TACOMA, Wash. — The number of homicides in Tacoma skyrocketed last year, and detectives solved fewer than usual.
It’s the first time in three years Tacoma police did not solve all homicides in the city.
There were 32 homicides in 2020, including the death of Manuel Ellis while being restrained by officers. Eight of those cases remain unsolved, giving the Tacoma Police Department a 75 percent clearance rate.
That’s the second-lowest the department has had in 16 years. The lowest was in 2017 when detectives did not solve four of 12 homicides, making the clearance rate 66 percent.
Tacoma police remain above the national average for solving homicides, which the FBI says is 62 percent.
“Even though our detectives worked tirelessly, our close rate is not 100 percent like it has been the last few years,” police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said. “Just because the year is closed doesn’t mean the cases are. Detectives will keep working these cases until all avenues are exhausted and even then, they will return back to these cases when new evidence emerges.”
The Tacoma Police Department is the only agency in Pierce County that has a cold case unit.
Most of the homicides in Tacoma last year were shootings (24), but there were also two beatings, three stabbings, one person run down with a car, one who had his oxygen restricted and one case where the cause of death has yet to be determined.
It’s the highest number of Tacoma homicides since 1994, when there were 33.
Police say there are too many variables involved to know why there was an uptick in violent deaths. They focus on trying to find justice for the victims and their families, but sometimes that proves difficult.
Cases that don’t have witnesses or surveillance footage are harder to solve, like in the Aug. 15 fatal shooting of Terrence Wilkins at a homeless camp. Three masked men approached and shot Wilkins, 39, during an apparent robbery but haven’t been identified.
Then there’s the case of Diana Davis, who was last seen at her Auburn home July 27. Two days later, her car was found set on fire in Tacoma. Davis’ body was found Aug. 5 near Snoqualmie Pass but authorities haven’t been able to figure out how she died, let alone who killed her.
In the June 6 double-homicide of David Johnson and Alfred Nelson, witnesses have stalled the investigation by refusing to cooperate with police.
There was a crowd in the parking lot on South Washington Street when police arrived at 1:45 a.m. and found Johnson, 28, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Nelson, 18, was found dead inside a vehicle blocks away. The shooter, or shooters, remain at large.
The other unsolved homicides from 2020 are all shootings: Dante Robinson, 28, was found fatally shot March 31; Ty Jenkins, 25, was gunned down July 1 in the south parking garage of Emerald Queen Casino; James Wamsley, 42, was shot to death inside a South J Street home Oct. 1; Gregory Evans, 55, was killed Nov. 27 in a drive-by that also injured an acquaintance.
Other law enforcement agencies in Pierce County fared better with homicide rates and clearance numbers.
The Sheriff’s Department had 15 homicides, including two police shootings, which is up from 12 homicides in 2019. They solved all but one.
“One death is too many obviously, but we’re glad we were able to resolve the majority of our cases,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Darren Moss. “I believe we’ll be able to resolve the final one.”
The unsolved homicide was the Oct. 6 fatal shooting of Jermetrice Jones, 22, at a Parkland apartment complex.
Detectives also are investigating the Oct. 11 death of 39-year-old Jeannifer Chhang in her Lake Tapps driveway.
She died of a gunshot wound to the head, but the Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet ruled on the manner of death.
Investigators say she and her live-in boyfriend appeared to be grappling over a gun when it went off, killing Chhang. The boyfriend was arrested after the shooting but has not been charged.
Other police departments had a 100 percent solve rate last year.
Lakewood had five homicides, Puyallup had two, Fife had two and Bonney Lake had one.
HOMICIDES IN PIERCE COUNTY IN 2020:
Jan. 5: Brian Cendejas, Tacoma Police Department
Jan. 14: Ernest Searcy, Tacoma Police Department
Jan. 15: Darek Williams, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
Feb. 2: Oral Rhoden, Lakewood Police Department
Feb. 11: Melissa Williams, Lakewood Police Department
Feb. 29: Steven Haggard, Tacoma Police Department
March 3: Manuel Ellis, Tacoma Police Department
March 8: Fredrick Green, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
March 10: Sarann Suong, Tacoma Police Department
March 11: Ozell Tate, Tacoma Police Department
March 12: Jermaine Campbell, Tacoma Police Department
March 18: Raymond Serrano, Tacoma Police Department
March 25: Deon McGhee, Tacoma Police Department
March 31: Dante Robinson, Tacoma Police Department
April 3: Kelsea Michelle Carlson, Tacoma Police Department
April 5: Aaron Brown, Tacoma Police Department
April 7: Brandon Stokes, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
April 25: Dimen Adams, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
May 1: Said Joquin, Lakewood Police Department
May 8: Nelvin Rucker, Tacoma Police Department
May 15: Ted Ralston, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
May 15: Joanna Gormley, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
June 6: Alfred T. Nelson, Tacoma Police Department
June 6: David Johnson, Tacoma Police Department
June 7: Travis Grosso, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
June 9: Eljahn Balon, Lakewood Police Department
July 5: Jonna Hart, Tacoma Police Department
July 5: Meghan Re, Tacoma Police Department
July 10: Benito Juarez, Tacoma Police Department
July 23: Samuel Pichinini, Puyallup Police Department
July 27: Diana Davis, Tacoma Police Department
July 30: Sharmaene Yeaman, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
July 31: Ty Jenkins, Tacoma Police Department
Aug. 2: Tupo Fuaau, Fife Police Department
Aug. 3: Ella Flora, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
Aug. 9: Donald Anderson, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
Aug. 12: Jake Red, Tacoma Police Department
Aug. 15: Terrence Wilkins, Tacoma Police Department
Aug. 25: Kassandra Cantrell, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
Sept. 14: Richard Wilt, Bonney Lake Police Department
Sept. 21: Dylan Coolidge, Tacoma Police Department
Sept. 25: Christian Martinez, Tacoma Police Department
Sept. 28: Damoni Nelson, Lakewood Police Department
Oct. 1: James Wamsley, Tacoma Police Department
Oct. 4: Diane Perron, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
Oct. 6: Jermetrice Jones, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
Nov. 1: Quincy Bishop, Puyallup Police Department
Nov. 5: Lino C. Shepard, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
Nov. 14: Aiden Walters, Tacoma Police Department
Nov. 15: Scott Jonathon Univer, Tacoma Police Department
Nov. 18: Nouman Saysuwan, Fife Police Department
Nov. 27: Gregory Evans, Tacoma Police Department
Dec. 1: Joshua A. Moore-Hughes, Tacoma Police Department
Dec. 3: Patrick Nathan Shenaurlt, Tacoma Police Department
Dec. 23: Clara Wasankari, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department