Special Reports

City denies Brame claim

Tacoma City Council members unanimously denied a $75 million wrongful death claim in the David Brame case Tuesday night, but authorized their attorneys to begin settlement talks in the matter.

"We want to avoid lengthy litigation," Mayor Bill Baarsma said. "We've experienced a tremendous amount of tragedy and no purpose would be served by spending millions of dollars on a lawsuit."

Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, and himself April 26. Crystal Brame's family filed the claim June 9.

Paul Luvera, attorney for the family, said Tuesday night he doesn't think there's anything to be gained by settlement talks.

"Dangling money in front of the family by the city is to me offensive unless it includes full disclosure" of the facts in the case, Luvera said.

"Any settlement would have to involve a complete and full disclosure of the facts, which are not being disclosed, and would require a realistic and genuine program by the city to ensure that this does not happen again."

Baarsma said city officials believe it makes more sense to provide for the Brame children - Haley, 8, and David Jr., 5 - "rather than spend money on a trial that would disrupt their lives even more."

The council suggested no settlement amount.

The children's grandparents, Lane and Patty Judson, and aunt, Julie Ahrens, filed the $75 million claim, accusing the city of neglect for hiring and promoting David Brame but not paying attention to his stability.

The claim also said officials ignored signs Brame was destructive, hid claims that he raped a woman and didn't investigate allegations that he abused his wife.

"Our primary goal is not to recover money," Luvera said. "Our primary goal is to know the truth and to hold those accountable responsible for their actions."

The day the claim was filed, Lane Judson told reporters: "If people had done their jobs responsibly, our daughter would be alive today."

Before council members denied the claim, deputy mayor Bil Moss read a brief prepared statement saying they were "greatly saddened by the Brame tragedy and the loss to all involved."

"However, we do not believe the City of Tacoma is legally responsible for the death of Crystal Brame," the statement continued.

A protracted lawsuit would interfere with "the orderly functioning of city government" and hamper the city's ability to serve its residents and deal with important issues, including domestic violence, Moss said.

By beginning settlement talks immediately, the city would both see to the interests of its citizens and show "true compassion for Haley and David Brame Jr.," the statement concludes.

Council members reached their decision following a two-hour closed-door discussion with their attorneys Tuesday afternoon. The city is represented in the case by Tim Gosselin, Jill Stone and Rob Novasky of the Tacoma law firm Burgess Fitzer.

The city had 60 days after the claim was filed to take action or face a lawsuit.

The shootings rocked the city to its foundation, set two investigations in motion and resulted in the termination of City Manager Ray Corpuz.

Corpuz declined to put Brame on leave - an action that would have stripped him of his gun and badge - after Crystal's divorce case allegations of domestic abuse were made public.

The day before the shootings, Corpuz said Brame was doing a great job as police chief and his messy divorce was "a civil matter" in which the city had no business.

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659