Early in the hours of March 6, 2011, a Tacoma Police officer (whose name, I later learned, is Steven Storwick) arrived at the front door of my Hilltop home. Not too long before, I had escaped an apartment where I’d been taken after being drugged by two men at a local bar.
The officer, with nothing in his hand to take notes, stared at me with skeptical eyes as I told him I had been drugged and sexually assaulted. He asked me to tell him what happened.
“I was at a bar,” I started.
“How much did you have to drink?”
I searched my mind for a moment, “3, maybe 4, drinks throughout the night.” I began to tell him how I felt fine until the first sips of my final drink, which was a drink purchased by the men who would later abduct me.
The officer questioned my judgement on letting these strangers buy me a drink. I explained to him, though they paid for the drink, we were sitting at the bar and I watched the bartender make the drink before she handed it directly to me.
“So, when could they have drugged you, then?” He snapped as if he just caught me in a lie.
“I turned my head for a while when I was talking to someone else at the bar, I suppose it was then.”
I went on to tell him about the moment I realized I was drugged; I told him I was alert and fine one moment and, almost instantly, I was falling asleep on my drink. It was nearly impossible for me to keep my eyes open, I explained to the officer, and as I was attempting to leave the bar I began to lose consciousness.
“How did you get to this apartment?”
“I can’t remember,” I answered. “I can only remember being outside of the bar and the two men holding me upright. I was trying to tell them I needed to go home. Then, the next thing I remember is being offered another drink while standing in some kitchen.”
“Did you drink it?”
I shook my head, “I don’t think so.”
“Then what happened?”
“Then, I remember waking up on the couch with both of them kissing me and pulling on my clothes.”
Storwick waited for me to go on.
“Should I just go to the hospital now?” I asked, not feeling strong enough to go into detail about the assault.
For some reason, my question irked him and he raised his voice, “Why would you go to the hospital, is there something you’re not telling me?”
I was confused as to why he was yelling at me, and I told him, “I just told you I was drugged and assaulted.”
“How do you know you were drugged?” He was still bothered and loud.
Before the officer began to interview me, I had asked my friend, who picked me up after I’d gotten out of the apartment, to leave the room to save her from hearing the more vulgar details. However, as the officer continued to raise his voice, she reentered the room.
After a bit of awkward tension, my friend asked, “Should I take her to the hospital?”
Storwick snapped, “I really don’t think it’ll do you much good to go to the hospital. They won’t find any evidence.”
I finally had enough, “Can you leave my house now? You’re not helping me.”
The officer promptly stood up and left as if he were waiting for me to say those words since he first got dispatched.
Feeling shamed and shattered, I was admitted to a local psychiatric ward. I was stripped of my “street clothes” and most other personal affects. The rubber-soled hospital issue socks dried out and hurt my feet as I walked around from therapy sessions to support groups and to meals.
When I was discharged a few days later I was hallow and raw, teetering between wanting to find, and kill, the men who raped me and deciding to try to forget anything had ever happened.
With the support of some family and friends, I met with a sexual assault advocate–who offered to come with me to the police station–and on March 14, I reported the assault once more to another Tacoma Police officer.
Officer Bundy was respectful and responsive; he asked me questions and took notes. He was patient with me as I struggled to get through all the specific details of the assault, encouraging me to take my time and offering me the option to take a break if I needed.
Near the end, Officer Bundy asked me, “Is there any particular reason you waited until today to report this assault?”
I explained how that was certainly not the case. I told him how, on the night of the assault, another officer showed up, treated me poorly, and was basically unwilling to take my statement. I told him how the officer responded with indifference and that I ultimately had to ask him to leave my house.
“You know,” Bundy said with a real seriousness in his voice. “A lot of people talk about that ‘thin blue line,’ but this officer needs to know he did something wrong.” He went on to tell me about how he had made bad decisions early on in his career and how important it is this officer learn from this situation, otherwise he would continue the same behavior.
I left the police station feeling optimistic both the assault and the officer’s conduct would be investigated.
In between making a second report and hearing from the prosecuting attorney’s office I spent more time in a psychiatric hospital. As things dragged on, and days began to run together, my despair continued to worsen.
It was not long after leaving the hospital I received a letter from the attorney’s office confirming what I was hoping would not be the case: there was not enough evidence to prosecute. As I read I realized, until that moment, I’d still felt some hope I would receive justice, and as I re-read the letter, I went from feeling ruined to feeling entirely demolished. I spiraled further into the dark cycle of of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
After that, things continued south. I could no longer perform at work, I was behind on bills, and my admissions to the hospital became more frequent, and lasted for longer periods of time. I stopped interacting with friends and doing the things I enjoyed; fearful of people with bad intentions–including the police–I became reclusive.
Over the next three years, I was in the hospital more than I was employed. When I was able to function, I spent much of my time on Facebook, keeping tabs on the two men who raped me. As I saw their lives move forward, seemingly unaltered, I remained hopeless.
Thoughts of the officer crowded my mind, too; he was out there somewhere, I’d obsess, doing the same thing to other victims. I wondered if he got in any trouble for how he’d treated me. I wondered, since I was never given his name (neither by him, nor by anyone aware of his actions), if they ever figured out who to reprimand. I wondered why no one thought it was important to keep me informed.
Most of all, though, I worried: If I see this officer again, will I recognize him? What if something else happens and he shows up again, will I know it’s him?
There came a time, after many hospital stays, hours of therapy, a PTSD diagnosis, and some rearranging of my life, where I managed to come out standing on the other side. It had taken years, but I was finally in a place where I was able to look back on what was done to me without falling apart.
After a public records request, I received the police report and immediately noticed inconsistencies.
The two most disturbing things I noticed, however, were these:
- There was no apparent attempt made by detectives to make contact with/interview the second suspect, “Francisco,” whose full name was given to the detective after I identified him through Jered’s Facebook photos.
- By reading the detective’s report, I found out the fist officer, Steven Storwick, falsified his report.
I could see how poorly the case was investigated, and I wondered how, or if, they handled the matter of Storwick’s misconduct. As I tried to find information on the complaint, I was given vague and incomplete answers from a Lieutenant in the Internal Affairs Section. I was told information on the complaint could not be found because the records had been expunged. When I asked again, I was told I likely did not get informed of a resolution because I did not file a formal complaint against the officer.
In between these infuriating interactions with the IA division, I had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with an ACLU representative. Our talk led me to make the decision to use a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get more information on how my case was handled.
In June of 2015, after a couple months of waiting, I received notice records responsive to my request were available for pick-up.
Combing through the documents, I saw more clearly how Tacoma PD worked hard to get rid of a problem created by two criminals and one of their own officers, rather than just do a proper investigation, which could have potentially led to some justice.
In the file folder I received, there was:
In July, after seeing nothing had been done about the way this officer treated me, I decided I would (re)file a complaint against him. I wanted to be sure it was acknowledged a wrong was done to me.
A short time after submitting the complaint, I ran into the Tacoma Police Chief, Don Ramsdell, at a City Council meeting. I asked him about the complaint process. The process, he explained, could take anywhere from weeks to months. He explained there is an investigation of the complaint, a review of the investigation, a resolution is made, and eventually it is sent to a higher-up for approval. After it’s approved, a resolution letter is sent out to the complainant.
I asked Chief Ramsdell if, during the course of this investigation, people who witnessed the incident should expect to be interviewed.
“Yes,” he told me.
He then took down my name and phone number and promised he would have someone follow up with me in the next day or two.
The next day I received a voicemail from Lt. Ed Wade from the IA Section. He informed me the review of my complaint was complete, and a resolution letter had been sent to me earlier that day.
Not only was I surprised how quickly the investigation wrapped up (about 10 days), I was surprised they did not even try to go through the motions of talking to any witnesses, including myself, before coming to a final decision.
After a week of waiting, the letter had still not shown up in the mail. I went to the police station and demanded they give me a copy of the letter immediately. Within the hour, an electronic version of the resolution letter was sent to my email stating that, though they couldn’t find record of my complaint, it was surely investigated and handled properly, and because of that they would not be investigating my current complaint.
It has been over a month since I was told the letter was sent to me and I still have not received it.
As of this writing, I have sought help from the TPD complaint system, two Tacoma City Council members, a victim advocate service, and two lawyers. They have either been unwilling or unable to help. I am sharing this story publicly in hopes others may come forward with their stories. Officers like Steven Storwick should not be allowed to continue to “serve” the community after breaking trust in such a way. Officers like him should not be allowed to freely continue their broken and traumatizing police practices in our communities. The Tacoma Police Department has an obligation to protect and serve the people. It is an obligation they have failed to meet on numerous occasions, and since they are unable to police themselves, it is up to the citizens, as it has always been, to bear witness to each other’s stories and hold the police accountable for their actions, as well as their inaction.