Friday, August 24, 2018

Justice Sought for Yvonne McDonald

Above: Family and friends of Yvonne McDonald gathered with hundreds of community members at West Central Park in Olympia Thursday night. McDonald died amid suspicious circumstances on August 7.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

The life of Yvonne McDonald was honored and remembered by family, friends, and community members at West Central Park in Olympia Thursday night.

McDonalds death on August 7 under suspicious circumstances has shocked the community.

Hundreds of people, many bringing bouquets of flowers, filled the park on the corner of Harrison and Division in west Olympia. As the sun went down, candles were lit, hugs were shared, and stories about McDonald were told from the heart.

McDonald, 56, was found alive and partially clothed with significant injuries to her body on Olympia’s westside the morning of August 7.

At about 7 a.m., Olympia Police and the Olympia Fire Department were dispatched to a report of a woman lying in the yard of a private residence in the 900 block of Division Street NW.

According to a press release, fire personnel provided immediate medical care to McDonald and she was transported to St. Peter Hospital. There, she received further medical treatment but died that evening at the hospital.

Above: Hundreds of community members gathered to support the family of Yvonne McDonald on Thursday night in Olympia.

Without going into details, McDonalds eldest niece, Talauna Reed, said her aunt’s death has left the family with many questions about what happened and the answers theyve received so far arent “lining up.”

She described McDonald, an African American woman, as a ball of energy who knew how to draw a crowd and stand up to bullies. Born in Houston, Texas, she lived in Washington State for over 40 years.

McDonald valued education and instilled her beliefs into her many family members and nieces, many of whom spoke at the vigil.

Reed said McDonald was known to talk a lot and would debate anything, a comment which elicited laughter from family members.

“She liked to be heard, and that was ok, because of what she stood for. It was amazing….She didn’t have kids, and I wanted to be just like her. 

“Yvonne taught me to push forward…and persevere, liking what you do and how you do it. My aunt embraced her beauty, her African American culture, and her intellect…she was beautiful, said Reed.

McDonald had worked for several state agencies, including the Department of Ecology and the Department of Employment Security. She also worked for the Sentencing Guidelines Commission and South Puget Sound Community College. 

She received her Masters of Public Administration from The Evergreen State College.

One of her faculty professors, Peter Bohmer, said he learned from McDonald as much as he hoped she learned from him. She was his student in the master’s program in the fall of 2000.  

Bohmer said she was an independent thinker, an outstanding student, and the most outspoken in class. He said one of her favorite books was The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

“She would know paragraphs by heart, particularly about labor movements, civil rights, and reconstruction. She had really, really strong views, particularly about economic and racial justice. She was a big believer in labor movements as helping improve the dignity of all people,” he said. Bohmer said she later worked as an organizer for unions. 

They maintained their friendship until her death, enjoying deep conversations.

“Yvonne McDonald will be missed. Yvonne McDonald present√©,” he said.

Lanessa Inman, racial justice director of YWCA Olympia, thanked the community for holding space in support of McDonald and her family. YWCA Olympia has a mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

“Yvonne’s life deserves justice…this (vigil) needed to happen,” said Inman. She said her heart sank when she first heard the reports of what happened.

“Black women, brown women, and indigenous women are murdered or disappear or just vanish. They are silenced and there is complacency, and we were adamant that that would not happen….We have a lot of work to do in this community,” she said.

In a written statement issued earlier this week, Olympia Police Department Chief Ronnie Roberts said the death of McDonald has raised many concerns and questions in the community.

“When a member of our community dies under suspicious circumstances, it leaves us all shaken and understandably in need of answers. There is currently much that we do not know and cannot know yet. There is also information that we will not share out of respect for Ms. McDonald’s family and her personal and medical privacy,” said Roberts.

Olympia police detectives have been assigned to the case and Roberts said the detectives are in communication with members of McDonald’s family.

The Thurston County Coroner’s Office conducted an autopsy and the results are pending. The coroner has not yet determined the cause of death.

A Facebook site, Justice 4 Yvonne, has been established. Fundraising efforts in support of the family for expenses related to McDonalds death are also underway.

If anyone has any information that may be useful, contact Olympia Police Department Detective Al Weinnig at (360) 753-8300 or

Above: A vigil for Yvonne McDonald of Olympia was held Thursday night in Olympia.

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