Crime

3 charged in 2013 fatal shooting near Tacoma

Nearly two years after Clarence Tate was fatally shot in his home, two men and a woman were charged in his death.

Pierce County prosecutors allege Tate, 49, was killed in retaliation for having sex with his female roommate. The woman told friends she was raped and her boyfriend is one of the two men charged.

Thomas Sterling Potts Jr., 35, and Elika Omeli, 23, are charged with second-degree murder. Cheyenne Caulk, 32, is charged with two counts of first-degree rendering criminal assistance. A warrant was issued for her last week.

Neither Omeli nor Potts have been arraigned but both are in custody for unrelated cases. Potts was charged in May with second-degree murder for the April 15 slaying of Larnell Griffin at a Parkland apartment during an argument over cellphones.

Tate’s roommate was Potts’ girlfriend and was living with Tate at the time of his death.

Court records give this account of the killing:

Tacoma police were called Sept. 5, 2013, to Tate’s house in the 600 block of 119th St. South and found him dead in the living room from a gunshot wound to the chest.

The day before the shooting, Potts allegedly stole a .22-caliber revolver and told the gun owner to tell Tate “he is next.”

Sheriff’s detectives used cellphone records and an inmate wearing a wire to solve the unsolved homicide. According to charging documents:

Cellphone records placed Potts three blocks from Tate’s house less than 30 minutes before the shooting. A neighbor’s security camera caught footage of a pickup truck parking in Tate’s driveway and leaving six minutes later.

Moments later, a woman called 911 to report a shooting on South 88th Street. Witnesses reported seeing a pickup truck flee the scene before Potts was found on the ground with a gunshot wound to his right leg.

Potts told investigators he was shot after declining to buy marijuana from two people walking down the street.

He was taken to a hospital, where employees there noted there was no bullet hole in his pants.

A pickup truck matching the description of the one seen outside Tate’s house and speeding away from where Potts was found later was found at a home shared by Omeli and Caulk.

“A witness reported that Potts said that Omeli told him to shoot Tate and after he did he shot himself in the leg to make it look like it was self-defense,” documents state.

A Pierce County Jail inmate wore a wire and recorded Omeli talking about the homicide, according to charging papers. Omeli allegedly said Caulk drove the pickup to and from the shooting and away from where the wounded Potts was found.

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