Saturday, April 26, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Tacoma police chief shoots wife, kills self

The Associated Press

GIG HARBOR — Tacoma Police Chief David Brame apparently shot his estranged wife then killed himself today, a day after her allegations of abuse were publicized in media reports.

Brame was pronounced dead at 5:52 p.m. at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

His wife, Crystal, was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in critical condition.

The two had been going through a divorce.

It did not appear anyone else was involved in the shooting. "The probability is strong that the chief shot his wife and then himself," Troyer said.

The shootings took place around 3:10 p.m. in the parking lot of a shopping center in this town northwest of Tacoma, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

The chief and his wife arrived in the parking lot separate cars, with the couple’s children in Crystal Brame’s vehicle. At one point, the chief put the children in his car, then went back to his wife’s car, shot her and turned the gun on himself.

A witness said she saw people in the parking lot running around and screaming after the shootings.

"They had no idea. They were just running for safety," said Kirsten Oakland, 36, and a hair stylist at Harbor Cutter, a shop that looks out onto the parking lot.

One of the kids ran into a nearby video store, Troyer said. "Witnesses came and got the other kid into the video store."

The children were in the care of their mother’s parents Saturday night, Troyer said. No other information about the children was released.

Brame rose through the ranks to become police chief in Tacoma, a city of 194,000, in January 2002.

Troyer said Brame was highly respected. "He was exactly what you want — rose up through the ranks, worked very hard and made chief," he said.

On Friday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that documents in the couple’s divorce case recounted a stormy, sometimes violent relationship.

Crystal Brame accused her husband of pointing his gun at her, trying to choke her in November and saying he "could snap my neck if he wanted to."

It was the fourth time in 2002 that he had tried to choke her, she said. After each time he sent flowers to apologize, she added.

But Brame said he had been victimized in the relationship. He accused his wife of having a "ferocious temper" and being emotionally unstable.

In court papers, Brame said his wife scratched, bruised and pushed him during two fights in September 1996.

"As hard as it is to believe and as ashamed as I am of this fact, Mrs. Brame has physically abused me for a number of years, often in the presence of the children," said Brame, who is 6-foot-1 and weighs 175 pounds. Crystal Brame is 5 feet tall and weighs about 105 pounds.

Brame said he reported the fights to his boss at the time, interim Chief Ken Monner; to another Tacoma officer who photographed his bruises, and to police in Gig Harbor, where he was living at the time.

Brame asked that authorities not arrest his wife. He said he reported the fights to "protect himself."

But Gig Harbor Police Chief Mitchell Barker said Friday that Brame’s account is different from what his officers recall and records indicate.

Barker said Brame was "vague" about his marital problems and did not report any physical assault.

"If someone comes in and says they’ve been assaulted by a domestic partner, we have an obligation to investigate," the chief said.

His wife, in her court filings, said David Brame refused to let her use their credit card without permission, checked her car’s odometer to monitor trips to the grocery store and left his loaded service revolver on a bedroom shelf within reach of their two children.

Shortly before they separated in February, Brame pointed his service revolver at her, "telling me, ’Accidents happen,"’ according to the court filings.

Neither incident was reported to police, and Brame denied choking or pointing his gun at her.

Crystal Brame sought a restraining order March 26, after Brame threatened her again, according to court papers.


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