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Auburn community mourns loss of Brian Love

Brian Love enjoys a beverage at his favorite downtown haunt, the Rainbow Cafe. - Courtesy Linda Carson
Brian Love enjoys a beverage at his favorite downtown haunt, the Rainbow Cafe.
— image credit: Courtesy Linda Carson

Sheryl Combs' eyes water, the words strain and trail off into silence.

One week after a man, allegedly drunk, ran a red light and smashed his SUV into a taxi at Auburn Way North and East Main Street, killing cabbie Brian Love on impact, Combs still reels in a vortex of shock and grief.

She and Love had been together for more than seven years. Love was Combs' fiancee. He was her world.

"He was a good guy," Combs said, next to friends Monday outside the Rainbow Cafe on East Main Street, Love's downtown hangout for more than 20 years.

"I am numb. I keep expecting him to walk through the door," Combs said.

Floyd Gonzalez, the driver of the SUV, made his first court appearance Saturday. King County prosecutors on Wednesday charged the 29-year-old Auburn man with vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and for felony fleeing the scene of an accident. His bail is set at $1 million. He will be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. on July 22 in Courtroom GA at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

According to the Auburn Police statement of probable cause, at 5:51 a.m. on July 5, an Auburn police officer saw a 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe moving very fast southbound in the outside lane in the 00 block of Auburn Way North. The officer watched the SUV "punch the driver's side door of the taxi" directly behind the officer's vehicle, which was traveling eastbound on East Main Street on a green signal. The Tahoe rolled onto its roof, and when it came to a stop the driver ran off westbound, leaving behind his injured girlfriend, Latasha Moses, in his overturned vehicle. Her condition is unknown at this time.

Officers caught up with the driver on South Division Street, where a witness identified him as the driver of the SUV. Post Miranda, according to the statement, the man, identified by that time as Gonzales, admitted he was the driver.

"Officers smelled an obvious odor of intoxicants emanating from the driver and believed he had been consuming alcohol while driving," according to the statement.

Whatever happens to Gonzalez, Love's friends are left only with vivid memories of the gentle man with the big, bushy beard, a man who should still be living but isn't.

It is a finality hard for anybody who knew Love to accept.

"A down-to-earth hippie, a mentor of Auburn," said Vince Cuddy, Love's friend for about 20 years. Cuddy's father hired Love eight years ago to drive for Cuddy's Taxi, and Love was in Cuddy family-owned Tim's Taxi when he was killed.

"A person well liked by everyone," Cuddy said. "He never argued with anybody, unless you were wrong. ... Everything he did he enjoyed, except not making money. And he was always a people person. We lost an icon of Auburn."

In his younger days, friends said, Love was a disc jockey and an ice cream salesman, among many other things.

Later he owned Tory's Pizza at the southeast corner of the now vanished Cavanaugh block.

Jennifer Campbell, a waitress at the former Rail Tavern across East Main from Tory's Pizza, called Love "a loving, caring, giving person."

"He used to emcee the Good Ol' Days Parade and a lot of other functions to raise money. He emceed the Red Hat Ladies' show. When I worked at The Rail, we bought pizzas from him, and they were great pizzas," Campbell said.

Campbell recalled her friend's quiet side.

"I remember he kept a spiral notebook in his pocket. He'd be sitting deep in thought, and all of a sudden out would come that booklet. He'd adjust his glasses and he'd sit and write for a long time. I never said, 'What are you writing, Brian?' But I sure wanted to know."

Poet Paul Nelson met Love in 1997 at the Spoken Word Lab (SPLAB) on South Division Street. Love volunteered his time to SPLAB for seven years and was a poet in his own right.

"This is unspeakably tragic," Nelson said. "You couldn't have asked for someone more supportive, easier to get along with and more willing to do any task, no matter how menial, than Brian Love. ... One thing about Brian that stands out is that he never ran anyone down. He never talked trash about anyone.

"Obviously, he was also a guy who preferred being in the background," Nelson said. "I've looked through hundreds of pictures, and I can't find one with him in it."

"He was actually the nicest guy you ever met," said Linda Carson, owner of the Rainbow Cafe. "He was friendly to everybody and never got angry. "

Combs wants to bury her fiancee but cannot. Because she and Love weren't married, she has no legal rights to claim his body for burial.

Combs needs an attorney to help her but can't afford to pay one.

"I've been trying to get the legal documents so I can bury him and take care of his truck and his stuff, but the medical examiner won't release the body. They were going to until they said they had to check and see if he had any other family elsewhere. I doubt if he does. He never talked about family, except for an estranged sister."

Unless Combs can straighten things out or the medical examiner can find a relative, Love's body will remain at the Medical Examiner's Office at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

"I'm not worried about me," said Combs, "I just want to get him taken care of."

Anybody who would like to help Combs should contact Linda Carson at the Rainbow Cafe at 253-833-1880.

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