Brame investigation lurches forward

The investigation into the late Police Chief David Brame moved ahead Tuesday, despite objections from some area residents and hard questions from Tacoma City Council members themselves.

The inquiry into how Chief Brame rose through the ranks of the police department lurched forward through a flurry of developments Tuesday during a City Council study session and regular meeting.

Chief Brame, 44, fatally shot his estranged wife and killed himself April 26 in Gig Harbor.

Two of the investigators under the flag of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs looking into the events leading to Brame’s shooting attack on his wife and his suicide made an appearance at the tail-end of Tuesday’s City Council study session.

Kitsap County prosecutor Russ Houge and Larry Erickson, WASPC executive director and a former Spokane County sheriff with 32 years of law enforcement experience, are coordinating the investigation. They fielded questions from a City Council under a great deal of stress since the tragic murder-suicide that stunned Tacoma.

“We’re going to engage in a broad inquiry,” Houge told the council, noting that everyone he has talked with so far had been forthcoming.

Houge’s own relationship to Baarsma and City Manager Ray Corpuz – whose request to be put on paid administrative leave during the investigation was approved during the council’s regular meeting later that day – came under scrutiny. Houge said he’s known and worked with the mayor’s wife, Carol, a former Kitsap County assessor for years, and attended the couple’s wedding five-and-a-half years ago. Houge said his office also investigated an insurance fraud case against Corpuz’s wife, Lynda, but that he only dealt with their attorney and not them directly.

“You’ve been reading the paper. You understand the political fishbowl we’re under,” Councilwoman Sharon McGavick said.

Houge responded by saying he hadn’t seen the mayor since the wedding and believed he could be impartial, although he offered to step aside if the council thought he couldn’t be impartial.

Erickson promised a thorough investigation and said nothing would stand in the way of their getting to the truth. Sensitive to accusations of the police investigating their own, he touted law enforcement’s expertise at looking into the law enforcement culture. “It’s not a pleasant thing, but a necessary thing,” he said.

In other developments, at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Deputy City Manager James Walton, 64, was approved unanimously as acting city manager to fill in for Ray Corpuz.

At the often contentious four-hour public meeting, several citizens spoke out against letting a police association investigate the Brame case, with some calling for the FBI to be brought in.

The mayor and council members have said the WASPC investigation should not preclude other investigations into the employment and conduct of Brame.

“Let’s let it all hang out and see where the truth leads us,” Baarsma said during the study session.