Northwest News

Family, friends hold vigil for 17-year-old Tacoma boy who was shot to death

Jatarius Tolbert gave his mother some perfume for Mother’s Day and was dead a day later.

“He said, ‘Mommy, Mommy, I bet you thought I forgot,’ ” said Sharon Tolbert on Saturday night, surrounded by more than 100 people who gathered to mourn and vent anger about the death of the 17-year-old boy killed May 11 by a gunshot.

Underneath a picnic shelter at the Portland Avenue Community Center on Tacoma’s East Side, Tolbert clutched red roses and poured out her grief and pain into the darkness.

“Everyone here is hurt! They didn’t just hurt me. They didn’t just hurt my family,” she said. The crowd murmured agreement.

Sharon Tolbert can’t stop replaying how he died, details she told the crowd she learned from friends who were with him “in his last moments.”

Tolbert died Monday night in a parking lot on South Hosmer Street. Police have said he was shot in the head. No one has been arrested in connection to the crime, police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said Sunday. Several police vehicles parked near the community center Saturday night as the vigil occurred.

Friends and neighbors of Jatarius Tolbert, who was called “Trey,” shared their memories. They described him as kind, supportive and loyal. They laughed through tears, and veered from sadness to anger at his death.

One young woman said Trey “took you for who you were,” no matter what kind of person you were. Another said she and Trey had their disagreements, but her heart was broken. She swore vengeance.

“They’re gonna get theirs,” she yelled through tears. People surrounded her, holding her arms down as if to to contain her body and words. “I swear it on my father’s grave,” she said.

The gathering ended after about 45 minutes. As she walked to join her husband of 28 years at their car, Sharon Tolbert said their son was killed on his way to buy a flavored frozen drink for his girlfriend. He had bought her one already, but she spilled it and didn’t want him to know, Tolbert said.

“She just told him it was good, and she wanted another,” she said. “So he went to get her another.”

Jatarius Tolbert’s funeral will be Saturday at the Eastside Baptist Church, 3575 Portland Ave. E.