All Local Veterans’ Week on Q13 News

Are Pierce County sheriff’s deputies suffering from homicide fatigue?

TACOMA, Wash. – This week the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said they have dealt with more homicides so far this year than all of last year combined – and it’s having an impact on the force.

It’s not just police officers either -- the crimes are also having an impact on our community. Now some are openly sharing their support for law enforcement while they work a larger-than-normal caseload.

“This is seriously like the least we could do. They do so much, they’ve had such a rough week this week,” said barista Monique Hader. “With everything going on, it’s just our way to thank them.”

At Racer's Roast Coffee Company south of Puyallup, if you’re a cop the coffee is on the house.

“I mean it’s a coffee,” said Hader. “It’s the least we could do.”

Hader also wore a T-shirt bearing the badge number for fallen deputy Daniel McCartney, the Pierce County sheriff's deputy who was shot and killed responding to a robbery in Frederickson in January. She says the shirt and the free coffee are an important reminder to honor those who sacrifice in her own community.

“He was just like a hero that was fallen so we wanted to represent him today,” she said.

“We don’t live in a quiet little backwater, we have real time, big time, prime time crime in Pierce County and we don’t have that many people to deal with it,” Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor told Q13 News.

Pastor says this year’s homicide rate has already surpassed last year’s – and he says his detectives, too, are feeling the pressure of a high caseload.

“I am fortunate, I am blessed and the people of the county are fortunate and blessed they have highly skilled, highly dedicated people,” said Pastor. “I just wish I could get them some relief.”

Not only are the deputies and detectives working with this extra caseload, but it’s also clearly having an impact on the families and loved ones who are so deeply involved in these cases – including the family of the one unsolved homicide case in unincorporated Pierce County this year.

“Just having that closure would be awesome,” said Susan Sehmel.

Sehmel’s ex-husband, Tracy, was found in the trunk of a car at a tow yard in January. He had been shot.

And while Tracy had trouble in his past, Susan says, he was working hard to become a powerful force in his kids’ lives.

“He was just there all the time spending the times with the kids, doing stuff with them, you know, really bonding with them,” said Susan. “Just a year later, to just be ripped right back out of their lives was pretty brutal.”

Tracy’s murder is the only unsolved homicide out of the dozen so far this year being investigated by the sheriff’s department.

“That’s insane,” responded Susan. “I’m like what happened to 2018? What’s going wrong in society?”

Her family is hopeful someone with information in the case will come forward to bring their family some peace and detectives hope for the same.

Their boss, Sheriff Pastor, hopes his team can catch a break from the workload.

“That’s how some of our people are feeling, they’ve been rode hard and put away wet," said Pastor. “Thank goodness they have the heart to keep going. I thank them when I see them, they deserve thanks and they deserve support from the community for what they’re doing.”