Special Reports

Residents rebuke City Hall

Residents throughout Tacoma on Sunday expressed anger, shock, sadness and frustration at Police Chief David Brame's suicide and wife Crystal's death by his hands.

And many weren't prepared to forgive City Hall, which is the center of the worst government crisis to hit Tacoma in recent years.

More than 15 people stopped working, shopping or relaxing during a drizzly spring day to discuss the stunning events. Some wore frowns or pained expressions on their faces as they commented.

"I was horrified," said Louise Ulbricht, 62, a 36-year resident of the city who was shopping at a grocery store in Tacoma's West End area. "I have no faith in who hired him and allowed him to stay in that position."

Lisa Sabalsa, 35, a South Tacoma resident, said her family prayed for Crystal Brame and was saddened by her death. She, too, expressed frustration toward top-level city administrators.

"It's incomprehensible that they'd let such a man get that much authority without checking it out first," she said.

Crystal Brame, 35, died Saturday, a week after her husband shot her in the head in a Gig Harbor shopping center. David Brame, 44, also shot himself and died that violent day.

The Brames' two children, ages 5 and 8, were at the shopping center when the shooting occurred. Crystal Brame had filed for divorce Feb. 24. In a report, Tacoma psychologist Maxwell Knauss said Crystal Brame appeared traumatized by abuse. David Brame had denied abusing her.

City Manager Ray Corpuz hired David Brame as police chief in December 2001.

Wayne Kinney, 48, an East Side resident, noted that the day before Brame shot his wife, city human resources officials wanted to investigate the chief because of the domestic abuse allegations. The City Attorney's Office declined to investigate.

"They wanted to take his gun away," Kinney said. "But the higher-ups wouldn't do it. The domestic violence reports were there."

Kinney added that Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma "is the best in that office in years." He said he has faith that Baarsma "will get to the bottom of it."

Tai Nguyen, a Northeast Tacoma resident, stopped shoveling dirt from a pickup onto his lawn Sunday to talk about the situation, which he called discouraging.

"No one was going to believe her," he said. "She was the chief's wife. If you're a minority or a female, who are they going to believe? The police officer every time."

He said it was terrible the police chief killed his wife and himself.

"Where do kids get their heroes now?" Nguyen said.

City Manager Corpuz "was negligent," said Linda Pulli, an East Side resident. "He should have been aware of Brame's background."

Joe Sinding, 20, and his brother David, 23, both North End residents, said they weren't worried about a breakdown in government or police services, but called Brame's actions disheartening and shocking.

The government crisis, which includes a possible threat to Corpuz's job, could widen, warned Reginald, a young man who lives on the East Side. He declined to give his last name.

"There's no undue fault to Ray Corpuz in this," he said. "But as a black man, we've always had fears about the conduct of the police department. If things aren't settled, other unsolved issues about police misconduct will come up again."

Hal Amundson, 61, another the East Side resident, said the Tacoma Police Department has "never been stable" because of past and present chief problems.

"The police themselves are doing well. It's just our chief," he said, adding that he remains proud to live in Tacoma. "And who's going to want to come here now" to become chief, he said.

Frank Hinckle, 61, a North End resident, said leaders at City Hall were too complacent.

"The whole bunch of them are not doing their jobs," he said.

Rob Tucker: 253-597-8374


• Kathleen Merryman commentary. B1

• David Seago commentary. B4

• Readers question council's decision. B5