Warning: This story contains very graphic content!
Legalizing marijuana…good or bad?
The Little Red Mustang
The short days of summer vacation for local school students was ending quickly. The excitement of being promoted to the next higher grade was gone. The reality of homework and harder classes was a constant concern for these three teenagers.
For two years, Jim and his father worked every weekend restoring his classic 1965 Ford Mustang. They found it sitting beneath an old lean-to carport on a small farm south of town. Their knock on the door of the old rundown farmhouse was soon answered. The original wooden door eased open but the rusty screen door was not to be unlatched until the old lady was sure she was in safe company. The father lead the introductions. He told her they wanted an old classic Mustang to restore so the son could drive it to high school and later to college. He asked if she owned it and was willing to sell.
She thought a while as she studied the strangers standing on her front porch. Many times on the weekends she was approached to sell her son’s car. He had happily gone in the Marines just out of high school. Soon he was overseas in the jungles of Nam fighting for his life. When he returned home, he was not the same young man as before. He was antisocial. He only wanted to work the fields and stay in his room. When his schoolmates came to visit, he refused to see them. Something bad had hurt him. Before he left for the service, he parked his little red Mustang in the carport next to the house. He removed the wheels and placed the frame on large concrete blocks for storage. When he returned home, he never went back to his car. He had no desire to place it back on the road where he would encounter people on the streets, at gas stations and in convenience stores. It sat there all those years, never to be driven again. Jim’s father told me he felt a little sad taking it off her hands. I believe the old lady wanted them to enjoy it. For over 20 years, it was a reminder of when her son was full of life and dreams. He was long since passed and she lived alone. Every time she saw the car, she hurt inside. Until that day, she could not part with it. The father thought his son reminded her of her son. That morning on the porch, she told them to wait as she turned and walked to the back of her house. She left the screen door latched but the old wooden farm door open. She returned carrying an old cigar box. She flipped open the latch on the old rusty door and handed Jim the box. She said, “Son, in that box you will find two sets of car keys, the owner’s manual and title. Take the car son and enjoy it as my son once did. Hurry up and take it away before I change my mind!”
She quickly stepped back inside and locked both doors behind her. Jim and his Dad found the wheels overhead inside the carport suspended by the rafters. They loaded her on a car trailer and took her to her new home. For years she was cleaned, sanded and repainted. The interior was like new; it only needed cleaning. The engine had succumbed to rust so was completely rebuilt.
I remember the night of this conversation like yesterday. I talked to Jim’s Dad as we stood outside L.S.U.M.C. Hospital. I smoked in those days and found the father outside having one. Neither of us wanted to discuss the events that brought us together. Since I was aware of the car, I brought it up for conversation to pass the time.
I still see the sad expression on his face change a little. He was worried about Jim. When I asked about the little red Mustang, it took his mind off the situation for a while. I saw the pride as he told how they found the car and the pain and effort involved to bring her back to life. I said I always wanted a fully restored Mustang, just like the one they had. When he finished the story, we fired up our second cigarette because we needed to discuss the events of that night. Since Jim was still a juvenile, I was obligated to share all the details of the case.
I walked him through the events that led me to the case. Officers were flagged down at my favorite intersection of Linwood and Hollywood. Three young teenagers reported being attacked and robbed at gunpoint a short distance away. Their red Mustang was stolen and the suspects were at large. Officers called for an on duty detective. It was my turn to take the next call. While I was in route to meet them, I received another radio call directing me to L.S.U.M.C. walk-in clinic. The officer leading the field investigation advised me one of the victims had been assaulted. He was transporting her to the Clinic for treatment. The walk-in clinic was the designated location for rape victims to be examined by a doctor. During the exam, samples of hair, fingernail scrapings, vaginal swabbings for sperm and other body fluids were collected and placed into a rape crime kit. The kit would be sent to the State Crime Lab for analysis. I first met with the young girl in a private room. A nice lady from the Y.W.C.A., a sexual assault volunteer, was present. She brought the victim a fresh set of donated clothes. The victim’s clothes were placed in the crime lab kit as well.
The first time I saw this girl, it instantly broke my heart. Her eyes were bloodshot and her lovely complexion was flushed. She had the most beautiful red hair, thick and long. It hung down to her lower back. She had lovely full lips and crystal blue eyes. A tiny spray of freckles ran across her tiny nose. She was petite and weighed no more than 100 pounds. I took my time as I spoke to her. I was as soft and tender as I could be under the circumstances. I placed my cassette recorder on the floor near my boot so it would not intimidate or distract her. The lady from the Y sat close to her like a mother or sister gently holding both of her hands. We all knew why I was there. I hated this part of my job. I hated prying into such hurtful details and making the victims relive the attacks.
She and her two male friends, Jim and Bobby, attended Captain Shreve High School. They shared several classes and had been close friends for many years. Their parents gave each of them $10 that night for gas, cold drinks and hamburgers. The parents knew they would ride around town as teenagers do and have good clean fun. They went to the rear parking lot of the high school where the kids hung out and visited there for a while. Some of the boys found an adult to buy beer for them. Others passed a joint around the crowd. She had never smoked weed but Jim and Bobby had tried it once. That night they stood and watched the other kids smoke it. They did not want to drink the beer because of the taste and Jim did not want to be arrested for D.U.I. Some of the kids in the crowd voiced they wanted more weed to share but were out of money. Someone spoke up and said they knew where they could score some good weed across town. She could not recall if it was Jim or Bobby, but one of them talked to the young man and got details where to go to score the weed. They got in the Mustang and headed to get weed. They hit Southfield at Youree Drive and continued until the street’s name changed to Hollywood. They were entering the ghetto and were scared. Following the directions, they drove through Linwood on Hollywood to the first street on the right. They turned north (right) on Adams Street and drove one block to the corner of Clanton Street. They spotted a drug dealer standing in front of a house. They slowed to a stop.
“What you guys doing here?”
We want to score some weed.
The street thug, in his early 20’s, looked them up and down.
“How much money you got?”
We have $30 in cash.
“We don’t do deals out here on the street. Hey driver, you come inside and we do it there.”
He pointed over his shoulder to the boarded up shack. It was painted white with large sheets of plywood screwed over every door and window. A distinct cluster of grapes painted with blue spray paint was on every side of the house, indicating it belonged to the Grape Street Crips gang. Jim got out of the car and cautiously followed the drug dealer across the nasty overgrown front yard to the front porch of the house. Bobby and the girl waited. They saw two other men standing in the shadows of the porch. These two men followed the main dealer and Jim inside the dark house. The only light was the street light on the corner.
She became more frightened the longer Jim was inside. About five minutes later, the main dealer walked out of the dark house and back to the car. He said, “Hey man, your buddy is sampling some of our weed and he wants you to come inside and test it yourself.”
Bobby got out of the car and disappeared into the dark house with the dealer leaving the girl alone in the car.
A few minutes later, the main drug dealer approached her.
“Hey baby, your men want you to come smoke a little weed with us inside. So come on baby, it’s cool.”
She knew it was wrong to get out of the car but she did anyway. As she entered the dark room, she noticed a small flashlight laying on the floor shining at the ceiling. It took a moment to realize what was about to happen. She looked around and saw Bobby and Jim lying on the floor in the middle of the room. Seven strange men were gathered around her friends standing over them and yelling. She saw both boys naked and hog tied with their belts. They were in the fetal position and crying.
Before she could break and run, a strong set of hands grabbed her throat and pulled her to the nasty carpet. It smelled of human waste. Suddenly the seven men ripped off her clothing and began raping her. She was a virgin when she walked into that nasty room and she was sane. That would change during the next few hours. They each pounded her and caused her to bleed. They raped her vaginally, orally and anally. This went on for hours. When one finished with her, another would pound her while yet another made her suck his penis. While she was being raped, others taunted and assaulted the boys. At gunpoint and under threat of death, they were forced to suck several of the penises rammed in their faces. The long barrel guns were shoved up their asses and they were forced to suck the blood and excrement off the guns. The suspects took turns ramming the pistols into the ass of Jim and made Bobby suck it clean. Then they reversed the victim and rammed the gun into Bobby’s ass and made Jim suck it clean. They were called rich white punks and told they deserved the fucking they were getting. They were beaten, kicked repeatedly and anything of value taken. When the gang members had their fill of fun, they loaded up in the little red Mustang and left. The girl untied the boys. It took them a while to gather enough strength to walk to Linwood and Hollywood. Before long they saw a cop car and flagged him down. The fire rescue units responded and gave first aid to the victims. Officers transported them to the hospital. When I arrived at the hospital, I needed a smoke badly. I wanted to drive to Adams and Clanton and take these bastards out. I knew it was only a fantasy. I was not going to toss my career away over seven subhuman scum bags. I had the utmost faith our judicial system would deal with them to the full extent of the law. I took my anger and focused it on running this case to the ground. I was determined to identify these punks and arrest each of them.
As I stepped out to smoke, I met Jim’s Dad. We talked about the car and the crimes. Tears came to his eyes as I gave an abbreviated version of the attacks the kids suffered. I could not tell the father what actually happened. He heard enough from the doctors treating his son.
It took me a few weeks to work the case. I knocked on every door within two blocks of the crime scene. I left my card with many people who live in fear of being seen talking to the police. They were short and consistent in their statements. No one saw a thing. No one heard street gossip who the suspects were. I left my card and direct number. I pleaded with them to call and give me the names of the suspects. I did not need their names. I promised they would not need to go to court and testify.
The red Mustang was found the day after the robbery about 10 blocks from the original crime scene. The right front tire was blown. Apparently the thugs ran off the road and hit a curb. The hub cap came off and they drove the car on the rim. They were either too stupid to know how to change a tire or just plain lazy. I counted this as a good thing because they abandoned the car. The only damage was the front wheels were way out of alignment and a blown tire. The suspects ripped out the nice stereo and speakers before they left it in the middle of the street.
I did receive a couple of calls from neighbors near the scene. As promised they did not give their names, address or numbers. They gave me two names of suspects. I.D. had gotten some great fingerprints from the red Mustang and we matched them.
I quickly drafted arrest warrants, called the on duty Assistant D.A. and read them. The D.A. approved and my next stop was a Judge’s house. He was up watching the 10 o’clock news when I arrived. He signed the arrest warrants and my partner and I immediately hit the streets. We called the officers in the Clanton neighborhood and gave out mug shots of the suspects from previous arrests, names, addresses and known associates. Within hours we had the two suspects in custody. My partner and I decided to let them spend a nice night’s sleep in jail before we interviewed them. I wanted them to know what the next 40 years would be like for them. When we reported for duty the next night, we went straight to the jail. It took only a couple of hours to convince the suspects to tell the truth. My forte was interviewing suspects and getting them to own up to their crimes. We obtained detailed recorded confessions from the suspects and came away with the names of the other five suspects. Soon we matched more prints and arrested all of the outstanding suspects.
They all had things in common. They were raised in single family homes by their mothers. Half did not know who their biological fathers were. They started crime in their early teens as burglars, shoplifters, bike thieves and purse snatchers. All of them dropped out of school in the 7th to 9th grades. They were uneducated, unskilled, greedy and mean. They were all gang members and violent men. They deserved to spend the rest of their lives in prison. I was determined to send them there. I wrote all my investigative reports. I saw to it the recorded confessions were transcribed to typed print and packaged together in a professional case file. I hand delivered it to the D.A. for review and proceedings. The suspects were brought before a state judge and no bond was set on all of them. They were too violent and too much a flight risk.
I called the victims’ parents. I informed them we had all the suspects in jail and they confessed to the crimes committed. A few weeks later, I was asked by the D.A.’s office to attend a review meeting with my partner. We arrived on time for the meeting even though we had been up for three days working another murder. With my butt dragging, I walked into the law book lined walls in the main conference room. The case was assigned to a good prosecutor. I was happy to learn he was handling this case. He lead the meeting and read a synopsis I drafted on the case. It told the story of what happened to the victims and the facts that lead to the identifications, arrest and confessions of the suspects. When he finished reading, he took a deep breath and looked at me across the massive conference table.
He said, “Our office has performed a comprehensive review of this matter. Unfortunately we are not going to proceed against the suspects in this case. Based on the fact the victims were first to commit crimes. They conspired to solicit illegal drugs, committed an overt act as they drove to a known drug corner and engaged in conversations with drug dealers. They pooled their cash and were intent on obtaining illegal drugs namely marijuana. If we apply the fruit of the poisonous tree, we have no right to take these suspects to trial. The arrest warrants and all evidence is directly related to the victims in your report. All of your evidence, including the arrest warrants, were direct results of this doctrine. If we took this case to trial, we would lose hands down. Any average court appointed attorney would nail us to the wall with this case.”
I was so tired and floored by this news; I could only shake my head. My partner began to protest. The D.A. raised his hand indicating the decision was final and no amount of arguing would change their minds. I stood and left the office. I went home and hit my bed that I had not seen in three days. I was so exhausted I could not fall asleep. I kept seeing the little redhead’s tear-filled eyes as she told me the awful things these sorry bastards had done to her. I knew she would never recover and “get closure” in her life. I wondered about Bobby and Jim. How would they feel when I told them the case was not going to trial. I dreaded knocking on their doors. I hated to see the parents of these young teens as I told them justice was complicated and how this case would be dismissed on a technicality. Most of all, I dreaded talking to Jim’s Dad again with this bad news.
After my days off, I linked up with my partner and headed to meet these families. As long as I live, I will never forget that night. I still hear the cries from the little redhead and her mother. The cry of Jim’s mother and the dazed expressions on his face and his father’s. The same happened in Bobby’s home. When we were finished, I thought of cops who become alcoholics. Perhaps I began to understand why. I almost told my partner to pull over to get a bottle of Scotch. Instead I asked him to pull over so I could chain smoke three cigarettes back to back.
When we got back to the offices, we were in our conference room talking about the turn of our case. Soon every detective on graveyard shift was there sipping coffee, cussing and discussing this stinking case. It was clear none of us liked the outcome of the case. I was so angry but I had no one to attack. We were all struggling with this when a seasoned detective stood like a professor in a classroom. “Let me set this straight for you,” as he looked at me and my partner. “Here is what happened. You have three white as snow rich kids from Southeast Shreveport. You arrested seven young, black men and charged them with robbery, rape, battery and crimes against nature. Their photos were on the front page of the paper. The D.A. is up for re-election and needs all the votes from the ghettos to keep his job. If he took those dirt bags to trial and got them 40 years in Angola State pen, he would lose those important votes and lose his position.” He spun and walked out the door telling us he was going out for a drink.
Since that conversation, I pondered his comments for many years. I did note the D.A. did not take these thugs to court, won re-election and kept his office. I still wonder if the two were related.
I bounce pro and against the issue as I watch TV news debates over legalizing marijuana.
I wish there was no such thing as marijuana. But since there is, I think back to those three kids. If weed had been legal like beer, they could have gone to a store without having their lives destroyed by illiterate street thug dealers, robbers and rapists.
I know the history of liquor being outlawed during the 30’s under Prohibition. Illegal bootleggers brewed poison and killed countless customers. Some went blind, others insane or died a horrible death. When it was legalized, government set standards, rules and regulations, and of course taxes, this all went away.
I am not advocating one way or the other. I watch several states in our country experiment with legalizing it. When I see someone on TV in Denver walk in a weed shop to buy a bag of grass without being robbed, raped, beaten and mentally destroyed, I wonder. Strange being a cop sometimes.