paul la rosa

Tacoma Confidential

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Synopsis: The story of Tacoma Police Chief David Brame is unprecedented in American society.

There have been countless television and newspaper accounts of domestic abuse and a fair number of those involve domestic abuse by police officers but there has never been a case where a Police Chief did what David Brame did: he shot and killed his wife and himself in a public place in the middle of a Saturday afternoon in front of his two young children, Haley, who was then eight years old, and David Jr., then five.

The question of why David Brame did what he did and how he got to become Tacoma’s Police Chief haunts the city to this day. It is a story of secrets – some benign, some explosive, some sexual – that haunts Tacoma to this day.

The setting where Brame ultimately devolved into madness could not be more at odds with his crime. The Tacoma suburb of Gig Harbor, a tiny fishing village, is known in the Pacific Northwest as a sedate, glorious place, as beautiful a small town as you’re likely to see. It’s no surprise that, like a lot people who work in Tacoma, Brame chose to live in Gig Harbor with his family. But when Crystal began divorce proceedings against him in February 2003, David Brame’s time in Gig Harbor ended. At the time of the shooting, April 26, 2003, Brame was living in a small apartment just across the Narrows Bridge in Tacoma.

And perhaps the most delicious irony of the whole story is that the first domino to fall was tipped over, not by the mainstream media, but by a gadfly named John Hathaway, a fellow who wears fedoras all the time, has a pencil thin mustache, and most kindly is considered a local “character.” He is a Raymond Chandler character come to life. Think Philip Marlow or perhaps Sam Spade or even Humphrey Bogart. That’s Hathaway. By day, he publishes a website filled with innuendo and gossip designed to get under the skin of the city’s leaders. By night, he’s a bartender in a down and out bowling alley. It was Hathaway, a former men’s fashion writer, who first got the Brame’s divorce papers literally dumped anonymously on his doorstep and it was Hathaway who had the nerve to publish them.

Finally, Tacoma Confidential is a mystery. Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about the so-called David Brame Affair. It is probably one of the most widely investigated domestic violence case in U.S. history. And yet, no one knows what happens in the final few minutes between David Brame and his wife Crystal.

That’s where the mystery lies.

This book is the most nuanced picture of the life and marriage of David and Crystal Brame. You might have read every single newspaper story about them but you’ve never read them in context. The murder/suicide at the heart of the story is only the half of it. The unbelievable part – David Brame’s incredible past and unlikely march to the post of Tacoma Police Chief — begins after the crime occurs..

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