Deadly Dilemma

In Stanley Parker's neighborhood, what you wear and where you go can get you killed

If you're a teenager residing in the O'Fallon-Penrose neighborhood, where seventeen-year-old Stanley Parker was shot to death by Officer Keith McGull at 1 a.m. Labor Day, you can basically do one of two things: roam the streets in subtle earth tones or stay indoors and watch TV reruns 24/7.

At least that's how Detective Robert Ogilvie and neighborhood resident Janice King see it.

"You can wear anything you want to wear, provided you're not going to frequent areas these kids [gang members] are gonna be frequenting," says Ogilvie, a member of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's Gang Unit. "I wouldn't hang out on the corners. I wouldn't frequent the parks. I wouldn't go to any of the places that are the typical hangouts for teenage kids."

Sounds like fun.

And if you like the Rams, Broncos or, well, colorful clothing in general, you're screwed, too, as King and her brood are well aware. A few years back, King's nephew and her daughter's fiancé, both clad in orange T-shirts, had just come inside King's house, in the 4400 block of Athlone Avenue when a young man knocked on the door.

The man at the door, recalls King, "asked for the guy who was wearing the orange T-shirt, so my nephew left the door open and went in the house to get my daughter's fiancé. While he was in the room, this young guy who wasn't on the porch -- he must have been hiding in the bushes -- came in our hallway, and he has a gun in each hand, saying that we're disrespecting the neighborhood. My daughter was screaming, 'How can you say that we're disrespecting the neighborhood when you're standing in our house with two guns in your hand?'

"I thought orange was neutral."

Wrong. The Six-Deuce Crips (a.k.a. the 62's) wear orange. Members of rival gang the Six-Oh Crips (the 60's) don blue and gold, so many a young G pulls his favorite Rams jersey on in the morning -- before the daily grind of intimidating unaffiliated neighbors such as Parker and his friends, all of whom were armed to protect themselves from these 'bangers, says Police Chief Joe Mokwa.

"If you refuse to join a gang and you live in the neighborhood, then you're gonna have to arm yourself to protect yourself," says James Buford, CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. "And if you join a gang, you're gonna have to pack. You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't."

Since five-year-old Dwight Moore was shot in the 4500 block of Mary Avenue on August 28 (he survived), "several" gang-related shootings have occurred in the neighborhood, says Ogilvie, although he won't say precisely how many. Police say Moore's father, Dwight Sr., now incarcerated, is a member of the Six-Deuces, a rival gang to the Six-Ohs that dominate Parker's neighborhood.

There are 154 open criminal cases in the Penrose-O'Fallon neighborhood, says Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce. "A good chunk of 'em" are gang-related, she says. Of the first six cases she rattles off, Joyce offers that "four of them, at minimum, are probably gang-related, in that they involve a weapon."

Homicides appear to be down in the Penrose-O'Fallon neighborhood -- five killings so far this year, compared with seven at this point in 2001 -- something that cops and residents chalk up to enhanced police resources in the area. But that hasn't stopped the knee-jerk finger-pointing at police by neighborhood residents, as evidenced by the makeshift memorial at the end of the alley behind the 4500 block of Clarence Avenue, where Parker was shot. Surrounded by stuffed animals and colorful cards is a crude cardboard sign, pinned to a telephone pole, that reads:

"Stanley P. was an American Citizen, not bin Laden! And you're not God to kill at will!"

Says Mokwa: "If you believed everything you saw on the news, you'd think everybody in North St. Louis hates the police, that we put people in headlocks."

There were reportedly no headlocks deployed the night Stanley Parker died, just gunfire. Yet what exactly transpired is murky, unlike the September 13 police shooting of 24-year-old carjacker Cornelius Davis in the Central West End. In the Davis shooting, Mokwa quickly went on record to defend the officer's actions. The chief made no such rush to McGull's corner in the aftermath of Parker's shooting.

As McGull's unmarked Chevy Lumina approached Parker and his three teenage companions, the kids bolted down the alley, only to be met at the other end by the uniformed McGull. The officer says he verbally warned the kids and fired nine rounds at Parker only after being fired upon. Parker's brother, sixteen-year-old Joshua Nashville, flatly denies this, saying that McGull didn't make a peep and that none of the boys fired a gun, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A .22 derringer was found next to Parker's body. The only shell casings recovered at the scene were from McGull's gun, although if a revolver had been fired at him, it would have left no casings. One of Parker's companions, eighteen-year-old Dwayne Massie, says he gave his pistol to a friend, Christopher Moton, also eighteen. Police arrested Moton on September 7 after seeing him throw a bag containing a .32-caliber revolver onto the roof of a garage. The pistols carried by the youths had been stolen from a home in the same neighborhood less than a week before the incident. Moton, Massie and another of Parker's companions, seventeen-year-old Jessie Couch, have since been charged with a range of crimes related to the jacked gats.

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