In 2003, David Brame killed his wife, Crystal Judson, in a parking lot before turning the gun on himself. The murder-suicide sent shock waves far beyond Tacoma, the city Brame served as its Chief of Police.
A decade later Brame’s specter continues to haunt the city.
Sean Robinson’s critical analysis of the events leading up to Brame’s crime (Trib 4/21) provides answers to the “who knew what and when” line of questioning. What is now clear, after ten years’ worth of hindsight, is that David Brame was a deeply disturbed man whose final crime should have been predictable. And thus preventable.
I found the ambitious former Tacoma police chief to be a competent and quietly confident young sergeant when I transferred to the department in 1994. Many of us outside Brame’s inner circle admired his cool reserve, first as our union negotiator, and later as a rising star moving up through the ranks until his “annointment” as police chief in 2002.
What was apparent to a handful of his trusted cronies, however, was Brame’s megalomaniacal focus on his crumbling marriage. After several troubling incidents, all relayed to then City Manager Ray Corpuz, it should have been clear to the law enforcement professionals surrounding him that Brame was a man on the verge.
But on the verge of what? That answer was unclear, at least up until the moment Brame pulled the trigger and became just one more murder-suicide statistic. According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, that number is about ten per week in the U.S.
As Brame’s case exemplifies, addressing the issue of a potential domestic abuser is not as simple as it would seem. That is especially true when that person is a confidant, a workplace superior or someone in a position of power – or in Brame’s case, all three. Those in position to handle the problem faced a potentially career-ending decision.
Should that make a difference? Absolutely not.
Outside of domestic violence victims, none know the violent landscape of that world better than the police officers who are always first on the scene. Unfortunately, when cops become abusers their victims are doubly at risk. Which is why law enforcement officers must abide by new policies written to prevent future such tragedies.
That is also why we should never shy away from rekindling Crystal Judson’s memory, if only to put a face to countless other victims of domestic violence. If the Brame tragedy has taught the citizens of Tacoma anything, it is that domestic violence is a festering social disease that can show up on any doorstep in this commnity.
Ten, twenty or one hundred years later, we should never be allowed to forget that.