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‘Just do it, shoot him’: Father, son charged in shooting at Tacoma homeless camp

Aug. 4, 2022 Updated Thu., Aug. 4, 2022 at 9:12 p.m.

By Peter Talbot Tacoma News Tribune

TACOMA – A father accused in a shooting at a homeless encampment in Tacoma allegedly encouraged his son to fire at a man running away from them after they beat him up, court documents say.

The father and son were at the Eastside encampment to take back a car from the man, who “might have” carjacked the father in March, prosecutors wrote in charging documents. One witness reported to police that the father told his 20-year-old son “just do it, shoot him” before the victim was shot in the back.

It’s unclear whether the wounded man, who is in his 30s, will live, according to the documents. Detectives were told he appeared to have brain activity but was still intubated in the hospital. The man was shot in the liver.

Devae Edward Brown and his father, James Edward Brown, 54, were charged in Pierce County Superior Court on Wednesday with first-degree assault.

The father has not yet been taken into custody, and prosecutors have requested a warrant for his arrest, according to charging documents. Devae Brown was arraigned Wednesday, and Court Commissioner Philip Thornton set bail at $100,000. A plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf.

Neither man has prior felony convictions in Pierce County, according to court records.

The shooting occurred the evening of July 9 at a homeless encampment near the 400 block of East 66th Street. According to the probable cause document, the car at the center of the dispute, an older, blue convertible, has not been recovered.

The owner of the car reported it stolen March 21. The owner’s friend was reportedly driving it when he was carjacked. According to the probable cause document, the lead detective said James Brown appeared to have been driving it, and that the gunshot victim might have stolen it from him.

The car was reported stolen once before, in 2021, when it was taken from the apartment complex where James Brown reportedly lived.

Using cell phone records and witness reports, Tacoma Police Department detectives identified Devae Brown as the shooter. He was arrested Tuesday. In the car he was driving, police found more than 500 pills suspected to be fentanyl, $1,000 to $2,000 and a 9 mm handgun.

Charging documents gave this account:

Tacoma police responded after receiving a report of a shooting in the 400 block of East 66th Street, near a homeless encampment. Officers were advised that a man was shot and that witnesses were trying to bring him to East McKinley Street to meet first responders.

Police found the victim. According to the declaration for determination of probable cause, the man had a “through and through” gunshot wound just below his chest and on his lower back. Tacoma Fire Department brought him to a hospital in critical condition, and he underwent surgery.

One witness told officers that she and the victim stayed at the nearby encampment from time to time. According to the probable cause document, the woman said that several weeks ago he had “borrowed” an older, blue car from a man she knew only as “Buddha.” In a subsequent interview, the woman said the victim was accused of stealing it.

“Buddha” was later identified as Devae Brown. Records say he has a tattoo of the word on his right forearm.

The witness took officers to the location of the shooting, walking them to nearby train tracks and through an opening in a chain link fence. In a clearing where she said it happened, police found a single 9 mm shell casing but no blood or other evidence. No one else saw the shooting occur, according to the probable cause documents. One person reported hearing people yelling at the victim, telling him people were coming to kill him and that he should run.

Before the shooting, the eyewitness reportedly saw James Brown sitting on the railroad tracks. Records say he called Devae Brown to meet him, and the two confronted the victim in the middle of the “swamp.”

The witness reported that both men physically assaulted him, and that Devae Brown hit the man in the head with a handgun. The father and son allegedly tried dragging the victim to the railroad tracks to shoot him. The witness said that’s when the victim broke free and ran.

“She saw Devae point the gun at the victim, and then heard ‘JB’ tell Devae, ‘Just do it, shoot him.’ Devae then shot the victim in the back as he ran away,” the document states.

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