Teacher Killed Before Class

The stalking began with bursts of phone calls — 10 or 15 in a day, about once a year, from an old college acquaintance. Then, flowers and unwanted visits, an anti-harassment order, an arrest — and bail.

Jennifer Paulson, a 30-year-old special education teacher at a Tacoma elementary school, knew she was in danger this week when her alleged stalker was released from the Pierce County Jail, three days after she had him arrested. She started staying away from her home in an attempt to avoid him.

It didn't work. When she showed up for work Friday morning, he was already there — and had been waiting for hours, according to reports neighbors gave police. Paulson was shot more than once as she walked into the school. Her body lay near the base of a large evergreen tree with blood seeping from her mouth.

A Pierce County sheriff's deputy tracked down the suspected killer, Jed R. Waits, 30, of Ellensburg, outside a daycare about 10 miles away and killed him in a shootout.

"She was a very kind, merciful, loving person," her father, Ken Paulson, said. "That's probably why she was a special education teacher — because she loved so much."

He described his daughter as a devout Christian, and said she had been pestered by Waits for years. The two had known each other since she was in college, when they worked together at a cafeteria at Seattle Pacific University.

In her petition for the anti-harassment order filed in Pierce County District Court in September 2008, Paulson said she and Waits occasionally socialized with co-workers and friends outside of work as a group but "never had any sort of romantic involvement."

After graduating, she heard from him only about once a year, when he would suddenly call her 10 or 15 times in a single day, she wrote. She would wait a few days to call him back, and then always left a message.

In spring 2008, though, his obsession seemed to intensify. She said he repeatedly showed up at her school, once walking inside past the office, where he was stopped by a secretary.

"I am shocked and tell him he must go," Paulson wrote. "I never told him where I work and do not know how he found out."

A month later, she said he sent flowers and a bear to her school. Paulson's principal called Waits' commander in the National Guard to inform him of the harassment, she wrote.

In September that year, he showed up again, parking his car outside the school and watching her — an incident that finally drove her to obtain an anti-harassment order requiring him not to contact her and to keep 1,000 feet from her school and residence.

Keith Kosik, a spokesman for the Guard, said Waits was repeatedly disciplined during his tenure with the service and was less-than-honorably discharged in April 2009. He deployed to Kuwait with his unit in 2007.

Waits left Paulson alone for more than a year after she obtained the anti-harassment order, her father said. But a week ago, she noticed him following her as she was driving home from work. She called 911, and a dispatcher told her to drive to a police station.

Waits was arrested that night, but posted bail on Monday. Ken Paulson said his daughter stopped staying at home when she learned of his release.

Tacoma Police spokesman Mark Fulghum said there had been no indication that Waits had a weapon or had threatened Paulson with a weapon, but it appeared he had a serious infatuation. It's not clear where he got the gun.

The shooting happened at Birney Elementary, which has about 400 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Classes were canceled for the day, and officials had not made a decision about Monday's classes.

Omar Moreno, 22, who lives across the street from the school, said he heard three gunshots.

"I heard a teacher screaming at the top of her lungs — just screaming," he said. "I looked out my window and I saw the guy. He started running down the middle of the street and got in his car."

Moreno said the man, wearing a white snow cap and white gloves, drove off in a tan car. Soon after, Moreno said, a custodian barreled out of the school screaming for someone to call the police.

A deputy pulled over the suspect's car in the parking lot of a daycare, and he came out firing a handgun, Troyer said. The deputy returned fire and killed the man.

School district spokesman Dan Voelpel said Paulson worked in the language resource center helping students one-on-one with reading problems. She had been with the district since 2004 and at the school since 2007.

Paulson's death "knocked everyone flat," Voelpel said. "It's going to hit this community hard."

The shooting occurred three days after a 32-year-old man with a history of mental illness opened fire in a middle school parking lot in Colorado, wounding two students.

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  • by So Sorry to the Family of Ms. Paulson Location: Kinston on Mar 1, 2010 at 02:13 PM
    My thoughts and prayers are with the families. It takes a special person to be a special education teacher.
  • by Darren Location: Kill Devil Hills on Mar 1, 2010 at 01:42 PM
    To Concerned, you are right about that it wont bring her back. It's justice that should be served on the ones that let that creep out of jail. That's why I said what I said. It would prevent someone from making such an idiotic decision like that again, putting someone in harm's way.
  • by Concerned Location: Gville on Mar 1, 2010 at 12:39 PM
    Steve, you listen to Rush too much, and Darren, I'm sorry buddy, but the money in a lawsuit in this situation won't bring her back.
  • by Sara Location: Washington NC on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:48 AM
    Very sad story. I pray for the families that are involved in this heartbreaking situation. May they find the strength they need in God.
  • by Darren Location: Kill Devil Hills on Mar 1, 2010 at 10:06 AM
    If I were a family member of that woman, I would have filed a lawsuit over what turned out to be a wrongful death. The government should have never let that creep out of jail. How dare they! It's ashame what some people will do. Thoughts and prayers go out to the woman's family who I hope takes this to court and gets justice served. At least they don't have to try the perpetrator on our tax dollars.
  • by Steve Location: Ayden on Feb 28, 2010 at 07:17 PM
    Time to get some new slogans anti-gun supporters. Your "for the kids argument" is not only dumb but promotes violence against kids and women. This woman knew she was in danger. But because of the libs who supposedly love womens rights she was unable to protect herself. Yeah it was a school. Did that stop the criminal? Did that stop the criminal from getting a gun? You mean the criminal ignored the sign and sticker that said no gun? But, but, but it is the law!!! It is for the kids!!! You should be able to protect yourself anywhere and everywhere. You will not be assigned a cop. But they will show up afterwards. The democrat hatred of woman is incredible.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 28, 2010 at 04:09 PM
    Gun Nuts says "most gun deaths are caused by accidents in their own homes"....total BS. I know you liberal anti gun types would like everyone to believe that but its just not true.
  • by Prayers on Feb 28, 2010 at 11:20 AM
    I pray for all of you who post about putting people away for life, killing criminals, and carrying guns. Violence solves no problems and vengeance doesn't either - 'An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.' The killer was a victim, too. He obviously needed mental help but our country has little of that for anyone.
  • by Penelope Location: Chocowinity,NC on Feb 28, 2010 at 09:49 AM
    All you Obama people remember you use to blame Bush for everything. You Obama nuts would even blame Bush for not catching fish on a fishing trip. Well the card deck is turned. What you can't take a little criticism about the big " O ". Crime is going to get a lot worse. Obama and his Liberal court Judges? Pierce County sheriff's deputy good job!
  • by LW Location: greenville on Feb 28, 2010 at 08:59 AM
    Need I say more? Get a gun and carry it whereever you go. Defend yourself.
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