Brutal, cowardly attack stains a beloved park

Few places in the south Puget Sound area are as bucolic and serene as Point Defiance. That serenity was shattered when a woman was repeatedly stabbed.

Few places in the south Puget Sound area are as bucolic and serene as Point Defiance — especially the deeply forested areas.

What local park, especially one in an urban area, is the host for multi-century aged trees?

And where else can one experience a sense of peace and a silence only punctured by the distant squawk of ravens or shriek of eagles, and where an attentive eye can catch an owl in the wild?

But, in a visceral sense, that was then and this is now; that serenity was shattered on February 10 when a woman was repeatedly stabbed in a thoroughly unprovoked attack by a total stranger.

You can see her public statement and details on the case here — .

In short, her statement is a model of composure and courage. As she emphasized, she came within seconds and millimeters of being murdered.

The attacker is, unfortunately, a model of the exact opposite.

A key guiding principle of honorable combat is the premise of a worthy adversary, and of course, the idea of a fair fight.

To put it simply, this attacker did not adhere to any rules of honorable combat or even basic human decency.

This was an act of sheer brutality and cowardice.

I was attacked without warning or provocation in early December. My attacker was not armed but even then, that attack haunts me and continue to violate my sense of safety and belonging in my own community.

The attack in Point Defiance is, of course, far more extreme and serious, and directly or indirectly, impacts virtually every one of us.

Many of us will never think of our once-beloved park in the same way. Some of us will avoid the park entirely, others will only go there with a heightened sense of insecurity.

My attacker was brutal, buffoonish and cowardly, but at least my encounter with him did not reach public proportions.

The perpetrator in the Point Defiance attacks impacts us all. And will, for years to come.

Even, or maybe even especially, in times like this, Tacoma is a small town

The cliché, and direct experience, of many, if not most of us in Tacoma, is that the vast majority of us are, at most, two degrees of separation from virtually anyone else. That means that the odds are high that many of us are likely to have some acquaintance with either, or even possibly both the victim and perpetrator of this case.

Any crime, especially an assault, is not an abstraction for those directly involved.

Our usual response might be to treat any news story as something like an abstraction — where something happened to someone, but since it didn’t impact us directly, we tend to not care very much.

But in this case, even if we do not know the principals involved, most of us do know, and care about the setting -Point Defiance.

Point Defiance is, for our city, our region and for most of us, the ultimate crown jewel of accessible and immediately available parks.

This brutal act, in many ways, poisons and ruins what had been something special, fragile, welcoming and, and perhaps most of all, a place for and reflection of all of us.

An act like this, in more ways than could be counted, literally hits home.

My personal bias is to, in most cases, try to understand, even sympathize with the motivation and mental state of a perpetrator of such an act. And I have long opposed the death penalty, with the premise that our government, as an expression and representation of every one of us, should be the holder and representative of morality, decency and a baseline of humanity. And I have long believed that no human being is beyond restoration or rehabilitation. Or forgiveness.

An act like this violates every premise that I, and presumably most of us, hold dear.

There are two premises behind the death penalty; first, that no one is safe as long as people like those are allowed to live freely among the rest of us, and second, almost by default, if an individual has so little regard for human life, they have forfeited their own right to live.

I still hate the death penalty, but I hate even more the thought of murderers walking freely among the rest of us.

I cannot even begin to imagine the forces and fantasies that would drive an individual to such an act, and I cannot even remotely relate to the guilt, regret and shame that would follow such an act.

Security in the park

Far beyond our personal safety and security, (which is, of course, of high concern) an act like this violates every precept of our sense of community and belonging.

Our larger sense of identity and security within our own community has been damaged indefinitely — and for no reason.

Most of us, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle have taken it as a given that, for whatever reason, no place in America is safe — or at least as safe as we once imagined it was. But for most of us in Tacoma, our parks, or at least this one, were considered something like a secular version of a sacred space.

No matter how this situation is resolved, we, our community, and especially our favorite park will never be the same.

Metro Parks Tacoma confirmed that two portable security cameras have been set up within the park, recording everyone who officially enters the park through the front gate.

And if you’d like to volunteer to help keep our parks secure, please look for details here —