The dog, Wendy, is 14 years old and lies on the couch, looking out a window, waiting for Brandon Morris to come home.
At night, Wendy and two cats, Tom and Jerry, sleep on the bed where Morris slept. On some nights, his mother, Elladell Morris, joins them.
“Brandon was a good son, a good man,” Elladell said. “He was 19, a year from graduating from Bates College as a diesel mechanic. He was probably going to marry a young woman he’d met there eight months ago.
Brandon was her only child.
“I worked hard as a single mother to raise him, and now someone with no regard for life takes him away …”
The Morris house has had more than its share of tears since the afternoon of May 1, when Brandon was shot near the corner of 45th Street and South Puget Sound Avenue.
Five males, ages 15 to 23, have been arrested and charged in the killing, a drive-by shooting initially described by authorities as gang-related. A sixth man has been charged but is not in custody; a warrant is out for his arrest.
Except Brandon Morris had never been in a gang. Nor had his girlfriend or two other friends with him that day.
Now it appears the incident wasn’t gang-related at all, police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said.
“It appears the victim really was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Cool said. “The suspects appear to have been looking for someone else entirely.”
Brandon’s friends said he saw the SUV from which the fatal shot was fired before his friends did, and realized what was happening.
“They told me he shoved them behind a Jeep parked there and was diving behind it when the bullet hit him,” Elladell said. “It couldn’t have hit him in the shoulder or leg or butt. It hit him in the head.”
Brandon died five days later. He became an organ donor, as he had requested years earlier.
His grandmother, Nancy Pringle, was expecting to see him later on the day he was shot.
“I’d moved from an apartment to a house, and he’d packed and moved everything for me,” she said. “Brandon was going to move from his mom’s house to mine for a few months. Family always came first.
“Brandon came to my home once a week, did things for me I couldn’t do myself. When that series on the Bible was on television, he’d come over and we’d watch it together. He took me fishing. He’d set me up in a chair and we’d fish together …”
His decision to pursue a trade at Bates rather than a college career was typical of Morris. He was a young man who built his mother’s backyard, bringing in dirt to fill a sharp dropoff.
He planted trees, started a vegetable garden, planted flowers along the back of the house.
“We did a lot of volunteer things together,” Elladell said. “We handed out water bottles at the Sound to Narrows race. We spent a day at a soup kitchen. We sat in a booth at the Puyallup Fair for the Tacoma Chess Club, because Brandon was a member.
“Brandon was in the chess club, the science club, the math club,” Elladell said. “He was supposed to go to Foss High School, but they didn’t have a chess club. He was allowed to go to Mount Tahoma instead.”
Morris loved camping with his family, friends and dog. The weekend before he was shot, he and about 20 others — including his mother — went on a camping trip.
Elladell’s Tacoma home is dotted with dozens of photos of her son, as it always has been. High on walls, on every shelf, pinned on bulletin boards down the hallway, are school photos year by year.
There are pictures of Brandon bowling, roller skating, ice skating and playing chess, coming home from Disneyland, posing with family members, camping.
“He wanted to make something of his life and was doing that,” his grandmother said.
The day Brandon was shot haunts both his mother and grandmother.
“On Fridays, Bates lets out at noon,” Elladell said. “Any other day, he’d have still been in class. He and his friends went to a convenience store for candy.”
It was 1:15 p.m. when shots were fired. Police said the shooter or shooters allegedly didn’t realize they’d hit anyone, that those in the car insist they were firing at the storefront.
Morris lay in an induced coma until May 6. He never spoke or opened his eyes.
His organ donations saved two other people, will help them to see and lead fuller lives, Elladell was told.
She had her son’s remains cremated, with ashes placed in three sealed urns.
“I have one, his father in Texas has one, and his older brother, who lives in Oregon, has the other,” Elladell said.
She has left her job working with medical records.
“I can’t concentrate. I can barely dress myself some mornings,” she said. “Some nights, I sleep in his room — Wendy, the cats and I.
“What was Brandon like? He didn’t have a driver’s license, didn’t want one.
“Brandon took the bus everywhere, said he was saving the economy and the environment.”