up to urge residents to take the pledge to get involved, to be aware of what is going on in their community, and to get to know their local precinct officers.
Tacoma Police Chief Donald Ramsdell was there, "I'm very encouraged by what I see tonight."
Hilltop Action Coalition says it’s the biggest gathering in recent memory.
Justin Winter and Mishele Dupree couldn't make the meeting. Mishele told KIRO 7 Justin was in too much pain and had to stay home. But people here said they'd work to make the area where the couple got attacked safer.
"I'm going to tell them that the community has their back and we want to take care of this problem," said Nikki Weather.