In the town of Orting, with a population of just 6,700, a homeowner was found dead in his front lawn last week with a shotgun wound to the head.
Michael Compton, 53, grew up in the same house in Orting where he died. Detectives believe he may have been shot during a struggle after interrupting a burglary in his garage in the middle of the night.
The suspects are still at large and residents are left wondering how they can prevent future crimes from rocking their small town.
At a community meeting at the high school Wednesday night, resident Suzy Paschal squeezed in to a standing-room-only meeting and joined the discussion about how to shrink a growing crime rate.
“We are a small town with big city problems coming in with small budgets,” Paschal told the Morning News on KIRO Radio.
Paschal said these crimes aren’t isolated events – a 60-year-old man was robbed in a downtown park a few days ago.
While some of the crime is believed to be motivated by an increasing heroin and meth problem, other crimes seem to be from kids who might just be staying out too late.
Paschal said Orting had discussed a citywide curfew, but it was deemed unconstitutional.
In some cases, kids in trouble receive only a slap on the wrist and Paschal doesn’t think that helps. Like in the case of Brian Backus, owner of Trailside Cyclery – he was badly beaten last October after confronting teenagers who had damaged one of his bikes.
“The Orting Police did a great job helping him. Where (Backus) failed was the court system. The kids that you hear, they are from the town, they just got their hand slapped,” said Paschal.
At the meeting, Paschal said, “A lot of the residents stood up and talked and we heard very touching stories.”
But the next step is still unclear, though the community is making strides to strengthen their neighborhood watch
and form a community advisory committee that can keep an open dialogue between the city and its residents. Paschal said they have also made a request to increase the police presence around the city.
And residents have started a “Compton cruise” in order to better patrol some neighborhoods.
“Someone out there knows who shot Michael Compton,” said Paschal.
Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers has offered a $1,000 reward for information that could lead to the arrest of the person responsible for Compton’s death.