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Smashing pumpkins, and Zach’s sense of safety

Post by Kathleen Merryman / The News Tribune on Oct. 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm with 29 Comments »
October 29, 2010 12:46 pm

This morning you may have read the story of Zach Hovland’s Jack o’lanterns, the Gray Middle school students who smashed them, and the Gray students who brought new ones to his house.

Zach, who is 22 and has Noonan syndrome, was delighted with the good kids’ gesture, and accepted their apology for their fellow-students’ cruelty.

If only the story had ended there.

It did not, as Zach’s mom, Athena Elrod, let us know this morning. Here is her e-mail:

Our afternoon with the students from Gray Middle School was wonderful, quite an uplifting experience that left us feeling good. We hung the hand drawn cards in our front window, wanting the students to see that we appreciated the cards and thought them beautiful enough to share with the world.
Unfortunately, our evening wasn’t quite as wonderful. Around 8:00 PM the pumpkins we received from the students, plus one of the pumpkins we had carved and one that wasn’t carved were thrown against our house and smashed in the street. We had just gone out, probably five minutes earlier and lit the candles in the pumpkins. They threw a lit pumpkin at the house. When the pumpkins hit the house, particularly the garage door, it sounded like a bomb going off.
For me, this felt like retaliation for my saying something about the incident.  My mom was still here visiting when this happened. She drove around the blocks surrounding my neighborhood, no one else had their pumpkins smashed.
We cleaned up the mess and called the police. They, of course, can’t or won’t do anything and asked us to file an online report. Zach was scared and disappointed that the police wouldn’t come out, he so desperately wanted to feel protected and needed ongoing reassurance of our safety.   I told him the police would catch the people and stop them from coming back and hurting us or anyone else. I wish that were true.
I wanted to provide you with an update for the story. It doesn’t quite provide the happy ending I hoped for.

Leave a comment Comments → 29
  1. Sounds to me these kids have a problem when someone is not their idea of “perfect.” I think it is very sweet what the kids did for this young man who deserves to be happy too, and it is tragic not all people can have such open and loving hearts.

  2. scalvishnu says:

    Welcome to Tacoma.

  3. I have some home grown pumpkins I would like to donate to this fellow.

  4. Can the police not at least come out and speak at the school? Maybe someone at the TNT who knows the police spokesperson can ask about this? Obviously most of the kids are taking this very seriously but there are a couple who would really benefit from starting to feel a lot more frightened and/or ashamed. Make them think the police are on to them or the lesson they will learn from all of this is that they can hurt someone with no consequences. They obviously don’t care what the other students, teachers, and principals think and are busy laughing at the whole thing.

    Also, I hope that parents have all been contacted. Somebody’s kids were out at night doing this, and maybe at least one parent or set of parents will be on the ball enough to figure it out and discipline their child.

  5. tacomajoe says:

    If someone was throwing doughnuts around, you might get a better police response.

  6. if caught the pumpkin smasher could steal a move from the Rand Paul playbook and demand an apology from Zach

  7. “Zach was scared and disappointed that the police wouldn’t come out, he so desperately wanted to feel protected and needed ongoing reassurance of our safety.”

    Vulnerable adults like Zach who have been victimized deserve the protection of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

    The Tacoma Police department owes Zach a visit. All of us need to feel safe and protected, including Zach.

    What kind of society do we want? Is it really one that does not protect and keep safe the ones who need and deserve it most?

  8. kanajune says:

    Sounds like some seriously impaired kids acting out…..with a bad case of the nasties. Kids can pull pranks but this has a darker element in it. I hope they get found out and their peers shun them. Not too much for the police or anyone else to do, except try to help out and show this family that all kids are not so ugly inside.

  9. I’m not suggesting wasting police resources on an actual investigation, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have an assembly and scare the kids a little. My bet is at least one will freak out and confess to a parent.

  10. couldn’t this get classified as a hate crime?

  11. sixpackjoe says:

    See the evils of the world in full bloom, ironic on devils night, no?

  12. ntreader says:

    I would donate pumpkins to this family too. Seems like if they had an overwhelming response and the yard was full of pumpkins the mean girls arms would get tired before they smashed them all. I’m visualizing hundreds of pumpkins filling the yard.
    Whoever participated in the smashing must have a serious emotional problem — lacking the ability to feel any shame or empathy. That’s more scary than Halloween!

  13. These children doing the smashing are acting out. They have been victimized, bullied, violated in some way. These children need to be found, so that someone can do an intervention on them. Yes, I abhor their behavior. But it comes from somewhere. It’s not just random acts of idiocy. They need mental health counseling and possibly other interventions in the home.

  14. The Tacoma Police Department owe Zach a visit and after the pumpkins are replaced once again. A patrol car should be assigned near his house.

  15. killerwhale51352 says:

    Well after reading this,how much time and effort would it take for a police officer to stop and offer words of assurance to this young man,afterall it is their job to protect and serve’and are the parents also tax payers who help support the salaries of all government officals?
    this would really amke a difference in someones life and also would help to restore some faith in the police dept,I am sure that there is enough negative press without adding more to it,so why not make a simple move and have an officer spend a few moments with the young man,and as for the children who replaced the pumpkins,well hope your parents know of this and that they are proud to have really fine kids of your caliber.need mre like you,as for the ones who smashed the pumpkins,well I believe in Karma and it will come back at you at some point in your life,you will have to atone for it as we all have had to at some point in our lives too.

  16. how about someone lend a few web camera and laptops? remote security cameras? I agree that this family should feel safe,, but lets not just donate to have the people come along and destroy them yet again,,Why not do what the police can not, Catch them and pass it along to the new media!

  17. lorie1000 says:

    Police should have responded. my son works at a store and cars are broken in all the time. police dont show up.

    Tacoma’s finest.

  18. webman888 says:

    “Confess to a parent”? WTF?! These bastards don’t have parents, which is why they are going around the neighborhood destroying personal property. Pumpkins today, stolen cars tomorrow.

  19. Trashy people have trashy ways. i am sorry pumpkins got smashed, I am sorry the TPD doesn’t have the heart to give a rip, I hope someone gets to the bottom of this . i am glad not to be part of the Gray community.

  20. cclngthr says:

    Bullock needs to hold every kid responsible since this is an ongoing thing at Gray MS.

    I know I would detain every kid until everyone learns that lesson.

  21. siragwatkins says:

    Unfortunately, smashing pumpkins and other mischief are part of the “trick” in trick or treat, especially for many teens as they struggle to find out who they are. I hope the pumpkin smashers are at least beginning to wonder whether it was a bad choice, especially the second time.
    As for the TPD, they don’t seem to have changed much since I was growing up there in the ’50s and ’60s.
    I like the webcam idea, although I suspect that these kids won’t be back–the liklihood of being caught has gone way up with the whole school and neighborhood alerted, so they’ll probably be off to easiertargets.
    It’s too bad they didn’t appreciate the work and artistry that went into thse pumpkins.

  22. Siragwatkins, the first time was mischief. The second time is a hate crime.

    The police need to get off their butts and start an investigating.

  23. Kids will be kids regardless. Parents do not and can not know what their kids are up to every minute of every day. Those pumpkins placed at the bottom of the front stairs / ramp would be easy pickins’ for any tempted child. I suggest placing them next to the front door to make it more of a challenge for someone to steal them. As for the little ba$turds that did this, I hope your parents find out and beat your a$$e$ with a wooden spoon…. As for the police, Bad Cop – No Doughnut !

  24. JimmyEOlson says:

    None of you who are criticizing TPD know this, so I’ll enlighten you. TPD did not even know that the pumpkin smashing took place. The 911 center operates under guidelines set by the police agencies they serve. Minor vandalisms with no suspect information and low property damage value are not dispatched to officers. Before you continue with the “Gee, just pay him a visit so he feels better” comments remember that police officers are not firemen. They do not sit around a firehouse playing games a third of their shift and sleeping another third waiting for the bell to go off. They are out handling other calls. It is a waste of taxpayer money for police to make people feel safe. Their job is to make people BE safe. It’s a shame this happens, but remember, the reason this society is in the crummy shape it is in started way back in the 60’s when we thought it was cool to disrespect all authority. That attitude persists in every layer of society now. Just go out to a restaurant or the movies to see it.

    Another note: when you elect democrats to office, they permeate society with “just give ‘em another chance-itis”. Vote republican. At least they “proclaim” to support law and order.

  25. Jimmy: If you can’t see the benefit to the community (both in economic and actual safety terms) in feeling safe then I’m not sure there’s any point in trying to explain it to you. The police have a spokesperson who would be perfect for this type of assignment, and I’m sure he was contacted for comment on this story so I don’t buy the “the police didn’t know” excuse.

  26. headshaker says:

    to register for a hunting license in WA, go to https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/oc_system/index.html

  27. BlaineCGarver says:

    What’s really sad is that you can’t get police to act on petty theft, tagging, property damage, etc. That’s really messed up that police responce is prededicated on Emotional Values instead of legal ones.

  28. JessicaW71970 says:

    I agree to some degree with cclngthr, The principal at Gray is always spouting about community and how important it is, now is a time for action. How about some community service once the culprets are caught? perhaps actually working with the disabled at one of the adult day cares so these heartless children can get perhaps a sence of just who they’ve actually hurt. I am generally not the one for a witch hunt, however when those who are at a disadvantage when it comes to the ability to stand up for themselves, I am all for it. Zach deserves to feel safe and secure in his own home and if the community around his home were to stand together, perhaps it would be of help. Put on your jackets and grab your flash lights, make him feel safer just by your presence! This can and will go a long way in making things right not only for Zach and his family, but for the entire neighborhood!

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