Will James | KNKX

Will James

South Sound Reporter

Will James covers the South Sound region, as well as housing and immigration issues, for KNKX. He came to the station from Newsday in his home state of New York. 

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Will James / KNKX

Residents of Burien have been shaken by two deadly shootings this year, spasms of violence police attributed to warring street gangs.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The Puget Sound region's rapid population growth is affecting everything from traffic to housing costs.

Those effects are rippling as far as the wilderness of Mount Rainier.

"RR Crossing - Rainer2" by Robin is licensed under CC by 2.0 https://bit.ly/2pA5PaR

Six people are suing the City of Puyallup seeking to end the police department's practice of clearing away homeless encampments, arguing the so-called "sweeps" are unconstitutional and have resulted in the loss of family photos, medications, and other belongings.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

A federal judge in Tacoma has ruled against people on hunger strike inside the Northwest Detention Center, denying their request for an emergency order protecting them from force-feeding.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Three people held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma have refused food for 24 days as they protest conditions inside the facility and their own potential deportations.

The detainees have been on hunger strike since Aug. 22 and are under medical supervision, said a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

“ICE takes the health, safety and welfare of those in its care very seriously and respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference," the spokeswoman said Thursday.

Wil James / KNKX

Leaders in Tacoma are moving closer to passing a tenant-protection law designed to help renters weather upheavals in the city's housing market. 

Courtesy of the City of Puyallup

How local officials should address homelessness has proven to be one of the most divisive questions across the Puget Sound region.

Few cities are more divided at the moment than Puyallup, where city leaders are considering a law that would make it harder to open a shelter or drop-in center serving the homeless.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

More than 46,000 immigrants have been detained in Pierce County over the past two decades, the fourth highest number of any county in the U.S.

It's because Tacoma is home to the Northwest Detention Center, one of the nation's largest holding spaces for people facing deportation due to suspected immigration violations. It's the only such facility in the Pacific Northwest. 

Courtesy of the City of Puyallup

The Puyallup City Council is moving closer to passing a law that would make it more difficult to open a shelter or daytime drop-in center serving people who are homeless.

The proposal follows four years of conflict surrounding the city's only drop-in center, which some residents and business owners have blamed for making homelessness and drug use more visible in the city's downtown. 

Will James / KNKX

This story originally aired on November 18, 2017.

If you go to the base of Point Defiance in Tacoma and look east, you'll see a finger of earth jutting into Puget Sound. 

It formed as toxic slag spilled from a copper smelter during the city's industrial heyday. 

For years, it was a foreboding sliver of black, glassy material. Today, workers and machines roam the peninsula as they transform it into a grassy park with Puget Sound views.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Backers of a Washington gun safety initiative are fighting to keep it on the November ballot after a court ruling invalidated more than 300,000 signatures on a petition Friday.

YouTube screenshot / Richard Russell

This story was updated at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 12.

Investigators said Sunday night they’ve recovered human remains from the site where a commercial airplane crashed during an unauthorized flight out of Sea-Tac Airport. 

Richard Russell, 29, of Sumner, is presumed dead in the crash. Family members identified him as the man who took off with the otherwise empty plane without permission Friday night before crashing on a small island in Puget Sound.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

A legal challenge to $1 dollar per day wages paid to immigrants held at a Tacoma detention center can proceed as a class action lawsuit, a federal judge has ruled.

The lawsuit, filed by a detainee almost one year ago, argues the pay for detainees violates Washington state's minimum wage law. 

The Aug. 6 decision by Judge Robert J. Bryan means any detainee who participated in the detention center's voluntary work program since September 2014 could be reimbursed for lost wages, if they're awarded.

Patti Ramos Photography

The actors in "Room For Rent" wear elaborate animal masks. A hen, a cuckoo bird, a cat, a squirrel. 

Behind the masks are people who are homeless or have experienced homelessness in the past.

Three times this summer, they've stood before audiences of people who know little about what that's like and tried to bridge a gap of understanding.

Will James / KNKX

Pierce County Council members have postponed a vote on a program that would connect homeless people with work as day laborers. 

A vote was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but county officials requested it be held off so they could refine the proposal, a county spokeswoman said. 

Courtesy of Occupy NWDC


Protesters outside the Northwest Detention Center say they're regrouping after a police raid ended their multi-week encampment. 

Tacoma police said they cleared the encampment Monday after someone built a blockade and scattered roofing tacks in the road outside the Northwest Detention Center.

"Separate from the previous peaceful demonstrations, the barricade blocking the roadway had been painted with anarchist symbols and roofing tacks had been dumped across the roadway to damage vehicles travelling across the roadway surface," police said in a news release.

Will James / knkx

This story originally aired on September 17, 2016.  

Imagine growing up in a state to total innocence and freedom.

You're a child, and you have an infinity of woods and mountains to explore. You eat fresh blackberries your mother picks in the forest. All the dangers of the modern world are miles away.

Everyone in town is like an uncle, a mother, a grandmother. They dress up as Santa Claus for Christmas and stage a big egg hunt every Easter. 

Will James / KNKX

If you walk into any homeless shelter in Washington state, or anywhere in the U.S., you're likely to see a disproportionate number of African-Americans.

It's a sign of a mystery lying at the intersection of race and homelessness in America: African-Americans seem especially vulnerable to losing their homes, even when compared to equally poor white people.

Will James / KNKX

This story originally aired on September 27, 2017.

Growing up Roma meant growing up fast -- and learning how to hustle. 

That's how Miller Steve describes it. He was raised in Tacoma's Roma community in the 70's and 80's, when it was a close-knit collection of families, all descended from a nomadic minority group in Europe

Will James / KNKX

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's pick for police chief is winning praise from activists who have criticized the department.  

Durkan announced Tuesday her choice is Carmen Best, a 26-year veteran of the police department who has served as interim chief since the start of the year. In choosing Best, the mayor passed over two outside candidates. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Federal investigators have begun a two-day hearing into last year's fatal Amtrak Cascades derailment in Pierce County.

Courtesy of Henry Waymack Design

Tacoma resident Halley Knigge was in her kitchen Sunday when she checked Facebook and saw friends posting about flyers stuck to utility poles around the city. 

"Keep America American," many of the flyers read. They included the phone number of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tip hotline and urged residents to report people they suspect of being in the country illegally.

Will James / KNKX

Tacoma officials are sending a warning to protesters who have been camped outside the Northwest Detention Center for more than a week.

"Color block living" by Sheila Sund is licensed under CC by 2.0 https://bit.ly/2Iw9bmf

Four neighborhoods in Tacoma top a new list of the Seattle area's fastest-rising rents, according to a report that could intensify concerns about affordability in a city once viewed as a housing bargain.

Rents in central Tacoma rose nearly 10 percent over the past year to $1,591, putting it at the top of the list, according to the real-estate company Zillow.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington advocates have filed a lawsuit on behalf of three mothers separated from their children as part of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy on illegal immigration.

Will James / KNKX

Washington is leading a coalition of states planning to sue the Trump administration over its policy of separating children from parents who are detained while crossing illegally or seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Will James / KNKX

Washington doctors say they plan to do more to prevent gun-related injuries and deaths, including asking patients whether they own guns and screening them for risk of using a gun in suicide.

Courtesy of the Point Defiance AIDS Projects

Pierce County Council members are likely to vote Tuesday to ban sites where people can inject drugs under medical supervision. 

So-called "safe injection sites" are operating in Canada and under consideration by a few U.S. cities as a way to stem a tide of opioid overdoses.

The sites are part of a strategy called "harm reduction," which acknowledges drug users are going to use and looks for ways to prevent them from dying, even while their addiction remains active.

Will James / KNKX

Expanding access to higher education is a core part of the mission at the University of Washington Tacoma, which had its commencement Monday. 

Many of the campus' students commute from nearby communities, 58 percent have parents without college degrees, and 73 percent receive financial aid.

Will James / KNKX

When Rose Crumb first launched a volunteer hospice in Port Angeles, doctors labeled her and her compatriots "the death squad." 

That was 40 years ago, when medical professionals rarely talked with their patients about dying.