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. 

Ways to Connect

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Stay tuned for a three-episode finale that completes the story we started telling you early this year. The first of those episodes drops Oct. 7.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr arrives for a panel discussion on combatting human trafficking on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Atlanta. The Department of Justice is distributing nearly $100 million to fight human trafficking nationwide.
Brynn Anderson / The Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Justice is giving out nearly $100 million dollars to fight human trafficking nationwide. The recipients include six Washington-based organizations that help trafficking victims. In total, the groups will receive a combined $2.6 million. 

Community members gathered in June for a celebration of life for Manuel Ellis, who was killed by Tacoma police in March. In this photo, one of the attendees hangs a flyer with Ellis’ image that says “Happy Father’s Day Manny.”
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

More than six months have passed since 33-year-old Manuel Ellis was killed by Tacoma police on a residential street in March. He died after telling officers he couldn't breathe. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide. 

Since then, Ellis' death has sparked protests, vigils, efforts to reform statewide police-accountability laws, and legal action against the City of Tacoma. Meanwhile, the state patrol is investigating whether any of the four Tacoma officers who were at the scene should be charged with crimes. Ellis became a local example of the inequities people around the country were protesting after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Mental health experts warn that Washington residents are entering a critical period, six to nine months into a disaster, when mental health problems tend to arise or worsen.

This week, Washington marks six months since a stay-at-home order first went into effect. Six months marks a threshold between an initial "honeymoon" phase of the pandemic and a more trying "disillusionment" phase, experts say.

In this January 2020 file photo, tents are pictured inside a homeless encampment in Olympia.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Port of Olympia officials and Thurston County sheriff’s deputies displaced an estimated eight unsheltered people from a wooded Tumwater property on Monday, sparking objections from activists concerned “sweeps” of camps add pressure to a shelter system already strained by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Heat rising from the roadway blur the image of a fire truck driving through a burned out area Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, during a media tour to survey wildfire damage in Bonney Lake.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

A wildfire that has consumed a hillside overlooking the Sumner Valley in East Pierce County continues to burn. The Sumner Grade Fire, which started Monday evening, has burned an estimated 800 acres in the Bonney Lake area. It’s destroyed four homes.

Meanwhile, a number of separate brush fires and structure fires have flared up nearby, putting an unprecedented strain on fire districts’ pool of resources.

Attorney James Bible, bottom right, and the family of the late Manuel Ellis are seen at a press conference in June. On Friday, Bible announced the family's plan to seek $30 million in damages in a lawsuit against the city of Tacoma.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX (file)

Nearly six months after Manuel Ellis was killed by Tacoma police, his family says they plan to seek $30 million in damages in a lawsuit against the city.

The family's attorney, James Bible, said he planned to file a precursor to a lawsuit known as a tort claim with the city on Friday afternoon. 

The announcement came on what would have been Ellis' 34th birthday. 

In this file photo from March, a man carrying a sleeping bag looks at a sign on the door of the Bread of Life Mission in Seattle's downtown Pioneer Square neighborhood. COVID-19 cases have risen in King County’s homeless population throughout the summer.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

UPDATE, Aug. 26: King County public health officials say one person has died in connection with the Harborview Hall outbreak. The man, who was in his 70s, died Aug. 7 and had "underlying medical conditions," public health officials said. The King County Medical Examiner's Office lists COVID-19 as one of the causes of death.  

In this photo taken March 23, 2017, outreach worker Brenda Frazier, left, walks with Seattle police officers Tori Newborn, right, and Wes Phillips past tents housing homeless people below a freeway next to downtown Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Budget changes in Seattle could upend how the city responds to encampments of people living outside in tents and makeshift houses.

This week, a majority of City Council members voted to remove funding from the city's three-year-old Navigation Team, which is made up of police officers and outreach workers who respond to encampments. Members of the team disband or "sweep" encampments while also trying to connect the people displaced with shelter and other services.

Quincy Henry roasting coffee for his business, Campfire Coffee Co.
Courtesy of Quincy Henry

Unknown numbers of businesses will die as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown.

But, here and there, businesses are still being born.

David Goldman / The Associated Press

Medicines that help people stop using opioids are heavily regulated, and people seeking them usually have to navigate in-person doctor visits, daily stops at a clinic, frequent urine tests, and other requirements that derail or discourage many.

But, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, federal officials have loosened rules for the medications methadone and buprenorphine, in order to limit in-person contact between providers and patients. 

Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, talks to reporters, Wednesday, March 4, 2020 at a news conference in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

King County health officials say they're monitoring rising COVID-19 infections in younger people, as new cases in the Seattle area reach levels last seen during a peak this spring. 

Nearly three quarters of new cases are in people under 40 years old, King County's top public health official, Dr. Jeff Duchin, told reporters in a briefing Friday. 

Protesters gather in Tacoma on June 2 to demand justice for Bennie Branch, who was shot and killed by Tacoma police in September 2019.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

Two cases in which police in Pierce County shot and killed Black men in their 20s are getting renewed attention following weeks of protest sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Bennie Branch, 24, and Said Joquin, 26, were shot and killed in separate incidents eight months apart. 

Katrina Johnson, cousin to the late Charleena Lyles, spoke at a rally on June 18, 2020, the three-year anniversary of Lyles' death.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Katrina Johnson had prepared for a career in nursing. Then Seattle police shot and killed her cousin, Charleena Lyles, on June 18, 2017.

"From that day, it's just been a constant fight trying to understand and come to terms with what happened," said Johnson, a Tacoma resident.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office is reviewing at least 30 cases in which police killed or wounded people in 2020, amid concerns law enforcement agencies are not following new rules governing how they hold each other accountable in cases of deadly force.

Manuel Ellis
Courtesy of Tacoma Action Collective

The Washington State Patrol will take over an investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis, a Black man who was killed in Tacoma police custody in March after telling an officer, "I can't breathe, sir."

Gov. Jay Inslee made the announcement in a written statement Wednesday afternoon.

Manuel Ellis, who was killed while in Tacoma police custody March 3. Ellis is remembered as a musician and father whose life was marked by  by pain, struggle, and a search for redemption.
Courtesy of Tacoma Action Collective

A newly released video taken by a witness appears to show a Tacoma police officer wrap his arm around Manuel Ellis' neck and then press a knee into Ellis' body.

The video reveals new details of the struggle that preceded Ellis' death on a South Tacoma street the night of March 3. The case has gotten increasing attention and scrutiny amid nationwide protests decrying police brutality against Black people.

Manuel Ellis, who was killed while in Tacoma police custody March 3. Ellis is remembered as a musician and father whose life was marked by  by pain, struggle, and a search for redemption.
Courtesy of Tacoma Action Collective

Manuel Ellis has been a focus of national attention for the way he died: saying he couldn’t breathe while lying on the ground, handcuffed by Tacoma police officers, one night in March.

Ellis’ 33 years of life also were marked by trauma and struggle against forces pressing down on him ⁠— as well as a long, slow road toward stability, according to friends and family members. 

Tacoma activist Shalisa Hayes chooses, among other things, to sit out marches and protests for her own mental health. She talked with KNKX about navigating personal pain, mental health and activism.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Americans have now lived through more than a week of intense national focus on Black people dying violently.

Tacoma activist Shalisa Hayes says, for some Black Americans, that barrage of news takes a personal toll.

A demonstrator holds up a sign in front of police and National Guard members in Seattle on June 2, 2020 during a protest over the death of George Floyd.
Shauna Sowersby / KNKX

After five days of protest against police brutality and racism, activists continue marching the streets of Seattle and Tacoma. 

In Seattle, hundreds of people flooded the streets of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood on Tuesday.

Black church leaders gather on the streets of Tacoma to pray for their community's fight against COVID-19 and the "virus" of racism.
Will James / KNKX

As protests raged across the country over the weekend, dozens of black church leaders in Tacoma gathered on street corners to pray.

The event had been planned to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, but it took on new meaning amid nationwide unrest over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. KNKX’s Will James attended the event to talk with those faith leaders and record their remarks.

Volunteers and city workers clean up in Seattle's Chinatown-International District following a weekend of protests that ended with vandalism.
Will James / KNKX

Seattle's Chinatown-International District teemed with volunteers and city workers Sunday. They were trying to undo some of the damage in a neighborhood hit hard by vandalism during the weekend's protests.

Nativity House, operated by the nonprofit Catholic Community Services, recorded the first known COVID-19 cases in Washington's homeless population in March.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Two Tacoma shelters that disclosed the first known cases of COVID-19 in Washington's homeless population have avoided widespread outbreaks and now appear virus-free, the shelters' operators said.

Nativity House, operated by the nonprofit Catholic Community Services, had four guests test positive for the coronavirus in March, raising fears that the virus could spread quickly through a population that shares sleeping and living spaces. 

Pedestrians walk past the Legislative Building as trees bloom, April 23, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

What does it look like when a city's downtown reopens after weeks of lying dormant?

Washington's capital, Olympia, is among the first and largest cities in the Puget Sound region to find out — and officials say the city's business district will operate differently. 

Workers load eggs for packaging at a farm in Roy, Wash., on April 9, 2020.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Across the United States, communities of color have been over-represented in the ranks of people suffering from COVID-19.

In Washington, that's especially true of the Latino population. Latino residents account for more than a third of the state's COVID-19 cases, despite being just 13 percent of the overall population.

Daffodils bloom near the Legislative Building on April 6, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Thurston County is poised to enter Phase 2 of reopening as soon as next week, a step that would be a first among counties in the populous Puget Sound region. 

Under Gov. Jay Inslee's "Safe Start Washington" plan, Phase 2 allows restaurants, retail stores, hair and nail salons, and offices to reopen their doors, with restrictions meant to limit spread of the novel coronavirus.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, some clear patterns have emerged. One is that people of color are being affected by this virus at higher rates than white people. 

In Washington state, the disparities are especially stark among the Latino population.

More than a third of the state's COVID-19 cases have been Latino, which is way out of proportion to their 13 percent share of the general population.

A steep drop in hotel tax revenue has jeopardized the construction of a sprawling new convention center facility that sits about 30 percent complete along Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle, the developer behind the project said Friday.

Neal Browning receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus on March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Washington state's database of adult vaccinations is "incomplete" and "inaccurate," a group of King County doctors says, leading some to worry that the system may complicate efforts to eventually vaccinate residents for COVID-19.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

In a normal March and April, the Seattle Fire Department receives roughly 30 to 40 calls from people having heart attacks. But this spring those calls were cut in half, to around 15.

Health officials aren't celebrating.

In fact, the trend could be a troubling side effect of the coronavirus pandemic, said the fire department's medical director, Dr. Michael Sayre.

Pages