By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
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By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
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Teeling pressed the detective. What else did they have against Rashad? Well, he'd been seen in the car the suspect drove. "I know somebody who saw him in the car," Rubalcava testified. "The individual who worked with me on the case. His name is Officer Vinluan. He actually wrote the search warrant, and he told me he'd seen him in the car before." The CRASH gang expert had connected the dots, and Rashad was at the center.
Teeling was unimpressed. The rape had taken place at a residence -- had the detectives run a check on the Five-Deuce Crip who lived there? She posed the question at a hearing the following day. Rubalcava: "I didn't find out the exact date he was incarcerated."
Superior Court Judge Charles Scarlett was appalled: "Why didn't you want to know that? He was living there, a rape occurred, and it apparently occurred in his room. And you made no effort to check him out?"
Teeling already had. The resident, already in jail on another case, matched for height and weight, and had "Angela" tattooed on his chest. Judge Scarlett dismissed the case. "It's not right for you to keep this minor locked up when you have all these holes in your case," he said. "This is ridiculous."
The rape case was over, but Rashad's problems with the police were not. He was busted twice the following year for possession of crack cocaine, and sentenced to three years in state prison. To Carl, it all made sense: "Seventy-seventh put him in jail. After the rape case, they started targeting him. They put a dope case on him. I don't know if it was true or not."
At least it wasn't a violent felony strike. To Carl Populus, in the era of three strikes and welfare reform, every day is a battle. "What about the other ones out there?" he says. "They might be innocent or not, but they don't got someone like me, ready to go fight for them. What about those kids?"
WHAT HAPPENS IS, THOSE KIDS GROW up like Shadron Holmes, with monikers like "Scatterbrain," dodging the CRASH unit, in and out of detention, in and out of trouble.
Scatterbrain is driving through the neighborhood, stopping by to see a friend. He wheels through residential lanes with small, cozy-looking houses tucked behind yards and low fences, or down boulevards that stretch to the horizon, flanked on both sides by rundown, makeshift storefronts. It's his home turf, and he knows all the shortcuts.
Scatterbrain is hard to keep up with -- he cranks the stereo till you can feel the bass line throbbing through the roots of your teeth, then he kills it; he's all in a hurry, then he's got nowhere to go. He stops to point out a place where the cops pulled him over, laughing at the memory, laughing and grimacing.
He talks about how it is to always be looking over your shoulder for the cops. "You're out here, you're already struggling, you really don't want to deal with too many things that's out here, already having a bad time, and they just make it harder, 'cause they think you're doing what they think you're doing. They always right. You're not, you're never right. There's no beating them."
Scatter talks about what happens once you're busted, how he came to take a deal in two cases, both of which, he contends, were frame-ups. Each time, he spent more than six months in jail awaiting trials that never took place. "Once they got you in jail, it seem like they got control," he says. "Once they get you in jail, they know how to get that D.A. to talk to the public defender. Most of our people is poor, I mean, we ain't got no money to be affording no lawyer. They get with the public defender and all that, and they just get together. The D.A., the judge and the public defender, all in cahoots together. What kinda shit is that? How can you win? You ain't even done nothing. All you thinking about is to get back to the streets.
"So what you do? You just thinking about getting home, and these people talking about giving you two and three years, and you ain't even done nothing, and all you doing is thinking about the stress, about weighing the options, only thing is, the last option is a plea bargain. They gonna let you back on the street. That's the thing, they stress you out for a minute, and then they let you back on the street with a plea bargain. But next time they got you. Dang you did had to plead guilty to this case you didn't even do it, now they fuckin' with you on something else. Same officers. Same CRASH. You'll find millions of cases the same way. Same officers, same thing, same CRASH. They repeat the same thing for years and nobody ever looks at it.
"They stop so many dreams that these people be having in the ghetto, that's trying to get out, and they just stop their dreams." Scatterbrain is rapping now. He slips into the lingo of power. He's talking cop talk. "'Fuck your dream. Fuck your dream too. Shit. Fuck your dream too. I don't like the way you came at me, I rule this shit, fuck you too. I'm gonna fuck your dream all.'"
Scatter says the cops will spell it out for you. "They'll tell you, 'I'll send your ass to jail. Don't fuck with me.' They'll tell you in a minute."
Growing up fast: Kids at play in the heart of the 77th