More homicides already this year in unincorporated Pierce County than all of 2017

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PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. -- Deputies have already investigated more homicides this year in unincorporated Pierce County than all of last year.

According to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, there have been eight homicide investigations this year with 12 victims, including one of their own deputies.

Investigators said all of the cases had been marked as solved except for the death of Tracy Sehmel on Jan. 4. Her body was found in the trunk of a car towed from Tacoma to Lakewood. The medical examiner said she had been shot to death.

After Q13 News requested the homicide data from the sheriff's department Wednesday, two more people were killed.

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Authorities say a man suspected of killing his parents in Buckley was shot by police while officers were attempting to arrest him. The 21-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound to his shoulder. He's expected to be charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Investigators say the man's father and mother were found shot to death inside their home Wednesday. Officers found the man early Thursday morning near a motel in Tumwater.

The Thurston County Sheriff's Office says the man was inside a car and ignored officers' commands to stop. Authorities say a sheriff's office sergeant fired three shots at the vehicle as it started to drive toward him.

"We knew he wasn't going to be taken alive - he made threats like that," Troyer said. "Luckily no officers were hurt. He tried to ram some cars, took off. I understand he's been shot and is going to survive. No deputies or other officers from any department were hurt, so that's good. We've had a long week."

‘Just completely shocking’

Earlier this week, a Pierce County father shot and killed his wife and two young children before taking his own life.

Pierce County sheriff’s detectives say the father, identified as Clinton Field, 29, was an Air Force airman who had been stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for about a year and had recently returned from deployment in South Korea.

Detectives also say the father at one point in his past threatened suicide – and family troubles may also have been an issue.

“It’s like just completely shocking,” said neighbor Brandon Weant.

“It’s a tragedy -- that’s all you can really say,” said Jeff Donaldson, who lives nearby.

Investigators say the mother, 33-year-old Samantha Field and her two children – 4-year-old Ava and a 2-year-old Ashen – were all shot to death in their own beds early Tuesday morning.

Police say the father, Clinton Field, then texted his out-of-state family about what he had done before calling 911. Investigators said he told dispatchers he planned to kill himself.

Officers arrived to their home and found everyone inside dead.

Killed in the line of duty

Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel McCartney was killed in the line of duty in early January while responding to a home invasion. McCartney was a Navy veteran, a husband and father to three small boys.

One suspect was also killed at the scene and until now, police thought he was the one who fired the deadly shots. But now police say one of the surviving suspects was actually the man who shot and killed McCartney.

Prosecutors upped their charge against Frank Pawul, from first degree murder to aggravated first degree murder, which is the most serious charge in Washington.

Crowds lined streets and filled an auditorium to honor McCartney on Jan. 17.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department says about 1,500 law enforcement personnel and 650 patrol vehicles participated in a procession to the memorial for Deputy Daniel McCartney at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

Life-saving backup can be miles away

The deputy's murder shined a glaring spotlight on the dangers of low staffing levels at law enforcement agencies across Washington.

“What do we need to do to reduce the vulnerability of the people who protect us?” Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said after McCartney's death. “Because unless we do that, we are all more vulnerable.”

Like many deputies and officers, McCartney patrolled alone – a task that is particularly dangerous in Pierce County’s vast Mountain Detachment, where life-saving backup can be 30 minutes away or more. Only two to three deputies patrol the detachment at any given time – an area that covers 700 square miles and serves more than 40,000 residents.

Two weeks after Deputy McCartney was killed, Q13 News spent a night on patrol with the detachment – getting a first-hand look at the challenges facing agencies that are woefully understaffed.

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Other homicide victims since January in unincorporated Pierce County include:

  • Beth L. Hamlin-Slawson
  • Lukas B. Slawson
  • Bryson J. Smith
  • Edward Pilotte Jr.

The identities of several other victims are still being confirmed by the medical examiner.

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