Special Reports

Another missed chance to stop David Brame?

One of the worst things about the David Brame tragedy is seeing - with the clarity of hindsight - a string of missed opportunities to prevent the April 26 murder-suicide.

For example, City Manager Ray Corpuz or other Tacoma officials might have prevented it had they intervened after learning that Crystal Brame had complained in the couple's divorce proceedings that her husband - Tacoma's police chief - had threatened her life.

Law enforcement authorities might have intervened after April 11, when Crystal told a 911 dispatcher of "numerous death threats from my husband."

And Crystal might never have married Brame in the first place had the Tacoma Police Department responded more aggressively in 1988 to a woman's credible allegation that he raped her during a date.

What seems yet another missed opportunity has now come to light. According to sources close to the investigation of the shootings, Assistant Police Chief Catherine Woodard made handwritten notes indicating that she, too, was aware of Brame's threats against his estranged wife.

Those notes - apparently Woodard's transcripts of conversations with the couple - some-how found their way into David Brame's apartment, where they were discovered by investigators.

They reinforce the impression that Woodard, perhaps with good intentions, was far too deeply entangled in the couple's bitter divorce. Woodard has said she considered herself a friend of Crystal's, and she may at some point have been trying to mediate between the Brames.

Unfortunately, she appears to have become yet another high-ranking Tacoma official who knew of David Brame's threats and failed to act. A death threat is a serious crime, and police officers are obligated to take appropriate action when they become aware of any crime. In this case, it would appear that the information should have been passed on to police in Gig Harbor, where the Brames lived.

Woodard's notes seem likely to complicate the City of Tacoma's defense against a $75 million legal claim filed by Crystal's family. It may be argued that Crystal's civil rights - including her right to life - were violated by a police officer - her husband - criminally abusing her "under color of law." The city's exposure could be greater if it were demonstrated that an assistant police chief was aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

But the real disappointment here has nothing to do with lawsuits or liability. It has to do with a woman who shouldn't have been murdered and two young children who shouldn't have been orphaned.

We already knew of several points at which Brame might have been halted on the path to homicide. It now appears there was another.