Tacoma police chief shoots wife, kills himself

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David Brame
GIG HARBOR - Tacoma's police chief shot his wife and then himself in the parking lot of a strip mall Saturday afternoon while the couple's two young children were nearby.

David Brame died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma about 6 p.m. His wife Crystal remained in critical condition today at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

On Friday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Crystal Brame, 35, had accused her husband in court papers of pointing his service revolver at her and trying to choke her during two separate incidents in the past six months.

The couple were going through a divorce.

Brame, a veteran officer who rose through the ranks to become chief in January 2002, denied those allegations in court papers filed in King County Superior Court last month.

Saturday's shooting happened at about 3:10 p.m., said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer.

"We don't believe other people are involved," Troyer said. "The victims were the chief of the Tacoma Police Department and his wife. We believe he shot her and then shot himself."

Crystal Brame was in a black Toyota Camry with the couple's two children when David Brame approached the vehicle, authorities said. The two had arranged to meet in the shopping mall parking lot. David Brame took the two children - 8-year-old Haley and 5-year-old David - to his burgundy Toyota Camry, which was parked nearby. He then returned to the car Crystal Brame was in. He got in also and a short time later two shots were fired, authorities said.

"The kids were screaming," said Kirsten Oakland, who works in a hair salon at the mall. "Who would have thought? Awful. This affected the entire community in a split second."

An off-duty King County paramedic was the first to arrive on the scene and begin treatment.

"It appeared she (Crystal) managed to open the door and fell down to the ground," Troyer said. "And the paramedic pulled up right next to her in the car."

Neither child was hurt. They were with their mother's parents Saturday night, Troyer said.

George Sharp, a supervisor for the Rite Aid store, said almost nobody in the store actually heard the shooting. Many learned of it from customers and employees coming in for their shifts who had learned about the shooting from news reports.

"A lot of people expressed shock that it did happen in Gig Harbor and the customers and the employees wish that it hadn't happened but they didn't really feel any more threatened as they would if it were a drive-by or it were a random act," Sharp said.

"I think that people are saddened it got to that stage and unhappy that it happened here, and unhappy that it happened at all."

Troyer said one of the Brame children got out of the car and went into a nearby Hollywood Video store. Witnesses took the other child to the store too.

Jesse Hentz, assistant manager of the Hollywood Video, said: "I feel really bad. And I want the family to know that people care about them."

In court papers, Crystal Brame portrayed her husband as controlling and jealous, refusing to let her use their credit card without permission and checking her car's odometer to monitor trips to the grocery store.

She also accused him of leaving his loaded service revolver on a bedroom shelf within reach of their two children.

Her fear increased last November when she alleged that the 44-year-old Brame "choked me and threatened that he could snap my neck if he wanted to." It was the fourth time that year he'd tried to choke her, each time sending flowers later to apologize, she said.

And just before they separated in February, she alleged in court documents that Brame pointed his service revolver at her, "telling me 'accidents happen.'"

She did not report either incident to police.

David Brame had maintained he was the real victim of domestic violence during his 11-year marriage. He said he reported the assaults to police - first to his boss, then-interim Chief Ken Monner and to an officer who photographed his bruises; then to police in Gig Harbor, where he was living at the time.

Both times David Brame insisted that police not arrest his wife or even investigate his allegations - even though a state law requires officers to arrest anyone accused of domestic violence if the complaint is credible.

He explained his unusual behavior in court documents by saying he wanted to "protect himself" in case his wife ever tried to malign him with false abuse allegations.

Tacoma City Councilman Mike Lonergan, who sits on the council's public safety committee, said he had a hard time believing the shooting had happened.

"We knew David from his professional side. This is a total shock," Lonergan said Saturday. "He presented himself as a very together person, business-like and very likeable. This entire thing is hard to grasp."

Although Lonergan said the usually outgoing Brame had been withdrawn and seemed depressed lately, he had no idea what was going on at home.

"To know David Brame took the action he did today shows that there was a whole lot beneath the surface we couldn't see," Lonergan said.

Ken Bunting, executive editor of the P-I, said "this is a tragic development in lives that, from all accounts, have been troubled for quite some time. These events are not only painful for the family, but for the community and all who have the responsibility to ask the difficult questions about it. Domestic violence is never a comfortable topic."

Paul Pastor, Pierce County sheriff, announced Brame's death from outside St. Joseph's hospital. He said only that Brame had died of a gunshot wound; no other details were given.

"This is terribly sad news for this city and this community," Pastor said.

Carlos Sambrano, a childhood friend of the chief, went to the hospital to support the family. He said he and Brame played baseball at Lincoln High School.

"He never appeared to be a violent person," said Sambrano, who described his friend as a "class act."

Visibly distraught over the news of his friend's death, Sambrano said: "What's this world coming to."

P-I reporter Robert L. Jamieson Jr. contributed to this report
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  Filed Under: mis-conduct POLICE/Sheriff/FED, Murder/attempt/conspiracy/homicide
Related Stories
The News Tribune 09/16/2003 Brame ends wife's hopes for a new life - Pt. 3
The News Tribune 09/15/2003 David Brame's life, career crumble when wife seeks a way out - Pt. 2
The News Tribune 09/14/2003 Inside David Brame's police department - Pt. 1
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Jun 27 2010 11:51AM

This whole thing was pretty tough to get through. It makes a person sick reading about bad cops like this. One thing is for sure the police had opportunities to prevent this and did nothing but protect the cop.

Carl the Toad
Aug 24 2008 10:34PM

This guy was an incredible coward. Read the 3 part story above about him. Not only was he a coward but he was a scumbag extraordinaire. He manipulated people and ruined careers as he himself said ".. because I can." The city of Tacoma was warned not to hire him as a police officer let alone make him the Chief of Police and then they had the nerve the say they were not to blame for his actions. Unbelievable.

After I read this story I started looking on the internet and found a lot more information about cops killing wives and girlfriends. It goes on a lot more than people think. Cops are nothing but psycho brutes. They terrorize people around them and the only place people have to go for help is the police. How far do you think those complaints get? They go straight in the trash and then the perp is tipped-off and the victim gets the hell beat out of them for telling.

Citizen's groups need to be formed to deal with this and have the kind of power to remove the threat. That means taking this out of the hands of the fox and having the authority to fire cops who represent a threat. Looking at case after case reveals one thing these cases have in common: the victim reported domestic violence and the cops did nothing except protect the cop who was committing the crime.

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