Crime

Man killed with own knife near Tacoma park tried to run from attacker, records say

Suspect in fatal stabbing near People’s Park appears in court

Pierce County prosecutors have charged David Henderson with the stabbing death of Jahleen Mitchell near People’s Park in Tacoma last week. Mitchell, 38, was taken to a hospital, where he died of a stab wound to the chest.
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Pierce County prosecutors have charged David Henderson with the stabbing death of Jahleen Mitchell near People’s Park in Tacoma last week. Mitchell, 38, was taken to a hospital, where he died of a stab wound to the chest.

A man killed near a Tacoma park last week tried to run from his attacker but was knocked to the ground and beaten before being stabbed with his own knife, according to court documents.

Several people witnessed a fight Thursday between Jahleen Mitchell and David Henderson, which started in People’s Park just before 1 p.m. and ended in the intersection of South 10th and L streets.

Mitchell, 38, was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center, where he died of a stab wound to the chest.

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Jahleen Mitchell Family courtesy photo

Pierce County prosecutors have charged Henderson, 40, with first-degree murder and second-degree murder.

He was arrested Saturday after a warrant was issued and pleaded not guilty at arraignment Monday in Pierce County Superior Court.

Court Commissioner Craig Adams set bail at $2 million.

Charging papers give this account:

A witness said Mitchell and Henderson first argued inside the park and Mitchell was bleeding. The witness offered to go get help, but Mitchell left.

Surveillance video from a nearby buildings shows Mitchell walking through the park and Henderson and another man chasing after him, cutting him and surrounding him.

A security guard saw a large knife fall off Mitchell’s backpack and Henderson picked it up.

Mitchell tried to walk away, but Henderson allegedly swung the knife at him.

As Mitchell continued to try and backpedal, he tripped and fell to the ground.

Henderson stood over him and punched him in the face four times.

Mitchell rolled over in an attempt to get up, and Henderson stabbed him in the side.

One witness “reported that after the victim had been stabbed, the suspect stood over him and continued to hit him and swing the knife at him,” prosecutors wrote in charging papers. “The suspect then yelled, ‘Next time be careful about threatening a guy with a knife.’”

Mitchell ran down the street toward a nearby grocery store and Henderson briefly gave chase.

When Mitchell hunched over in pain and a witness came to help him, Henderson allegedly walked off.

The knife was found near the scene.

It was not clear what prompted the fight between the two men.

Loved ones outside court said Mitchell moved to the United States from Jamaica when he was 6. He grew up in Tacoma and graduated from Mount Tahoma High School. He’s an ex-military police officer, they said.

After his service he studied land surveying and construction at Clover Park Technical College, and he planned to become a commercial pilot.

Mitchell was a loving father to his 8-year-old daughter, they said.

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Jahleen Mitchell and his young daughter Family courtesy photo

He liked drawing, horses, nature and music.

Darryl Henderson, who identified himself as Henderson’s father talked to Mitchell’s family in court.

He apologized for his son’s actions.

“It’s something that never should have happened,” he said.

Lallie M. Thomas, who identified herself as Mitchell’s mother, said she didn’t care to hear an apology.

The man accused of killing her son should not have been out on the street, she said.

Court records indicate that a murder conviction would mean mandatory life without parole for Henderson under the state’s “three strikes” law.

He has a conviction for attempted second-degree assault in connection to a BB gun shooting that shattered a car window in Tacoma in 2006 and a second-degree assault conviction from 1999, among other crimes.

Thomas said Mitchell was living with her in Spanaway and that she last saw him the day before he died.

She gave him $50, and he promptly gave almost half of it to a homeless man in need, she said.

She said that was in character, that her son regularly gave food and clothes to others.

“He said, ‘Mom I love you,’” and thanked her for the money, Thomas remembered.

They spoke on the phone the next morning, and she expected him home that day.

He never came.

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Stacia Glenn covers crime and breaking news in Pierce County. She started with The News Tribune in 2010. Before that, she spent six years writing about crime in Southern California for another newspaper.
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