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Sunday, April 27, 2003

"Tacoma police chief dies after shooting wife, self" - The Seattle Times

...David Brame denied all of his wife's allegations, and said she had a "ferocious temper" that manifested itself in physical attacks, constant verbal abuse and threats to "drag him through the mud" and ruin his police career. But Crystal Brame's longtime friends aren't buying any of the police chief's allegations, especially now that he shot her....

Tacoma police chief dies after shooting wife, self

Seattle Times
Sunday, April 27, 2003

Tacoma Police Chief David Brame died yesterday after he shot his 35-year-old estranged wife and himself in a strip-mall parking lot in Gig Harbor, Pierce County.

Brame, 44, was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma where he died shortly before 6 p.m. yesterday.

His wife, Crystal, was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where she was in extremely critical condition last night with a bullet wound in the head.

The couple's two young children were in the parking lot at the time of shooting, but it wasn't immediately known if they witnessed the violence.

Brame and his wife were in the parking lot to exchange the children from one parent to the other. The couple had been going through a contentious divorce, with allegations of abuse from both sides.

Crystal Brame did not have a protective order against her husband, according to police and court records. Though there was a standard restraining order that protected the couple's assets during the divorce, she had said in divorce documents that she had chosen not to obtain a no-contact order, against the advice of her lawyer.

About 3:10 p.m. yesterday, Brame pulled into the mall parking lot to meet his wife, who had arrived in her car with the couple's 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said. Brame put the children in his car, then returned to his wife's car, got in the passenger seat, then fired his gun twice.

Brame was found in the passenger seat with a fatal head wound. His wife had climbed out of the car before collapsing on the pavement.

A witness, Gary Pullin, 41, of Gig Harbor, was waiting in his car for his wife, Mary, to get off work at a business in the shopping center. As his wife was getting into their car, he heard two gunshots. The scene that followed was chaos.

Pullin told his wife to get in the car. As the couple drove off, Pullin realized he had been parked only four stalls from where the shots were fired. He then stopped his car.

"She was on her back, and there was blood everywhere. ... I watched her move her hand up to her head," Pullin said.

Pullin said he then saw a woman quickly herd the children away from the scene. He also saw a bystander pick up the handgun and then make a call on his cellphone. Many other people were screaming and running from the parking lot.

Bystanders hurried the Brame children into a video store in the mall to wait for police.

At the time of the shootings, the Brames were three months into a bitter divorce, with each making claims and counterclaims against the other.

For example, Crystal Brame alleged that she was "very afraid" of her husband because he was controlling and threatening - pointing a gun at her, keeping the couple's checkbook from her, insisting on going with her to routine doctor exams and checking her car odometer to make sure she had not strayed from permitted errands.

David Brame denied all of his wife's allegations, and said she had a "ferocious temper" that manifested itself in physical attacks, constant verbal abuse and threats to "drag him through the mud" and ruin his police career.

But Crystal Brame's longtime friends aren't buying any of the police chief's allegations, especially now that he shot her.

"If you wanted a mom, Crystal would be the perfect one," said Brad Chatfield, a state Senate employee from Olympia who is a lifelong friend. "She's one of the most thoughtful people I've ever met."

Brame's allegations "are categorically not true," Chatfield said. "That's not in her character. She doesn't have the capacity for that kind of anger and violence. She was not the one with the gun. She was not the supposedly trained police chief."

Crystal Brame, nee Judson, grew up in Tacoma and graduated from Mount Tahoma High School. She attended the University of Washington, where she studied criminal justice, her friends said.

Right out of college, she got a job working for the Tacoma Police Department and the local courts. That's when she met David Brame, a rising star in the department who had been divorced from his first wife since 1987.

After they married, she quit her job to stay home to raise the couple's children, friends said.

"She gave up everything for her children and for David," Chatfield said. "And that's why this is so shocking."

According to a Pierce County Sheriff's Department police-dispatch report, Crystal Brame called a sheriff's dispatch center the night of April 11 to allege that four hours earlier David Brame, accompanied by Assistant Police Chief Catherine Woodard, who was named last night to serve as acting chief of the department, came to Crystal's parents' home in the gated Canterwood neighborhood of Gig Harbor.

According to Crystal Brame's report, she was living at her parents' home "for safety reasons." She alleged that Brame and Woodard gained access to the secure neighborhood "under false pretenses." She told the police dispatcher that Woodard was not supposed to "be near her" because of "intimidation and threats."

Sheriff's spokesman Troyer said the dispatcher did not send an officer to the residence because Crystal Brame had called hours after the chief and his assistant had left, and she had no proof that Woodard or Chief Brame had threatened or intimidated her.

Crystal Brame didn't have a court order forbidding either her husband or Woodard from contacting her, and Chief Brame had simply come to the residence to pick up the children for a planned weekend visit, Troyer said. Under terms of their separation, he was supposed to bring along another adult when he contacted his wife, so he brought his assistant chief.

Tacoma police spokesman Jim Mattheis last night said Crystal Brame's allegations of threats by Woodard weren't true, and the department wouldn't discuss the matter. "There's been enough damage done already," Mattheis said.

David Brame, who was named Tacoma's police chief in late 2001, was described as a trusted insider committed to Tacoma, someone who could build bridges between the department and the community.

The Tacoma native had been assistant police chief before being named chief. He also had served as commander of the criminal investigations division and headed up the department's internal-affairs division.

For six years, Brame was chief contract negotiator for the police union, representing patrol officers.

He earned a bachelor degree in public administration from the University of Puget Sound.

The shootings came a day after media reports about the Brames' bitter separation.

"I blame the news media for driving this over the edge above and beyond what you needed to in a tabloid fashion," said Patrick Frantz, president of Tacoma's police union.

Frantz said Brame was "a dynamite chief" who was implementing new policies and making good connections with the community.

The stress of being a police chief and the publicity of his marital troubles must have come to a head, Frantz surmised. "I'm not saying he's not responsible. I'm very disappointed in what he's done," he said.

"He's let the department down. He's let the community down."

Seattle Times staff reporters Pamela Sitt, Ian Ith, J.J. Jensen, Sarah Anne Wright, Christine Clarridge and Marsha King contributed to this report.

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