Death Trip

A joyride from Jefferson County to score some dope dead-ends with a murder on the city's streets

That incident got Jason placed on probation, on the conditions that he attend counseling sessions at Comtrea, a substance-abuse facility, and that he go to Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Meanwhile, he had other brushes with the law. In May 1999, just about the time of his graduation, he was stopped by the Arnold PD for a traffic violation. A routine check revealed he had a warrant for default payment of a traffic fine, and Jason was placed under fugitive arrest. In February 2000, he was again arrested in Arnold on a fugitive charge stemming from two warrants issued within Jefferson County. The Arnold police list the warrants as unspecified misdemeanors. Jason was building a rap sheet, doing stupid teenage things, and he was making it worse for himself by not showing up for court.

Then, only two weeks later, he was arrested for misdemeanor theft, on a charge of stealing under $750. He was caught shoplifting. The police report doesn't say what it was that Jason cribbed, but, according to Abby, it was a PlayStation, taken from the Arnold Wal-Mart. "He had run through lawn and garden," she says, "and was about to get it in the car when they stopped him."

Scotty, alone at the wheel of the Chevy after Abby bailed out, drove around until he found Matt. Matt had lucked out: The drug dealers had fired on him, too, but he had sustained only a graze wound to the arm. Matt and Scotty went to nearby South Pointe Hospital, formerly Lutheran Hospital, where Matt had his wound examined and Scotty called his parents to come get him. Later that night, independently, Matt and Abby would end up in the Homicide Division of St. Louis police headquarters on Clark Street, giving their statements to detectives who had heard variations of the same statement all too many times.

Matt described to the cops how he and Jason had chased the dealers east one block on Potomac to Wisconsin Street, where they turned left and, only a few doors down from the corner, darted through a gate into a gangway between houses. Matt and Jason followed close at their heels. There may have been more than the original four dealers stationed within the perimeter of the black wrought-iron fence that encloses the front porch and gangway of 3451 Wisconsin St., where the shooting occurred. There may have been five or six or seven of them, Matt isn't sure, but he does say that it all came down quick and in close quarters. One of them cracked Jason on the skull with a beer bottle. He apparently fell. Matt heard someone say, "Shoot them," and the bullets flew. For a moment, Matt's legs seemed as if they were made of rubber, but he managed to work his way back to the street, dashing headlong toward his pals, his car, safety. He says he thought that Jason was behind him -- and he was, though in no condition to run. The assailants ran off, leaving Jason to pick himself up off the concrete and stagger out onto Potomac Street, midway between Wisconsin and Illinois, where he collapsed.

It was 10:20 on a Saturday night. Within two hours, detectives would canvass the neighborhood, looking for witnesses and evidence -- they recovered only a single bullet from a .22-caliber handgun at the scene -- and Jason would become a statistic, one of the 117 homicides in the city of St. Louis for the year 2000.

Abby stayed with Jason until the ambulance arrived: "Then the ambulance came, and they wouldn't let me go with him. They said there was no room, which really upset me. I'm like, "Excuse me? This guy's gonna be dead, and I'm never gonna see him again.' The detectives came and took me to the homicide office, but before that happened, I'm standing there and one of the guys -- the one that had came back on the bicycle -- he comes walking down the street. I felt like I had to do something, so I asked the kid, "Where's your homeboy that shot my friend?' The kid said nothing, continued to walk away."

Abby spent much of the night in a small, ugly interrogation room. "They came in every so often, asked me questions, but wouldn't tell me much, wouldn't even tell me if Jason was alive or what. The only thing they did nice was to give me cigarettes -- without those, I would've definitely lost it. It seemed to me like they weren't all that concerned -- it was just another drug-related shooting -- which is a crock of shit."

When Abby talks about the way in which the police handled the situation that night, her brown eyes get big and expressive. Her brows furrow, her eyebrows arch. "The way those people treated me just made it that much worse," she says. "And I was there for them, giving them information so they could catch their fucking dude."

Unlike Matt and Abby, Scotty did not go back to St. Louis to face the situation. He would be the bearer of bad tidings in Arnold. Once home, he got his dad's truck and drove to Jason's house.

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