Tammy Lee Gibson, 40, said she attacked William Baldwin on June 16 after receiving a notification from the Pierce County Sheriff's Department that the convicted child molester had moved to a neighboring trailer park.
PUYALLUP — Tammy Lee Gibson says she has only one regret about attacking her neighbor with a baseball bat.
She says she wishes she had done more damage.
Gibson, 40, said she attacked William Baldwin on June 16 after receiving a notification from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department that the convicted child molester had moved to a neighboring trailer park. She said she immediately recognized Baldwin, 24, as an acquaintance who had talked to her 10-year-old daughter last summer. She knocked on his door, threatened to kill him and attacked him with a bat.
The attack landed both in jail: Gibson for second-degree assault and felony harassment and Baldwin for failing to register as a sex offender.
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While police and prosecutors have condemned Gibson’s actions, the attack has made her a hero among bloggers and commentators on Internet message boards. When the attack made the news, many in the blogosphere lauded her for protecting her daughter.
But authorities don’t see it that way.
Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said that despite Baldwin’s criminal record, “we can’t have people randomly beating up registered sex offenders.”
“She is not a soccer mom who is upset with a sex offender. This lady is not the poster child for this,” Troyer wrote in an e-mail, referring to Gibson’s record of an arrest for drug possession and a traffic infraction.
But Gibson said she doesn’t regret her actions.
“I go nuts in jail, but I straight would not do anything different,” she said Thursday, several hours after she was bailed out of the Pierce County Jail. “I know I’m in trouble, but … I know I changed his mind next time he even thinks whether he should or he shouldn’t.”
Gibson’s sister, Julia Borrayo, bailed her out by paying $1,500 — 10 percent of her $15,000 bail.
Baldwin, meanwhile, remained in jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.
Baldwin was convicted of two counts of first-degree child molestation for sexually assaulting two girls when he was a teenager.
The Sheriff’s Department issued the warning that Baldwin, a Level III sex offender, had moved to the neighborhood. However, because he failed to immediately notify police that he had moved there, he was charged with failing to register.
Gibson recalls that Baldwin had talked to her daughter last Fourth of July in front of her home in Cottonwood Mobile Home Park in Puyallup.
“Something didn’t seem right back then,” she said, but she decided it was harmless. She said she continued to greet him occasionally when they passed each other around the parks. From her backyard, she said, she could see his trailer through the trees.
But when she saw Baldwin’s picture on the Sheriff’s Department flier, she said, she picked up her aluminum baseball bat.
Gibson said she knocked on his door, but nobody answered. She said she walked up and down the street, asking neighbors if they’d seen Baldwin. She said she showed them the flier, pointing to the bold type that indicated Baldwin was considered to be at high risk to reoffend.
“He’s gonna do it again,” she told people. “Are you OK with that?”
When people didn’t seem panicked, she said, she became upset.
“I was just thinking to myself, ‘Man, I’m not gonna stop,’ ” she said.
She said she found Baldwin behind his trailer and asked if she could talk to him. Court paperwork said Gibson accused Baldwin of molesting her children, but Gibson denies she said that.
“I said, ‘You know why I’m here … ‘ ” she said. ” ‘You were at my house, talking to my kid.’ I told him how I felt and that I’d straight kill him.”
She said she swung at him with the bat, catching him below the jaw. Gibson said the 7-foot-3 man tried to stop her by grabbing the bat, but she kept swinging. Gibson, who is 5-foot-11, said she didn’t realize how big Baldwin was until after she had hit him seven or eight times.
She was arrested a short time later after she called police. Police said she immediately admitted to the attack.
Baldwin was taken to a hospital and treated for injuries before he was taken to jail.
While some have criticized Gibson’s arrest, prosecutors said citizens should not take the law into their own hands regardless of the circumstances.
“Obviously, the purpose of notifying neighborhoods of sex offenders moving in is not so they can be targeted for persecution, but to put them [neighbors] on notice,” said Pierce County Deputy Prosecutor Phil Sorensen. “This is not the intended result of notifying a neighborhood.”
Noelene Clark: 206-464-2321 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Times staff reporter Jennifer Sullivan and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.