Special Reports

Police chief's wife clings to life

Crystal Brame remained in critical condition Sunday night, a day after her husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, shot her in the head before turning the gun on himself.

As Crystal Brame's family and Tacoma city leaders issued statements asking the public for prayers, investigators released no new details about the double shooting at a Gig Harbor shopping plaza.

"I've not talked to the detectives. We plan on meeting (Monday)," said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer, whose agency is handling the investigation along with Gig Harbor police.

With the couple's young children nearby, David Brame shot his wife and then shot himself in the parking lot of the Harbor Plaza shopping center.

David Brame, 44, died at St. Joseph Medical Center. Crystal Brame, 35, was taken to St. Joseph and then to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The shootings came a day after details of the Brames' contentious divorce became public. It remained unclear why the couple met in the parking lot Saturday.

City Manager Ray Corpuz released a statement Sunday saying he spoke to David Brame several times during the last two weeks and was aware the police chief was seeking professional counseling for his divorce.

"I have talked to a number of Chief Brame's colleagues, who say there was no indication the chief's personal situation would end like this," Corpuz said. "Most of all, we want to understand how it could happen."

Adding to the mystery, Corpuz said, was that Brame had attended a seminar in Virginia earlier this year in which he learned how officers can handle emotional stress in their lives.

"He was so impressed with the training that he arranged for the instructor ... to come to Tacoma in March," Corpuz said.

Also Sunday, chaplains were being made available to help police officers deal with the tragedy. Several officers on patrol Sunday would not discuss the incident, saying they had been told not to talk.

But Pat Frantz, president of the union representing the patrol officers, held little back in criticizing Brame.

"He's let us all down," Frantz said. "He's let the department down. He's let the community down and he's let his family down."

Frantz said officers he spoke to Sunday were deeply disappointed in Brame, a relatively young chief who was doing some "fantastic things in community-oriented policing."

In the Brames' North Creek Estates' neighborhood in Gig Harbor, several media-weary residents had nothing to say and asked a reporter and photographer to leave.

One neighbor in the couple's Evergreen-shaded cul-de-sac recalled Crystal Brame as a timid woman about whom he knew almost nothing until April 19.

That day she confided that she finally was free of her controlling husband, said Marty Conmy, a neighbor of the Brames' for about seven years.

Conmy was out doing yard work when he saw Crystal Brame passing by. Uncharacteristically, he said, she wanted to talk about her relationship with her estranged husband, and it came out in a torrent.

"She told me about death threats," Conmy said. "She told me (David Brame) had her in a closet with a loaded gun to her head."

She went on to say her husband controlled every detail of her life, but that the pending divorce had changed that, Conmy said.

"She was making it sound like this guy totally controlled her life and that she was now making a declaration that, 'I can be a normal human being again.' Those were her exact words," Conmy said.

Conmy said the couple wasn't living together at the home at the time, and that it appeared Crystal Brame was there simply to check on the house.

She showed up again Saturday, a few hours before David Brame shot her, said Lillian Conmy, Marty Conmy's wife.

Two other cars were in the driveway besides Crystal Brame's. Her husband's wasn't one of them, said Lillian Conmy, who said she didn't speak with Crystal Brame.

Frantz described Crystal Brame as a "very loving, very caring person."

"I met her on several occasions and saw her at several events," Frantz said.

He said he observed her interaction with her children a few times at the Puyallup Fair, where he saw a devoted mother who was kissing and hugging and caring for her children.

"She would get them food, make sure they got something to eat, and then clean them up after they ate," he said. "She was a very caring mother."

The impact of Saturday's shootings spread far beyond the Tacoma police force and the Brames' immediate neighborhood.

The couple's 5-year-old son, David Brame Jr., attends preschool. His 8-year-old sister, Haley Brame, is in second grade at Discovery Elementary School in Gig Harbor.

"The teachers who have taught Haley for two years are just destroyed by this," said the school's principal, Carolyn Curles.

"Haley is a wonderful little girl and the Brames were conscientious parents who cared very deeply for their children.

"Crystal was very involved with the school and would help in the classroom, reading with the students. The dad was very busy, but he came to school functions."



Staff writers Kris Sherman and Martha Modeen contributed to this report

Stefano Esposito: 253-597-8644

stefano.esposito@mail.tribnet.com





Fund for Brame children



Tacoma Police Union Local 6 is setting up a fund for Haley Brame, 8, and David Brame Jr., 5, the children of David and Crystal Brame. The fund should be available for donations today or Tuesday at branches of TAPCO Credit Union. For information, call 253-565-9895 or visit www.cityoftacoma.org.

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