Politics & Government

Former Tacoma lawmaker Brian Sullivan shot and killed in Alaska

Former Tacoma state Rep. Brian Sullivan was shot and killed Monday night in Alaska.

KTUU-TV reported that Sullivan, who represented Pierce County’s 29th Legislative District as a Democrat from January 1997 to January 2001, died after a shooting in a private home in Barrow, Alaska.

Sullivan, 48, was working as an assistant district attorney in Barrow.

Police are investigating Sullivan’s death as a homicide, the Alaska Dispatch News reported. According to the Dispatch, authorities are holding a 47-year-old male as a suspect in the shooting. That suspect is facing separate charges from September for kidnapping, felony threat of death or injury, and assault, the Dispatch reported.

Alaska State Troopers are handling the investigation, but wouldn’t release any additional details Tuesday.

Sullivan was a father to three daughters. According to his professional website, he was born in University Place and graduated from the University of Washington.

He graduated from Tacoma’s Bellarmine Preparatory School in 1985.

Sullivan moved to Alaska in 2001 while on active duty with the U.S. Army, his online biography says.

Though he was elected to the Washington State Legislature as a Democrat, Sullivan became involved in Alaska politics as a Republican, serving as a local district chairman of the state Republican party, according to the group’s Facebook page.

The Alaska Republican Party posted a statement on Facebook Tuesday remembering Sullivan as “a spectacular person and absolutely dedicated to the service of his community.”

Meanwhile, Pierce County politicians past and present recalled Sullivan Tuesday as a political moderate who didn’t always vote with Democrats, even though he was elected as one.

Brian Ebersole, a former state House speaker and past Tacoma mayor, said Sullivan initially won election without much political backing. His approach was to appeal voters on their doorsteps — and it worked, Ebersole said.

“He was independent, he was tall, good looking, charming, and he just bypassed the lobbyists and the system and the party and went to the voters,” Ebersole said. “And they liked him.”

Jim Kastama, a former state lawmaker who served with Sullivan in the state House, described Sullivan as “a very optimistic person” who was good at supporting his friends.

“He always would come to my house, and he would say, ‘Just stopped by to see how you’re doing, Jim,’” said Kastama, who is from Puyallup. “We would chat about our families, and we would talk a little bit about the political lay of the land. ... He would always encourage me to be more positive.”

According to his website, Sullivan completed a tour in Iraq as part of his military service. His professional biography says he served as a judge advocate general with the U.S. Army, as well as a paratrooper and a military police officer.

His ex-wife, Julie Sullivan, was the daughter of Gordon “Gordy” Klatt, the Tacoma doctor who founded The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Sullivan is also survived by his mother, Madeleine Sullivan of University Place, and his sister Maura Sullivan of Bellevue.

Madeleine Sullivan said her son had grown to love living in Alaska. She said she spoke to him just days ago on his birthday.

“He loved it up there, his family loved it up there,” Madeleine Sullivan said. “He was just too good for this to have happened to him.”