...Domestic-violence experts and others were troubled by comments made by Tacoma city officials the day before the shootings, when they characterized Crystal Brame's allegations of abuse -- raised recently in the couple's divorce proceedings -- as a "personal matter" that would not be investigated. Yet another question revolved around Crystal Brame's last call for law enforcement help...
TACOMA SHOOTINGS STUN OFFICERS
Questions arise on whether chief could have been stopped
Monday, April 28, 2003
By Ruth Teichroeb
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter
As the estranged wife of Tacoma police Chief David Brame struggled for her life yesterday, agonizing questions surfaced about whether anything could have been done to prevent the veteran officer from shooting her.
Stunned city officials and law enforcement officers said they had no warning that the 21-year officer, who became chief in January 2002, would try to kill Crystal Brame, then take his own life.
He shot her in the head with a semiautomatic handgun Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of a Gig Harbor shopping plaza. Their two young children, who were unhurt, sat in his car a few spaces away.
Domestic-violence experts and others were troubled by comments made by Tacoma city officials the day before the shootings, when they characterized Crystal Brame's allegations of abuse -- raised recently in the couple's divorce proceedings -- as a "personal matter" that would not be investigated.
Yet another question revolved around Crystal Brame's last call for law enforcement help. She dialed 911 at 9:51 p.m. April 11, several hours after her husband and another Tacoma Police Department officer visited her at her parents' home. The Pierce County Sheriff's Department did not respond to the call in person -- a departure from most agencies' normal procedure on domestic- violence calls.
"Domestic violence is a criminal matter," said Dottie Davis of Fort Wayne, Ind., an expert on domestic abuse involving police officers. "(David Brame) had the ability as a high-ranking officer to make her think there was no place to hide."
In court papers filed in late March, Crystal Brame expressed fears for her safety, alleging that her husband had pointed a gun at her just before they separated the previous month, and tried to choke her in November. She said he had tried to choke her three other times last year.
Her husband denied those allegations, instead accusing her of attacking him on numerous occasions, citing specific incidents in 1996 and 1998.
Crystal Brame, 35, was reported in critical but stable condition late yesterday in Harborview Medical Center, according to her attorney, Joseph Lombino. Further details were not available.
"We ask that you keep Crystal and the children in your thoughts and prayers," Lombino said.
Victims of domestic violence whose abusers are law enforcement officers have good reason to be frightened -- from worrying that police will minimize their complaints to realizing that the perpetrator can manipulate the legal system, experts say.
Police can track down victims and know the locations of battered women's shelters.
And the wife of a police officer also knows that a conviction for domestic violence or a protection order can end her partner's career and strip the family of income, experts say.
Reporting abuse by a prominent person such as Brame would involve "so much more risk -- and much more to lose," said Linda Olsen, executive director of the Eastside Domestic Violence Program in Bellevue.
Terri Kimball, executive director of Domestic Abuse Women's Network of South King County, noted that David Brame's allegations that his wife abused him, whether true or not, aren't unusual.
"A common tactic of an abuser is to blame his wife," she said. "Certainly, as a police chief, he knew enough about domestic violence to do that."
David Brame said in court papers that he reported privately to other Tacoma police officers, including Bill Meeks, assistant police chief, that his wife had physically assaulted him and Brame feared she'd falsely accuse him of abuse to ruin his career. He asked them not to investigate, even though state law requires that a domestic-violence complaint be pursued if it is credible.
It's not unusual for police officers to be treated differently when they are embroiled in domestic violence, said Davis, the Fort Wayne expert.
"If you went to most law enforcement agencies to complain about domestic violence, let alone that by a high-ranking officer, they would put their heads in the sand," Davis said.
"In this case, she was in a particularly horrible position because he was the chief. She had no one else to call."
David Brame, 44, was pronounced dead at 5:43 p.m. Saturday at St. Joseph Medical Center, about 2 1/2 hours after the shootings.
The reason behind the couple's meeting that afternoon remains unclear. Brame transferred his children from his wife's car to his, then climbed inside Crystal Brame's Toyota Camry. Moments later, he opened fire with a Glock .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun.
The attack on Crystal Brame came the day after allegations contained in divorce records were publicized by the Seattle Post- Intelligencer and other media outlets.
City Manager Ray Corpuz, who picked David Brame as chief, said Brame told him recently that he was turning to friends and "seeking professional counseling" to help deal with the divorce.
Crystal Brame had been married to Brame for 11 years. She filed for divorce in February.
"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 yesterday in a written statement. "Most of all, we just want to understand how it could happen."
Corpuz called the shooting a tragedy for everyone concerned -- particularly the couple's children, Haley, 8, and David, 5.
The day before the shooting, Corpuz told the P-I that he didn't believe Crystal Brame's allegations were serious enough to warrant an investigation. Before David Brame was appointed chief, his personnel file was reviewed, Corpuz said.
David Seago, editorial page editor of The News Tribune in Tacoma, wrote yesterday that just before Brame became chief, Brame told him that more than a decade ago a girlfriend filed an official complaint accusing him of threatening her with his gun. Brame told Seago he was "exonerated" by the department.
David Brame had been concerned himself about how emotional stress can affect officers, according to Corpuz.
As chief, he arranged special training on the topic and had an instructional guide to "emotional survival" handed out to all officers.
Corpuz said chaplains have been available at police shift meetings to help comfort officers.
"Everybody's just stunned," Meeks said as he drove en route to console Brame's father, Eugene Brame, a former Tacoma officer.
David Brame's older brother and a cousin also are reportedly retired Tacoma police officers, and another brother is a Pierce County sheriff's deputy.
Yesterday, Meeks, who had known David Brame for 20 years, struggled to control his emotions in speaking about his friend.
"I'll have a scar on my heart that will never go away," he said.
Meeks said he and Catherine Woodard, now serving as acting chief, met with officers at the department's operations center yesterday, but did not relate what Woodard told them.
Even though the department is in mourning, he said, officers were out performing their usual patrol duties.
The last time Crystal Brame is known to have called police for assistance was April 11. She dialed 911 at 9:51 p.m. that night from her parents' home in a gated community near Gig Harbor.
Crystal Brame told the 911 dispatcher that she was staying with her parents "for safety reasons" during a divorce, according to a computer record sent to a Pierce County sheriff's deputy that night.
She was upset because her husband had gained entry to the community under "false pretenses" just after 6 p.m., she reported. David Brame was identified as a police chief by the dispatcher, but there is no indication how that was known.
Crystal Brame also reported that David Brame had brought Woodard with him, adding that Woodard was not supposed to be near her "because of intimidation and threats." The record does not explain what those alleged threats were about.
"She also claims to have received death threats," the report concluded.
After the sheriff's deputy received the call, he called his boss, according to Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer.
A sergeant phoned Crystal back to gather more information, and found out that Brame had gone to the house that night to pick up their children for a scheduled visit, Troyer said. "He left. There was no altercation," Troyer said.
The allegation that David Brame used his police badge to get into the community is "not true," because the gates are open until late evening, Troyer said.
He also said she did not indicate that any threats or intimidation had occurred that night, Troyer said.
"We told her that was a civil matter," he said.
Police had no reason to intervene because she had not obtained a no-contact order or protection order that prohibited David Brame from contacting her, Troyer said.
Woodard did not respond to a request for comment yesterday. But Tacoma police officers who contacted the P-I over the weekend questioned the response of the Sheriff's Department, saying they did not follow the standard procedure of going out in person to a domestic-violence call.
King County sheriff's spokesman Kevin Fagerstrom said normal procedure would be to respond in person and take a report to document it.
He said it would not matter if the alleged incident had happened earlier, or that there likely wasn't reason for an arrest, or that the woman's estranged husband was no longer there. "We would always send a car to a DV call -- there's just too much liability not to," Fagerstrom said. "We'll always err on the side of caution."
P-I reporters Hector Castro and Tracy Johnson contributed to this report.
Police Officer Involved Domestic Violence. Lighting a candle of remembrance for those who've lost their lives to domestic violence behind the blue wall, for strength and wisdom to those still there, and a non-ending prayer for those who thought they had escaped but can't stop being afraid.
PINNED POST. CLICK HERE: Keeping these 3 videos of officer-involved domestic violence fatalities on top from now on...
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Monday, April 28, 2003
"TACOMA SHOOTINGS STUN OFFICERS" - Seattle PI
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