Life cut short for hard-working teen killed on Tacoma street

Elijah Crawford, 18, was fatally shot in Tacoma on Nov. 2, 2015.
Elijah Crawford, 18, was fatally shot in Tacoma on Nov. 2, 2015. Courtesy photo

Elijah Crawford was many things: a jokester, an athlete, a hard-working student, a loving son.

His family and friends are struggling to understand why someone shot the 18-year-old to death Monday in Tacoma’s Salishan neighborhood.

“This is not your young black male shot in the streets kind of story,” said Nate Bowling, one of Crawford’s teachers at Lincoln High School. “He was a goofy, funny, positive, dedicated and thoughtful child whose life was snuffed out before it even began.”

Crawford was shot while he and a 20-year-old man and a third friend were sitting in a car parked in the 1800 block of East 44th Street about 11:45 p.m.

They were waiting to meet acquaintances when at least one person walked up and opened fire, police said. Crawford died; the 20-year-old was wounded and survived. The third friend fled.

No one has been arrested in the attack.

“This does not appear to be a random shooting,” police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said Friday. “Somebody was looking for them and knew they were there.”

Police said Crawford and his friends are not gang members and did not appear to be involved in any illegal activity.

Crawford’s mother, Deborah, said it has been hard knowing people are assuming her son was a thug. She described him as a pretty boy, a jock, her baby.

Their family took summer vacations to Lake Meridian. They often played at the park in Steilacoom and visited the B&I Public Marketplace in Lakewood.

Crawford discovered wrestling in seventh grade but didn’t join a team until his sophomore year. By his senior year, he was a co-captain.

Bowling, who said Crawford sat in the front seat of his AP government class last year, also knew the teen because he was an announcer at football games and wrestling matches.

Crawford was on the football team but did it more to stay in shape for wrestling. His mother said he was a proud Abe, the school mascot.

During sport announcements, Bowling nicknamed Crawford “the prophet” because his name was Elijah. Crawford decided he wanted to be known as “the predator” and begged his teacher to call him by the new moniker.

Bowling told him he’d change the nickname if Crawford got an A on the next quiz.

“He nailed it,” Bowling said. “School didn’t come easy to him, but he worked hard. He was the most energetic student I ever taught.”

Crawford graduated in June and was planning to enlist in the Navy, where he wanted to be a combat photographer. He also hoped to one day wrestle in the Olympics for Team USA.

The teen had his camera with him when he was killed. His mother is eager to get the camera back from police so she can see the last images he captured.

Crawford was known to take shots around the city of homeless people and kids playing, but Mom was his favorite subject, no matter how much she protested.

“He didn’t take things too seriously,” Deborah Crawford said. “He was such a jokester. You rarely saw him mad. He was just a happy-go-lucky teenager.”

She chuckled through her tears as she recalled all the times he and his 24-year-old brother, Jheryl, played pranks on her. Their favorite was to record her with her own cellphone as she searched for it, believing she’d misplaced it.

After word of Elijah’s death spread on social media, Tacoma Public Schools sent counselors to the high school for students to talk to. A district spokesman said Crawford was a popular student, and his peers were taking the shooting hard.

“He grew up in the streets, but he wasn’t part of the streets,” Deborah Crawford said. “This wasn’t supposed to happen to him.”

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

Have information?

Anyone with information on Monday’s fatal shooting is asked to call Tacoma police at 253-591-5968.

Walk set for Saturday

A peace walk will be held Saturday afternoon in Salishan over the shooting death of Elijah Crawford.

The 5 p.m. walk was organized by the Salishan Association to give residents the opportunity to support each other in a time of grief.

The walk is intended to show that Salishan residents are “taking a stand against violence and standing for peace,” organizers said.