An officer is dead, a neighborhood is forever changed

The gently curving arc of neat homes on Tacoma’s E Street could be Anywhere USA.

But on Thursday morning the neighborhood was coming to terms with being the scene of the nation’s latest police officer death.

“It was scary,” said Lupe Ramirez, who lives just down the street from the suspect’s two-story house at the end of E Street, just north of East 52nd Street.

Ramirez heard the first shots Wednesday.

“I thought it was fireworks or something like that,” he said. “A minute later all the police show up and that’s when I realized something big was going on.”

Soon, his neighborhood was swarming with police and emergency personnel.

“Everybody came out at first from the neighborhood and we were asking each other, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on’?”

Officers told them to go back inside their houses.

As the night wore on, Ramirez let officers use his home’s bathrooms.

He’s lived in the neighborhood for 15 years.

“Nothing happened before,” he said.

Ramirez did not know the suspect well.

“I’d met him just time to time,” Ramirez said. “We say ‘hi’ to each other because, obviously, we’re neighbors.”

His family and the neighborhood will recover. But, “It’s going to be in our minds forever.”

According to Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer records the homes in the area date from the 1980s and 1990s. A railroad line to Frederickson runs just to the east of the well-kept homes.

Stewart Heights Park and a Tacoma police substation are just to the south on East 56 Street.

Resident Al Blackman couldn’t sleep Wednesday night. Notified of the shooting while away from home, he spent the evening elsewhere.

“It’s just horrific,” Blackman said. “It’s a tragedy that an officer had to lose their life in any capacity. It’s just a blow for the neighborhood and the Tacoma area.”

Blackman has lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years.

“For the citizens it’s just sad. My heart goes out to his family,” he said.

Wayne Palmer lives just a few doors down from the suspect’s house. He had to evacuate shortly after the shooting began Wednesday.

“I’m really distraught,” Palmer said.

His neighborhood is usually very quiet, he said.

“We have community meetings every week at the precinct right there at the end of the street,” Palmer said. “A lot of these officers I’ve met personally. My heart goes out to them. It’s just a tragedy.”

Pairs of detectives were going door to door Thursday morning. They knocked on the home of Paul Yann. Detectives asked Yann about the neighborhood and if he had seen anything suspicious recently.

He hadn’t.

The 33-year-old grew up in the home he lives in on E Street.

“Hardly anything happens here,” he said as he smoked a cigarette on his front porch and watched the small crowd of media and police officers.

“It’s shocking.”

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor