Fatal encounter between Tacoma neighbors claims life of 'a great guy, a great dad'

Staff writerJune 7, 2013 

The two men lived next door to each other in Tacoma’s North End, but they were worlds apart.

Frank Rossiter was a doting father who owned his own business, spent his time fishing and was always at the ready with jokes and hugs.

Michael Dillon lived in a house rigged with cameras, spent most of his time with a whiskey bottle and ranted at neighbors about everything from cellphones to same-sex couples.

After a years-long acquaintance where the two neighbors shared both beers and terse words, a confrontation Thursday night ended both their lives.

Police said Dillon, 51, fired several random rounds from his back porch and then killed Rossiter, 55, about 8 p.m. after an argument in the victim’s side yard. Dillon then drove to a friend’s house at Canterwood Estates in Gig Harbor and fatally shot himself as Pierce County sheriff’s deputies approached.

Friends and neighbors grieved for Rossiter on Friday but said they were not surprised to learn Dillon was the alleged gunman.

“As soon as I saw police on the block, I thought of that guy,” said neighbor Jason Jones, pointing at Dillon’s boarded-up home in the 4600 block of North Ferdinand Street. “He wasn’t a normal guy. He was a crazy guy.”

Dillon lived alone in a house he’d lined with cameras outside, telling neighbors he was recording their conversations. He aggressively questioned anyone he saw in the area, was prone to rants and appeared paranoid, neighbors said.

On Friday, Jones recalled a chat with Dillon where the man openly spoke of killing people. Other neighbors said Dillon seemed more disturbed lately and thought he’d recently lost his manual labor job.

When neighbors heard about 10 shots, some assumed it was fireworks and went back to their dinners and television shows. Others peeked out their windows to see what was going on. At least two people saw Dillon walking casually from Rossiter’s house back toward his own. One spotted a gun in his hand.

John Evans was sitting in his living room, rocking his two infant daughters, when he heard the shots. He raced upstairs, where his fiancé was yelling off the balcony to Dillon, asking what he was shooting at.

Evans rushed her inside and called 911. Then the doorbell rang. He said he knew it was Dillon. He grabbed a butcher knife and stood just inside the front door, waiting. The visitor eventually left.

“We heard a complete clip being unloaded in about five seconds,” Evans said. “It was very surreal, like a movie. He was an intent killer.”

Detectives said they may never know why Dillon opened fire or what the men argued about.

“They got into a disagreement and (the suspect) started shooting,” police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said. “We don’t know why.”

Police blocked off the area after finding Rossiter’s body, asking residents to stay inside as they searched for the shooter. Then they received word that a man had killed himself outside a Gig Harbor house after telling friends he’d “done something bad” in Tacoma.

The friend called 911 for help, and as deputies approached the home, Dillon stood up and reached for his gun, sheriff’s detective Sgt. Jerry Bates said. Deputies sought cover in a nearby garage and heard the fatal shot.

Evans described Rossiter as “a great guy, a great dad.” Neither Rossiter’s 12-year-old son nor his roommate was home at the time of the shooting.

Johnny Mack, who lived up the street, said Rossiter was an avid fisherman who was handy with a grill and liked to have a good time.

“He was a jovial guy,” Mack said. “He liked to laugh.”

Though grieving for a friend he’d known since the fifth grade, Rossiter’s roommate Mike Keblbek burst out laughing when asked what Rossiter was like.

“There’s no way to describe him,” he said. “He was a unique guy.”

Then, stopping periodically for spurts of laughter or to wipe his teary eyes and collect himself, Keblbek told stories about his childhood friend.

The men played football together at Foss High School. Rossiter liked to rib Keblbek that he was a champion. He even kept his team state championship photograph hung in the bathroom as a reminder.

Rossiter owned a process server business but had such charisma even those being served papers couldn’t stay mad at him. Some would agree to meet with him; one even hugged him.

He loved to fish, especially for steelhead, and made tasty salmon cheese balls that acquaintances bought from him in bulk.

Rossiter was an elder at Emmanual Lutheran Church, regularly driving elderly woman to services and sharing details of the sermon once he got home.

“Frank was very caring, a very, very, very caring person,” Keblbek said. “And if you were a friend of his, you were a good friend of his. Forever.”

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

The News Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service