Good Cop? Bad Cop?

An off-duty policeman was lauded for killing a robber who wounded two vendors. That was before allegations that the officer was actually protecting a gambling joint.

"If your finger broke off, he'd put it back on," adds Tiny.

Duck had spent the last of his teenage years in the house on Farlin Avenue and had moved to South City, on Potomac Avenue, where he lived with his girlfriend, Gwendolyn Wilkes, 24. Just two days before he was killed, the couple had brought their second child, Trevon, home from the hospital. Besides Trevon, there was little William, 4, and Dasha, 6, Wilkes' child from another union. They all lived together. "He loved kids -- not just his kids but all kids," says Big R. "You know, I cuss a lot, and Duck, he would always say to me, 'You don't have to swear like that. You can use other words.' See, he was used to being around kids. He didn't swear around them, and he didn't want others to, either."

Duck was no altar boy, though. He had been arrested once, in 1997, after a domestic-disturbance call involving Wilkes. But Wilkes dismisses the incident as just one of those things that happen with young couples. "Yeah, I called 911," she says. "We used to get into it, for sure, but we stayed together -- we were cool."

This stuffed-animal stand was allegedly a front for a gambling operation.
Wm. Stage
This stuffed-animal stand was allegedly a front for a gambling operation.

"He'd call each day or come by," says Warren. That Sunday, Sept. 2, was no exception. "I talked to him at 3:45," she recalls. "He was at the car wash. The plan was that I would go to Wal-Mart, get some things for the new baby, and he would come by later and pick them up. He came by at 4:30, but I wasn't back yet." Sometime before 5 p.m., Duck went to the Shell station, four blocks away. He had seen the carnival game in the parking lot, and he had heard how his friends had gotten "schemed" there and lost a lot of cash. He was going to check it out. A neighbor who had been talking with Duck just before he left would later tell Warren that the last thing Duck said to her was "I'm going over there to win a bear for my baby."

"I had gone to the mall that Sunday to buy some jeans," recalls Tiny, "and when I came back from the county and saw all those police lights and the street blocked off, I thought, 'Somebody done robbed them people.' Then everybody said, 'You know what happened? Duck went up there, lost 100-some dollars. They say he felt like they schemed him. They say he went up there and just started shootin', and then the po-lice shot him."

His family figures that after losing the money, Duck got a gun and went back to the Shell station. He didn't say anything to anybody about what he intended to do. A posthumous police photo of Duck, now in a Homicide Division file folder, shows him with a bandana over his face, like a holdup man.

As Duck's friends continue to mourn, it is obvious that they see him as a kind of Robin Hood figure. They had all been scammed, to their embarrassment, but he was the guy who did something about it, something his principles required. "He's just a young black man who could've had a future," says Tiny, pausing for reflection. "But it ain't just about being black, and it ain't just about being young. It's about being a man, period. If you feel like somebody took something from you, you gonna react. It wasn't a robbery, you know. He didn't demand no money -- Duck could make money all day long. He felt played. He looked at it like somebody hustling him on the street, and that's what they were doing, an organized hustle. So he went up there to lay his point down."

According to Richard Wilkes, a spokesman for the St. Louis Police Department, the off-duty Officer Jones happened to be at the scene, seated in a chair behind the stuffed-animal concession and talking to one of the operators, when he heard "a series of gunshots" and somebody yelling, "Give me your money!" Jones reacted by drawing his weapon and walking into the situation. When he confronted the assailant and identified himself as a police officer, Wilkes says, "the gun was turned on the officer, and the officer shot the assailant twice, once in the center of chest." Homicide was called at 6:20 p.m. and the growing crowd of onlookers was treated to the processing of yet another crime scene.

Jones, 31, is a patrol officer in the 5th District, and has nearly six years with the department.

Duck wounded two concessionaires before being shot. Robert Royal, 59, of Tennessee, was shot in the hand and grazed above the hip. Michael Haisch, 48, of Florida, was shot in the abdomen, groin and arm. Royal was treated and released that evening; Haisch spent nine days in Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Efforts to reach them in their home states failed; their whereabouts are now unknown.

Meanwhile, two hangers-out at the corner of Marcus and Natural Bridge remember the colorful concession that stood there a month before. Both know of the game with the balls and numbered pockets -- "like bingo," they say -- and are aware that a man had been shot there. "It was bound to happen, just a matter of time," says Tony Williams, 35. "We knew that game was shaky -- people going around sayin' they got ganked."

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