Elisa Tissot’s Murder

The following tragedy gave rise to the Washington State Legislature reacting by passing domestic violence and anti-harrasment laws including RCW 10.14:

1984 Pulp Fiction @ TESC when the Music died

On April 17, 1984, Elisa Tissot was having coffee with her friends at a corner table of The Evergreen State College cafeteria in the CAB building a little before 9 in the morning. It had been a chilly Tuesday morning with clouds hanging around the campus. To top it off, a full moon was scheduled that night.
Outside the main doors of the cafeteria a man was seen walking back and forth in the hallway for approximately 30 minutes. An anonymous eyewitness, who was sitting with Elisa Tissot recounts the minutes:
We talked about school and classes and things like that for about five minutes when Elisa looked over my shoulder and said lightheartedly, “Here he comes.” I glanced over my shoulder and saw Mike three feet away from the table. He had a gun in his hands by then and was just beginning to take aim with it. Before anyone could move or say one word, Mike began shooting.
Elisa screamed and fell out of her chair. I thought he was firing blanks until I saw the corner of Elisa’s chair was gone. Elisa was on the floor and Mike moved his position slightly to get a better aim. He continued firing at Elisa until the clip was empty. Mike then walked up close to Elisa, pointed the gun directly at her and pulled the trigger. The gun just made a click noise as no bullets were left in the clip or the chamber.
Mike then looked at all of us at the table. He stood there for a moment and looked around the room. His facial expression was like, “That’ll teach you.”
Michael Pimentel slowly walked out of the cafeteria with the Colt .45 caliber automatic. He sat down on the cement barrier at the bus loop and lit a cigarette. A witness of the cafeteria shooting, Thomas Sanders, ran after Michael while a firefighter, who happened to be eating his breakfast inside the cafeteria, administered CPR on Elisa. Thomas Sanders picked up the gun off of the adjacent grass and heard Michael speak, “I guess they’ll give me the death penalty for this.” Sanders turned in the gun to Gary Russell, the chief of Evergreen Security. As Russell, Sanders, and Russell’s friend, Sam LaGrave approached Pimentel, Pimentel said, “I just killed a girl. I pumped seven shots into her.”
Elisa Tissot was still alive, but in critical condition. With one wound in the leg, and three in the chest area, she was rushed by ambulance to St. Peter’s Hospital off of Lily Road in Lacey. She lived for only an hour and a half after the shooting. She was 21. 
Michael Pimentel and Elisa Tissot were complete opposites in personalities as a couple. They both met in 1982 and broke up in 1983. Elisa had an outgoing personality and everyone loved her, including Michael. She was an outstanding student and if The Evergreen State College were to give out grades, then she would have a high grade point average. Elisa had a loving character where she enjoyed hugs, poetry, mysticism, and her unselfish practice of helping others, whether in schoolwork, or in mental depression. 
Elisa volunteered often for the YMCA and as a camp counselor for YMCA’s Camp Seymour in Tacoma. 
More than 250 people showed up to her memorial service at The Evergreen State College library lobby, where mourners dipped lemon slices in honey and ate them to symbolize the sweetness of life and bitterness of Elisa Tissot’s death. After the hour long memorial service, a May-pole dance followed, then a lively folk music dance done in her honor. “If you knew Elisa,” said Roger Dickie, a friend of Elisa, “you’d know she wouldn’t want us to sit around and cry.”
Michael was 27 at the time of the shooting. He started school in 1981, but would drop out a few weeks later. He often wore an army jacket with a crippled left leg. Most people at the time would often mistake him as a Vietnam veteran, which was entirely false. Michael fought from 1977-1980 as a Lance Corporal for the Rhodesian army. Since then, he suffered with Delayed Stress Syndrome (DSS) which he had thought he had a mild case while in counseling in 1983. Pimentel thought that Delayed Stress Syndrome is “when a veteran gets married, settles in with a job and then loses control with flashbacks of the fighting in a war scenario”.
Delayed Stress Syndrome was often diagnosed to Vietnam Veterans and later was renamed as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the American Psychiatric Association, the symptoms would show up as
anxiety or increased arousal that were not present before the trauma. These symptoms may include difficulty falling or staying asleep that may be due to recurrent nightmares during which the traumatic event is relived, hyper- vigilance, and exaggerated startle response. Some individuals report irritability or outbursts or anger or difficulty concentrating or completing tasks.” 
One night, Michael Pimentel sat down with Francisco Chateaubriand, a long time collegiate acquaintance of Michael a few weeks before the shooting. He told Francisco that he thought it would be alright for Elisa to come back to him and had a hard time trying to get back with her after the break up a year ago. “You know,” he said, “sometimes I sit and dream that I’ve shot her and everything’s all right.”
“You really wouldn’t want to do that,” Francisco said to Michael, “What good would it do? She’d be gone and you’d still be alone. It would be nuts.” Later on, they talked about California, where he thought about relocating to and nothing more was said about Elisa.
On April 12, a few days before the shooting, Elisa became concerned about Michael stalking her and went to the Olympia Police Department as a reference from Evergreen Security. “She was concerned about his welfare as during numerous conversations with him he threatened suicide,” said Officer Trevor Seal.
Elisa had already explained her situation to her boss at the Tacoma YMCA and college security. Michael was showing up constantly to her job and at Evergreen trying to get back with Elisa. Seal said he would try to contact Pimentel, but was told that Michael left for California instead. After the shooting, Michael was convicted of 1st degree murder with a weapon by the jury in July 1984. Part of his plea was that he had a mental condition and wasn’t mentally competent at the time of the murder. He appealed his trial in 1987 and then again in 1994.
Michael was taken from the status of life in prison to 30 years due in part to his mental treatment.
Note: According to the Olympian, Trevor Seal was a deputy of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department. But, Officer Trevor Seal was never part of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department, but was with the Olympian Police Department when Tissot’s report was filed.
This was done at the court of appeals in Tacoma. Much of the staff that convicted Pimentel are currently still working at the Thurston County Superior Court including the prosecutor who is currently a judge.
The Elisa Tissot murder became such a major influence, that the Washington State Senate had passed a bill within ten months, Senate Bill 3549 (passed on February 4, 1985) and Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 3012 (passed on January 24, 1985), where it requires that all domestic violence be recognized and law enforcement is required to protect the victims of domestic violence.

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12 Responses to Elisa Tissot’s Murder

  1. Pingback: RCW 10.14: Cesspool of Washington Jurisprudence | Soul Snatcher, Productions ™

  2. jukk0u says:

    I remember Elisa. The world lost a bright light when she was taken.
    Pimental was released early from his sentence and walks free. Elisa is still gone.

  3. Jessica Barnes says:

    This is the first time,,,and following several different searches, at different moments over the last few years – I’ve actually found something on Internet regarding the shooting and subsequent death of Elisa Tissot at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in the cafeteria of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington in April of 1984. Unfortunately, due to Elisa’s violent death, I have to say that I am relieved to have finally found something written about the matter.

    I was a student at Evergreen State College that Spring of 1984. In fact, I was just another student having just purchased a cup of coffee to take to class…just moments before Mike Pimentel entered the cafeteria to shoot and kill Elisa Tissot.

    Coffee-to-go cup from the college cafeteria in my hand to then head-off to my morning class, I nonetheless stopped a moment to look over some information on a bulletin board hanging on a wall in the hallway outside the cafeteria. I was looking at…reading something (don’t remember what)…when a young man appeared beside me…also “reading” the board. I became aware of his presence and even exchanged a few unimportant words with him regarding what was on the board. I then went on my way to my first class, thinking nothing more of the exchange.

    Just a little while later, while still in class, we learned there had been a shooting in the cafeteria. We were, students and teachers alike, all dumbstruck and in disbelief upon hearing the news As that same day went by, all…students and teachers alike…began to realize that what had occurred was real…that the shooting had occurred and that a student…Elisa…had been shot by her ex-boyfriend in the cafeteria of the College.

    It was not until later, when a photograph of the perpetrator appeared in the College publication, that I felt that I had had contact and had exchanged a few words with him, the shooter…the killer…just moments before he entered the cafeteria and shot Elisa. I thought that I recognized the photograph of him in the college publication…as the male individual who had stood beside me, looking over the bulletin board outside of the cafeteria, beside me, just moments after I had gone to get my morning coffee and before my going to my first class that April morning.

    I have to admit that at the moment I had had contact with him, he and I both looking over the bulletin board at the same time, I felt something strange and out-of-place about him; call it a “sixth-sense” or what-have-you. Far from thought, however, was the possibility of this person (Mike Pimentel) ever entering the cafeteria and then shooting…to kill…another…Elisa Tissot.

    Because of my shock, disbelief and uncertainty regarding my having stood beside Mike Pimentel, having seen him, just moments before he entered the cafeteria to open fire against Elisa, I did not present myself as a witness. To this day, I deeply regret my ever profound error. Elisa lives on within me…as does my having doubted at that time that I had actually stood beside, seen and exchanged words with him moments before he entered the cafeteria to shoot Elisa.

    To this day and forever, my deepest regrets to Elisa´s family for their pain and loss.

    Jessica Barnes
    Former student of Evergreen State College.

  4. Mike Kretzler says:

    I was a juror on the 1984 case. This article is accurate, except that the defense attorney, not the prosecutor, became a judge (now retired).

  5. CW says:

    This morning I was telling my 18 yo son (after he’d witnessed someone hitchhiking for the first time) about the guy who once exposed himself to me…when I’d hitched a ride to TESC, where I was a student at the time.
    He tried to fact check my story of this guy who, I later learned, lived in my apartment building and one night fell asleep while allegedly drunk and cooking a pork chop…that caused the fire alarms to go off in the middle of the night and had also shot dead a woman in the college cafeteria a year after I’d graduated. Not sure it would have made a difference for anyone if I’d reported my hitchhiking experience with him…instead of believing it was my own fault for hitchhiking.
    Thank you for this article. I hadn’t known what exactly was up with this guy (though I feared him) and also I hadn’t been able to find any articles previous to today.

  6. John Nelson says:

    I loved Elisa, cannot say more than that.

    • jukk0u says:

      Hi, John,
      You and Cerese introduced me to Elisa shortly before her murder, sadly. I will always wish I had done more to convince her to not return to school.
      I hope you have found peace with this. I reflect upon the event and Elisa.

  7. What happened to olympia? says:

    I remember the days after the shooting, it was business as usual. The security guard, off-duty cop Hunter said he once caught the guy sleeping in the back of his truck with something like 20 fully loaded shotguns. The break-up had to do with her rejecting him after he showed her his vast gun collection. As the story goes, he had put all his guns on display in his bedroom, invited her into the bedroom. I guess she was supposed to be impressed but she blew him off and walked out. I heard she broke up w/him by phone. I had thought it was just days after but it turns out he stalked her for a few years?

  8. M Lynch says:

    I remember Michael Pimentel. I was a student at TESC and would see him on occasion at the gym or in the locker room where he was easily distinguishable from others due to his noticeable limp. I had heard that he was a mercenary and had been wounded, causing the limp when he walked. The story only made the guy seem creepier to me. He used to hang out with another guy who was also creepy, neither one of them friendly, just kind of menacing in a quiet sort of way. The kind of way that sticks with you even after decades have gone by. I was a young man of 20 in 1983, strong, physically fit, but this guy with a limp was dark, no smiles, no friendly nod, just a certain kind of seriousness that I didn’t understand. His creepy friend lived above me for a brief time after moving in with a woman and her child and we could hear more than we wanted to from that upstairs apartment in Ash. I had a few words with him about the noise which I told him was oppressive. He looked at me and repeated the word as a question, “oppresive? huh”, he said with something like a snort. He was not impressed. As the lyrics go, the darkness never goes from some men’s eyes. I think that’s where these two misfits lived, in darkness, feeding off it, fueling each others perceived grievances, sharing some kind of bitterness.

    All of this was before Elisa Tissot was murdered. And, when I learned that it was that creep with the limp that took her life I was not surprised. Elisa’s murder made the darkness that I had encountered from Pimentel and his buddy take form in my mind in a way that helped me understand what it was that I had felt when I had seen these guys. It helped me to understand that some people are a threat to others simply because of who they are or how they feel. They are dangerous. They are capable of awful things and they bring darkness wherever they go. I’ve always felt that the weak, limping man I saw in the locker room and gym at Evergreen should never have been allowed out of prison and often wondered what his creepy friend had to do with the terrible event that was Elisa’s murder. I’ve never shaken those feelings and I, to this day, know what it means to meet a person with darkness in their eyes.

    • jb says:

      I too was an Evergreen State College student in 1983… and came across Michael Pimental for the first time, without knowing him or anything about him.. I encountered him outside the cafeteria just a few moments before he walked into the College cafeteria and shot Elisa Tissot and others. By the time he had entered the cafeteria and rang his shots, I was on my way to class. I do recall, however, the both of us standing and facing a bulletin board of messages and then our briefly looking at each other, but never having exchanged a word to each other, a few moments before he went into the cafeteria. I recall having had a very fleeting thought of not “liking” the guy, but never in a million years did it cross my mind that he was threat or danger to anyone. How wrong were my instincts that instant… that morning.

  9. Karen A. says:

    I was a senior at The Evergreen State College in April 1984. I did not know Elisa or her murderer. I remember hearing about it but the school did not say much at the time. TESC was a great school. In 1984, domestic violence was not “discussed” much in our culture. This was true even though the “women’s movement” had been fighting for victims rights since the 1960’s.

    It was not that this was not happening but our culture wanted to blame victims…same as now. In the U.S., we especially did not want to acknowledge this could happen to a college student, in “polite” society. No stalking laws and not many DV shelters were available to women. And especially the widespread view that it was not the taxpayers responsibility to pay anything to victims.

    My own story about attempted rape while I had a student job at the Communications building happened at TESC in 1982. Security officers at Evergreen were very helpful. But the head of security at the time betrayed my trust. Since it was only “attempted “ rape, I agreed not to go to Olympia police but to make my abuser, under college rules, to get counseling. The head of security brought this guy in… without me, and let him go without mediation because he “cried “ and showed remorse. He had only done similar things in the while drunk.

    I was not really assertive at that time but I was so angry. This was escalation by the abuser and the odds were he would rape again. I demanded that the head of security and all the officers go through rape training or I would publicize his betrayal. I called rape relief resources and told them that they had to train TESC security. It happened and rape relief staff said they were so surprised that TESC security agreed to the training. I went on to volunteer in domestic violence shelters

  10. The first time I heard Michael Pimental speak it was chilling; something inside me, an internal alarm, turned on and blared “DANGER! DANGER! STAY AWAY!” My internal protection system, rarely used but always heeded, had never gone off that way before. If I ever saw him, I would walk the other way.

    I never knew many details behind the story and there were lots of rumors but from what little I do know, and as someone who had his own beef with “Security’s” Gary Russel, I say it is too bad Michael didn’t save one of those bullets for him. My understanding is that Michael’s stalking, which included sending dead flowers to Elisa, went completely unheeded by TESC “Security” and Chief Gary. (Security…a funny word to use when he made us feel so not-secure.)

    TESC had other systems in place back then including Russel’s “The Network,” which tracked major miscreants like myself and Arthur West, referring us to the Campus Adjudicator should we fall afoul of the student “contract.” But for people like Michael, or others who say, brought guns on campus, nothing was done. Why? Because Gary’s goal was to demonstrate to the Board of Trustees how unsafe the campus was so they would vote to scrap “Security,” (which by 1984 had become a joke,) and bring in an actual police force. Thanks to Gary’s friend Michael Pimental, and idiots like Francisco Chateaubriand, who was told about the crime and failed to act, it was actually TESC that killed Elisa.

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