Anti-Gay Senator Chastises Lesbian Knifed in Brutal Home Attack
On November 14th, Tammie Willis, a teacher and LGBT activist, found an ominous note left on her vehicle as she left her local gym in her hometown of Soldotna, Alaska.
“Dumb Ass Dyke,” the message scribbled in permanent marker began, “We don’t want your gay, libtard ass shit here (sic) so take it somewhere else before you get hurt!!!”
Mrs. Willis initially disregarded the message, but later reported the incident to local police after showing it to her longtime wife who encouraged her to take the possibility of a real threat more seriously.
As she handed the note to the police, Willis told NPR Alaska, “He took a picture of the letter and told me that it was written by a coward and that cowards rarely follow up on their threats.”
Around 7am on the morning of November 22nd, while driving her typical route to work, Willis noticed a Truck parked alongside the road and a figure in the back bed. As she passed, a large object was hurled at her windshield, striking the passenger side.
She made her second report immediately upon arriving at Kenai Peninsula College, where she works as the Associate Director of Residence Life. The officer reassured her the events were not connected.
“His reasoning was that it was dark out and there’s no way that anyone would have known that was my truck if I was being targeted,” she said.
However, she was concerned that incidents may indeed connected. To avoid further potential issues, she changed most of her typical routines, including the time she left for work, the routes she drove and stopped going to the gym for her regular workouts.
Events came to a horrifying climax around the same time of morning on December 9th when the lights went out in the Willis household. As she investigated the outage, Willis walked through her garage door to see if neighbors were also without power when suddenly she was attacked.
A figure took her by surprise, shoved her backward into her garage where they attempted to wrestle her into submission. Willis hit the ground and explained that she immediately felt an intense burning sensation on her arm and then a sharp pressure on her chest when she grabbed at her attacker only to discover she had grabbed his knife by the blade.
She says that is when the stabbing stopped and the assailant launched a series of heavy punches to her face and body before escaping.
“All of the sudden it just stopped and he left,” She said. He had, in fact, left Willis to die. “ He was also not able to see me well or my injuries may have been worse.”
She suffered multiple deep lacerations across her hand, chest and forearms and severe hematoma across her legs, face and midsection. She also endured a concussion.
Willis stated in a Facebook post that each incident occurred within days of Pride in the Park planning activities, one of the numerous LGBTQ+ events Willis organizes for the students and greater local community. On a broader scale, she also organizes and supports a global community of casual LGBT gamers, many who live in rural areas and do not have access to community experiences. They describe Willis as a community healer and a Mother figure they’ve always wanted but never had. She is referred to as nurturing, and someone who fosters a positive environment where she stands as a beacon of hope for both youth and adults in need of a sense of family. Suffice it to say, she’s loved by many.
Willis stayed quiet as she waited for any word from the police, mostly out of self preservation and an urgency to resume some semblance of normalcy. She said her intention was to “…try to minimize the impact of someone else’s hate on my life.” However, following her savage attack she was met with silence from the police, also.
In her Christmas Eve Facebook post, a month after the brutal assault in her home, she revealed the extent of her issues dealing with the authorities. “I am really struggling to get law enforcement to take this seriously.”
She went on to explain her reasons;
“Soldotna police handled the first 2 reports because they happened in town. They pretty much blew them off. The third incident happened in my home outside of town and is being handled by the (State) troopers.
Despite a neighbor seeing a truck leaving my home the morning of the assault, despite video surveillance, despite a knife being left behind…despite all this, nothing has moved forward.
It took the troopers a week to talk to my neighbors. Two weeks after the attack, the knife has not been sent to the lab nor have the troopers reviewed my neighbor’s video surveillance. They also haven't talked to Soldotna police about then other 2 incidents.
They are refusing to call it a hate crime despite the evidence and timeline of events. They are saying it is an isolated incident, and they cant corroborate the hate crime element without a suspect.”
Willis also posted the photos of her wounds, the letter left on her truck and the smashed windshield of her truck.
Please be aware, the following images are both disturbing and graphic.
After her release from the hospital, Willis moved to a safe, more populated environment to recover with the support of her local colleagues and community.
She received an immediate and proactive response from Alaska State Representative Geran Tarr who lent words of encouragement in the Facebook post and was prompted by a Facebook user to contact Alaska State Senator Peter Micciche.
Mrs. Tarr responded; “I just messaged Peter. I’ll message Gary. I talked to the Troopers and to Tammie. Hoping the communication improves and that they make clear steps on how they are investigating. So glad she’s safe now.”
Soon after, Willis says Rep. Tarr phoned her and she later updated her post to say she had been reassured “the Soldotna Police and Troopers are communicating about the incidents and have been since the last incident. It was just not made obvious to me that the communication was occurring. I do appreciate the additional clarity.”
State Rep. Tarr went on in the comments to highlight and express her disappointment that sexual orientation is not a protected class in Alaska with hate crimes being challenging to prosecute. Currently, Alaska has no Hate Crime Statute and previous attempts to pass it have failed. According to Soldotna Police Chief Pete Mlynarik, “We investigated it as a criminal mischief, the first one with the note would be like a suspicious incident — the other one would be a criminal mischief.”
Rep. Tarr asserted that there needs to be a renewed conversation on the laws surrounding targeted violent crimes.
“We have this weird situation,” Tarr began, “Where we don’t have a hate crime statute so the Troopers are correct in saying they are investigating an assault. If the case goes to trial a hate crime is an aggravator that can increase the sentence. There have been efforts in the past to pass a hate crime statute. However, what I wonder is couldn’t they say something like- while they are being investigated as separate incidents at this time, this individual has previously been the victim of two other crimes, and then describe them. Then that info would get to the community. That seems like a missing piece here. They aren’t giving the full story when reporting it as an assault. They do have to have evidence to link them, but seems like they could say they are investigating if the incidents are related. People need to know. She has a right to safety and so does everyone else.
Because there is a federal statute, hate crimes are reported in the uniform crime report. This story has more info. Perhaps it’s time for this conversation again about a state law.”
After Willis’s post went viral, several news agencies covered the shocking attack on a beloved community leader which prompted action by the local authorities and resulted in more transparency and communication. “I have received assurances that they are being taken seriously and that things are moving forward,” she added to her post in an update.
However, amid the comments on her post, with most expressing their concern and frustration, more than a day later, Alaskan State Senator Peter Micciche indeed made his appearance and decided to leave a comment of his own- chastising Willis for implying the local and state authorities were not taking her reports seriously.
Sen. Micciche began;
“I have personally learned enough about the ongoing investigation that I feel some of the comments I have read should be clarified.
Most importantly is that both sets of crimes are, in fact, being aggressively investigated by both departments. The Soldotna Police are taking the threatening note and the rock in the windshield very seriously (the two incidents within the city). The Troopers are also going over every detail on the physical attack as well (that occurred outside of Soldotna). They are collaborating with each other on the cases. The suggestion that either department is not investigating because the victim happens to have a particular sexual preference is ridiculous and unwarranted.
Law enforcement folks (on the Kenai in this example) risk their lives everyday for all of us humans..not more or less because we fall into a particular category. I frankly find the suggestion to be offensive, but either way I can assure you that it is “not a thing” in this case. I would like to know in the future if there is an actual example of people being ignored by law enforcement anywhere in Alaska, but it is not happening here.”
Can you imagine being a State Senator and remarking on the post of a woman who had a violent encounter that left her physically and emotionally wounded and having the nerve to say you are offended by her valid perception? Ad then go on to pretend as if anti-gay bias in law enforcement does not exist? In fact, anti-gay police are a “thing.” Everywhere.
As a lawmaker, he should know. In 2016, the Republican Senator attempted to undermine the landmark Marriage Equality ruling by introducing a bill that would, in effect; “Provide for individuals the right to deny marriage applicants services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of a marriage.”
But, what makes his comment more glaringly suspect, revealing perhaps his own bias, is the fact that Willis never once insinuated the lack of communication by authorities was because she was gay. It was not an argument being had, but a point he felt necessary to make.
Ultimately, after receiving public backlash on Willis’s post for his tone-deaf comment, he opted to pick up the phone and call her instead, which Willis relayed in a further update.
Willis is adamant that she doesn’t want attention on her experience to centralize on her and emphasizes that this is merely symptomatic of a much bigger issue. She is concerned for the youth she engages with daily, their safety as a community as they organize LGBTQ+ positive events and do their best to celebrate in spite of the increasingly hostile social and political climate.
While Willis says she wants the small, more rural LGBTQ+ community on the Kenai Peninsula to be warned that there’s a threat, Mlynarik does not believe that is necessary- at least not yet.
“To say a whole community is at risk, you know you don’t want to alarm somebody for any reason, regardless of that circumstance or another one if you don’t have all the facts out there,” he said.
Perhaps the facts could be had if the authorities finally collect the evidence, the knife, neighborhood surveillance tapes and witness statements who actually saw her attacker leave her home.
Until such time as Willis is given the closure she deserves, she is forging ahead, undaunted, in her mission to serve her community: The Soldotna Pride in the Park organizers have scheduled a town hall meeting and will address the subject of LGBTQ+ Safety. Also, administrators would like anyone who feels unsafe to know they can call 907–262–0257, which is a 24-hour line that will provide support and resources.
If anyone you know has information regarding the violent attack on Mrs. Willis or any persons involved, please call the Soldotna Police non-emergency line at (907) 262–4455.