Jireh-Shalom Foundation
Social advocacy with truth and reconciliation
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The Bullet was meant for me
Isa Farrington Nichols: Genesis

The following are excerpts from Isa Nichols' book entitled "GENESIS: The Bullet Was Meant For Me, D.C. Sniper Story Untold". Far from the glitz and flashing lights of the media is a story of domestic violence and abuse that erupted in the small town of Tacoma, in Washington state and spread across the country in murderous fashion to our nation's capitol...

PART ONE - GENESIS....In the beginning


Keenya Cook was my 21-year-old niece. She was beautiful, in terms of physical attraction. She was a young mother with a six-month-old baby girl. She was a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin and a sister. On February 16, 2002, she opened the front door of my home to me and my family near the Puyallup Indian Reservation at 2054 E 34th Street, Tacoma, Washington and was shot, brutally, in the face, with a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun. The impact of the shot severed her spleen; ' rather I should say the bullet went into the lower part of her face, severed her spleen, causing her to bleed to death. Keenya was found lying on the floor by my 14 year old daughter Tamara as she walked through the front door of the house to open the garage door.

Actually, I want to start my story before that point, I want to back up. Before that moment, before this tragic day, Keenya had moved in with her Uncle Joseph Nichols, my husband and I a few months prior to that tragic day, so that she could get away from her physically and verbally abusive relationship with her daughter's father. Prior to allowing Keenya to stay with us, we met over dinner to discuss Keenya's goals, and what she wanted to accomplish in life, to see if we could help her meet her goals. We agreed that Keenya's goals were obtainable and allowed Keenya to move in to our home with the baby.

Keenya was getting her life back on track. Keenya worked very hard on her job as a retail assistant manager at a women's clothing store. She later left her job to go on maternity leave, and then after giving birth she decided to go back to school. Keenya was applying for housing assistance, and completing all the tedious paperwork involved in attaining the various types of financial aid available to low-income single mothers. She would come home every day where she had folders of paperwork in order to get housing and medical assistance, and to complete school enrollment to take classes. Her interests were in restaurant management. She liked to cook, and she could cook well. Aside from all this, Keenya was a new mom and taking care of Angeleah, her baby girl, was what she enjoyed most of all.

It was really a joy to watch Keenya and the baby bond, in the safety of our home away from the baby's abusive father. I felt good about being able to experience her giving love and nurturing this beautiful new life in our family. To be able to watch Keenya be the best mother that she could be was a great reward. She was willing to make whatever change she needed so that her baby would have a better quality life. So, I watched her proceed with her life, making the necessary changes in her life to start being independent and to heal her own feelings from abuse and neglect, and to replace those with love, self-esteem and education. Our decision to allow her and the baby to stay in our home meant that we were allowing GOD to use our blessings to bless her, to bless them. That's what Keenya was to me, a blessing.

The morning of February 16, 2002, I remember waking up to the telephone's ringing. It was my husband Joseph Nichols telling me that he and his brother had arrived safely in California. They were on their way to a friend's house, and I can recall telling Joseph to call me when he got settled. He said: 'Okay.' I said: 'I love you and be safe'. He replied, 'I love you too'. I laid back down because I had made up my mind that I was going to take some time to sleep in and just get the rest that my body needed. So, once Joseph knew he was safe in California, and everybody else was out doing his or her normal Saturday routines, I laid in bed until approximately 1:30 to 2:00 pm. After that good rest I got up, made me a nice hot cup of coffee, and made a couple of telephone calls.

It was tax season and my business was preparing taxes for clients from my home office. One of my clients came over for their annual appointment. Most of my clients have been clients for a few years, so our professional relationships automatically turned into friendships very easily. By having my practice at my home, made it a friendlier environment, as I could offer my clients a beverage, or a snack while I went through their tax information. It was also great because my male clients could watch sports on the television, while their wives would be doing the tax work with me.

At about 3:00 p.m., shortly after my clients left my home, Keenya arrived with the baby, and we decided to go to the grocery store. One of the agreements that we had with Keenya is that she would buy food as her contribution to the household. We didn't charge Keenya any rent or for utilities. She would just contribute groceries. On this particular day Keenya, the baby and I went to the Safeway grocery store. We had a blast of fun because the baby was catching all the attention from everybody that walked by our cart. The baby was cooing, laughing at people, and giving them big smiles. What would normally take 30 minutes to shop turned into an hour and a half, because of all the attention the baby received.

We also stopped to get something to drink on the way home. There, Keenya and I began to dialogue. Keenya shared with me how she had a wonderful weekend with the baby's father. It was Valentine's Day; he had given her a flower, and some Mylar balloons. They got along that weekend and she was feeling good about that. I was silent because I wanted to just listen as she shared with me. I wanted to keep my opinion and judgment to myself. I begin to shift the conversation to our living arrangement, our agreement. I wanted to check in with her to see how she was doing with her goals, and her finances, and her budget. I just wanted to make sure that she was still on task with what she wanted to accomplish and to see if there was anything she needed from me that would be helpful.

We talked about our arrangement and how it was allowing her to save her money so that when the time came that she would get an apartment, she would be able to furnish it and have money for utilities, etc. There was just a very warm feeling in my heart as she explained to me what she had accomplished. We drove back home and brought the groceries into the house. Keenya asked me if I would fix some chicken tacos. Chicken tacos are a very popular meal and a favorite that I often would cook for my family. It was the request from them at least once a week. I told Keenya, sure, I would cook, but as we were putting up the groceries, I noticed I didn't have any taco shells. We hadn't bought any taco shells. I told Keenya I would go back to the store later and get some taco shells. We put up the groceries, and I went back to working at my tax business. Keenya went upstairs to begin changing her baby.

I remember the doorbell's ringing. Keenya's mom and her best friend came by. They were on their way to attend the Bill Cosby concert. Keenya's mother was an avid Bill Cosby f-a-n-atic. She had wanted to attend the concert, and no one really wanted to go with her. Finally, her best friend had purchased some tickets, and they were dressed up, going to have dinner, and see Mr. Bill Cosby. Keenya laughed as her mother ' looked incredible that day. She just flounced around to every mirror in the house with her new outfit. She was so happy. She was going to see Bill Cosby! She wanted to borrow binoculars to see the show. She wasn't sure where her seating would be and didn't want to miss anything. Keenya complimented how beautiful her mother looked. She kissed her mom, and told her to have fun at the concert. Her mother went whisking out the door, looking glamorous. That was her nickname to most of her nieces and nephews ' Auntie Glamorous.

Shortly thereafter I received a telephone call. It was my 14- year- old daughter Tamara. She was talking to Keenya. Tamara had asked what we were doing, and Keenya told her that we were going to make chicken tacos for dinner. Tamara insisted that we not make the chicken tacos, since she was not home. Tamara was supposed to be at a sleep over, and all of a sudden, she told Keenya to tell me to pick her up. All of a sudden she had changed her mind about the sleepover and that she wanted to come home. I told Keenya to tell her that I would pick her up on my way to the store to pick up the taco shells, and to be ready because I was going to honk the car horn.

I left shortly thereafter and I grabbed my keys and I went to go get Tamara, and go to the store to get taco shells and a few other things. I closed the door. Then I went back into the house to get the frozen chicken out of the freezer. I saw Keenya in the kitchen, and I asked her to go into the freezer to get the frozen chicken breasts out, and boil them so that when I returned, the meat would be ready. She said, 'Okay, Auntie.' Then I left, and closed and locked the door again. I got in the car and commenced to go pick up Tamara. I stopped at Safeway, and then I remembered that I needed to get some information from a friend, who was a softball player acquaintance. There was a softball tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada that was coming up. I had played with this Co-ed softball tournament team for a few years, so I stopped by there to get the tournament information for the February tournament. It was a treat to go Las Vegas because the weather was warm in February unlike the wet climate in the Northwest.

© 2006 Jireh-Shalom


The weather was a bit cloudy, and it was almost dark. Tamara and I were driving up the street towards our house. We pulled into the driveway, and I told Tamara to go into the house and open the garage door because I was going to put the car into the garage for the evening. As I sat there, listening to the local jazz station, I was wondering what was taking Tamara so long to open the garage door. Tamara can be easily distracted I began to get a little anxious because she should have had the door open by then.

I looked up and Tamara had come back out to the car and stood there with the most disarming look of shock on her face. As I stared at her, I could see something was wrong with my child. I got out of the car and I asked: 'Tamara, what is it? Why haven't you opened the door?' She just stared at me. I kept asking: 'Tamara, what is it?' As I got out of the car to come close to her, she finally spoke and said that: 'the house is all smoky and Keenya is lying on the floor.' I turned off the engine, took the keys, and went to the front door. There as Tamara had said was Keenya lying in the doorway, with her feet at the front door and the rest of her body lying in the foyer of the house.

As I looked into the house, there was a pot on the stove. The electric coil burner on the stove was orange. The smoke was at the top of the house. You could feel the heat from the kitchen from the stove burning. My first thought was that Keenya had succumbed to smoke inhalation. I ran into the kitchen and somehow I was able to get that stove turned off, and I tried to remove the pot; however, the pot had melted onto the burner of the stove. But, I did turn the stove off.

I went back to Keenya. I kneeled over her body, I grabbed her hand. I called out her name repeatedly. Keenya's eyes were open, glared and fixed. They were just a blank, glazed stare. Her hands were cold and stiff. There was a small hole in her face, under her eye on the cheek. At this time, it really hadn't registered that she had been shot. The thought of Angeleah crossed my mind. I ran upstairs because I thought that the smoke might have affected the baby. This was not for real! This could not be happening! Finally, I saw a small casing, a little metal casing next to Keenya's head, and I realized this was not smoke inhalation, that something was terribly wrong with Keenya. I saw the little metal piece, but I didn't touch it. I immediately ran to the phone to dial 911. I was praying so hard. I felt so helpless. I cried out 'Lord, Lord Jesus, help us!' I prayed that Keenya would hang on. I remember screaming to her: 'Hang on, hang on Keenya!' 'Keenya, Auntie is here!'

Within minutes after talking to the operator, I could hear sirens far off into the distance. It was then that I ran upstairs and I saw the baby. I was so very fearful because the baby was lying on her stomach and was not moving. I didn't know whether or not if something had happened to the baby. So I touched her back, and she jumped up and started screaming and crying. The baby was naked, and had rolled her way to the edge of the bed. Near the bed, there was a change of pajamas, fresh unused diaper, and bottle of warm milk. As I grabbed the baby and held her, the baby just grabbed my shirt, screaming and yelling. I grabbed the towel, the blanket, and wrapped the baby up, and she began to calm down. I did not know how long the baby had been lying there, but apparently the baby had cried herself to sleep when her mom had not returned.

I came downstairs. I handed the baby to Tamara who was standing on the front porch in the same position she was in when I left her. Tamara was in shock. She had not moved the whole time. She would not come into the house. She could not speak. So, I handed her the baby on the front porch to hold. It never occurred to me that someone could still be in the house, but I could still hear sirens coming closer. I turned to Tamara and I told her to take the baby and go to our neighbor's, our friend's house. Tamara left with the baby. I told her to go and call her grandmother. Finally, the paramedics arrived and the fire department arrived too. They came in and they saw Keenya lying there. They pulled Keenya from the foyer into the living room in order to get enough space to try to revive her. They put oxygen and tubes down her throat to try to get her to breathe. They were checking her pulse, but Keenya was already dead. I had kneeled down and held Keenya's hand. There was no life. They covered her up with a white sheet. I stood there, staring in disbelief. This just could not be happening. Keenya was gone.

© 2006 Jireh-Shalom


When the police arrived they made me go out of the house. They began to secure the house in case there was evidence. They would not allow me to go back into the house because they immediately were looking to see if there was any evidence to figure out what had happened. The police had called a chaplain and the fire department had called their chaplain who had come and was trying to console me. It was a Saturday night, and most of the detectives and coroners were off duty. They were being called at their homes regarding this crime. That was the explanation to me for having to wait. But while I waited, I couldn't go in the house to get clothes; I couldn't get shoes; I couldn't get my coat; I couldn't get my purse; I couldn't get the baby's things. I couldn't get anything because the house was officially a crime scene.

They began to yellow tape my door entry and a police officer stood guarding the door waiting for other law enforcement professionals to arrive. I just walked back and forth on the sidewalk in front of my front door. The door was still open. I just looked and I stared. Then, neighboring people began to come outside their homes and cars began to slow down. The police began to redirect traffic, to block off the intersection near my house. I just paced, waiting for detectives to arrive, coroners to arrive. They could not remove Keenya's body from the house until the coroner arrived. In a few hours the coroner finally arrived, they removed Keenya from the house and put her lifeless body in the ambulance, where she remained until the rest of the investigators got there.

My neighbor, Mr. Aho, was the father of Tamara's best friend Tanya. Tamara showed up at his home as I had asked her to. He told me that Tamara and the baby were at his house with his daughter Tanya and his wife. He told me they were ok. As he came to the house, I had to tell the police that he was my neighbor, and that I needed his help. Mr. Aho pulled his van in front of my house, and allowed me to sit in it, out of the cold, until law enforcement officers began to arrive. Hours went by before I could go anywhere. I was alone, and it was still not registering that my niece was shot and killed.

I just sat in shock in Mr. Aho's van watching more and more law enforcement personnel's arriving. Finally familiar faces arrived. It was Pamela and David. They had just received word from my mother-in-law that Keenya had been hurt. They came as quickly as they could. The police allowed them to come and talk with me, and I told them that Keenya had been shot. David and Pamela cried in disbelief. They were in shock. I just stared at them. It was as if I could see them crying but I could not hear them. There was nothing I could say to them. I didn't have any answers. I didn't know how, what, why or anything.

I was approached by the fire chaplain and was told that they wanted me to sit in the detective's car. I told them that I could not go anywhere without my daughter who was at a neighbor's house. Mr. Aho went and got Tamara and the baby. When Tamara and the baby arrived, they got into the detective's car with me. The Ahos had gone to the store and bought some formula and some diapers for the baby. Tamara held the baby, who was asleep in her arms. I put my arms around them both. We were so pitiful. We waited in the detective's car for almost another hour.

Finally, they took us down to the police station. We went down to the police station and went up to their conference room area to wait for further questioning. The police were trying to make us comfortable, offering us coffee, water. We sat there, Tamara and me, staring at each other. The baby had woken up and was looking around to make sure that we were still there. It was obvious the baby was still traumatized. Tamara had told me she had contacted her grandmother and had told her that Keenya had been shot. She began to cry. I was just numb. I kept trying to console my daughter, but no words would come.

The investigator, detective, came in and began to question Tamara and I on what happened. We explained to him ' how we had arrived and how we had found her. He began to ask us if we knew who could have done this. We both replied 'no!' They began to ask us about family members and their whereabouts. We told the detectives that my husband was in California, and that we had not made contact with him. I had not spoken with since about 9:00 am. We also told him of Keenya's boyfriend the baby's father, and where he lived, and gave the detective his name. We gave them Keenya's mother's name and information. We just answered all of their questions regarding individuals and whoever may have known Keenya or who Keenya may have talked to or contacted that day. When we mentioned Keenya's boyfriend's name, the detective went to another room and when he returned he showed us a picture. He asked us was that her boyfriend. Tamara had identified him by saying 'yes.' They informed us that he was listed as a gang member.

I didn't know much about Keenya's boy friend, other than that Keenya had met him in high school, when she was about 16. He was much older, around 23 years old. Keenya moved in with him shortly after she turned 18. The police said that he was a thug. I knew that he had hit Keenya many times before and that he was very abusive to Keenya. I also knew she was afraid of what he would do. It was a very volatile relationship. I remember the night we moved Keenya's belongings from their apartment. We were very nervous. We were afraid of what he would do if he came home and saw us moving Keenya's belongings out of his apartment. I remember seeing empty cans of Old English 800 Malt Liquor. Cans were everywhere. I remember seeing some brass knuckles on the table. The urgency was clear to me that we had to hurry, when we moved Keenya's belongings.

When the officer brought out his mug shot and rap sheet, I was surprised. Just like I said, I didn't know very much about the baby's father, but I became very fearful because I couldn't imagine him doing something like that, like murdering Keenya. It was just incomprehensible. This was his baby's mother! Then the officer, the detective left us in the room again. My cell phone rang and it was my husband, Joseph. I finally broke down and began to cry. I'm quite relieved to hear his voice over the telephone. I needed him so much. I was so alone. I didn't want to let him go. I figured someone had called him in California and told him about Keenya. I remember asking him to catch a flight to Tacoma ' because I didn't want him driving from California knowing the shocking news of Keenya being killed. He sighed and replied that he would be here, that he was on his way. I took that as he was going to drive anyway or that he was going to find a way to get here. I told him that Tamara and I were okay and that we were at the police station, all he said was 'Isa, I'm on my way!' I didn't want to let him off the phone. I just needed to hear his voice. I wanted him there so badly. I felt that if he was there with me, somehow I was going to be alright. Tamara and I needed him.

Tamara and I just sat there, making the baby comfortable, still in shock at where we were, and why we were there. Suddenly, someone knocks on the door and then they grabbed the doorknob, and it's my husband Joseph coming through the door. He was there with his brother. All I could do was to stare at him, like I had just seen a ghost. I was so confused because I had just talked to him; I thought he was in California and there he was, within minutes walking through the door of the Police Station in Tacoma, Washington! I was so confused that I just sat there and stared, almost like I didn't know him. He went over to Tamara, and held his child, and held the baby. I literally could not move. I just stared at them. I can't tell you what was going through my mind. I was traumatized! I was devastated! It seemed just like the power switch from a utility company shutting the power off from your house, I had just shut down. I became mute. I then realized that I was in real trouble. Something was terribly wrong. This was going to get worse before it could ever get better.

The detectives came back in the room, looking to see who these men were. I told them it was my husband Joseph and his brother, Keenya's uncles. The detective was looking quite puzzled himself because Tamara and I had just told them Joseph, my husband and her father was in California. He didn't say anything, just shook their hands, and asked them if they wanted anything, water, coffee, and then he let them sit down. They had apparently been to the house, and saw the house ' and realized that we were no longer there. They were told that they could find us at the police station. I don't believe they were able to see Keenya's body. The last time I saw Keenya was when she was covered with a white sheet lying on a gurney in the ambulance that was parked outside my house. I don't know if she had been taken away from the house at that time or not. I can only imagine what it was like for Joseph to come to his home and to see it taped off like a murder crime scene. I can only imagine what it was like for Joseph to wonder what could have possibly happened. What occurred at his home?

© 2006 Jireh-Shalom

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