Cops believe Reggie Allen mowed down an unarmed black man outside an east-side club more than a year ago. So why isn't he behind bars?

January 2011, East St. Louis, Illinois: Below the tangle of raised highways soaring over the Mississippi River bank, a teddy bear lies face-down in the snow. Other stuffed animals, soiled and wet, are lashed to a light pole in a makeshift memorial along South Eighth Street. Someone has scrawled on a wooden cross: "Ur gone but never forgotten my baby."

Fifteen months ago, this stretch of road where the City Nights bar used to stand swirled with violence. Anthony J. Rice, a young black man with a clean record, was fatally mowed down by a vehicle. Official documents strongly suggest it was a pickup truck, steered by a young white man with a remarkably long and violent criminal past.

And yet that white man — Reggie Allen of Dupo, Illinois — still has not been charged for the killing. Somewhere in the Metro East, he roams free.

Tim Lane
Tim Lane

City Nights is now gone. It mysteriously burned down three months after the killing. Today, there is a quiet here. A calm. A bear covered with snow.

For five minutes back in October 2009, this place was chaos.

On the last night of his life, 23-year-old Anthony Rice agreed to indulge his little brother, Aubrey. The two were partying late at a friend's house in Centreville, Illinois, and Aubrey decided where he wanted to finish up celebrating his 22nd birthday: at the strip clubs.

"You sure you wanna do this?" Anthony had asked his younger sibling.

"I wanna go to pretty much every strip club," Aubrey replied. "If you feel like taking me."

Anthony, the oldest of three, was a former high school ROTC student. An engaged father with two children, he'd never been in trouble with the law. He was holding down a pair of jobs caring for the elderly and led a dance troupe that performed in the area.

But in his free time, he was inseparable from Aubrey, with whom he lived in Cahokia. Some mistook them for twins. Both had grown up steeped in the Rice family mantra, passed down from previous generations in Mississippi: "We only have two things in this life: our name and our word."

And so, in the wee hours of October 3, 2009, Anthony gave his word: "All right, I'll take you. Let's go."

They buckled into Anthony's Camaro. Two friends, Jeremy Williams and Andrew Neal, led the way in a second car.

The caravan swung through East St. Louis, where the brothers had grown up. Strip clubs are banned by ordinance there. However, they spotted a digital sign blinking in the night sky: "Hot Girls & Cold Beer!" The bar was called City Nights. They'd never been inside.

Both cars pulled up near the front door at last call, just before 4 a.m. The elder Rice, along with Neal, approached the front door first, where a sign read, "No weapons, gang colors or any other bullshit allowed!" They stepped inside the small admission lobby.

A man at the inner door tapped his watch and said the club was closing. But a second man behind the cashier's window said, "Five bucks, let me see your I.D." It was the owner's son, Reggie Allen.

The visitors did not know that, at age 27, Allen had already been charged in eight different jurisdictions with 40 non-traffic offenses, including 20 felonies, half of which involved violence. To Rice and Neal, he was just the cashier. They decided to change course and head back to their cars.

Four white males followed them outside. One was Reggie Allen; another was a six-foot-two, 330-pound bald bouncer in a black tank top named Charlie Hurd.

According to both sides, insults started flying back and forth.

"Yeah, that's right, we're closed, Chris Tucker," Hurd reportedly jeered at Neal, in a reference to the famous black actor.

Neal, who'd opened his car door and was about to get in, shot back with something like, "You need to get a T-shirt, not a tank top, Fat Albert."

At that, Reggie Allen stooped down, grasped a brick and hurled it through Neal's driver-side window, shattering bits of glass all over him. The white men then hurried back inside the club and locked the door.

Furious, both Rice brothers rushed back up to the front door and beat on it. Anthony Rice was yelling, "Why'd y'all do that?" when he peered through the window and saw that Hurd was about to reemerge from the club with a dark object in his hand.

It was a Taser. But Anthony Rice thought it was a gun. He barred the front door with his body, hollering at his younger brother to run for cover.

The heavyset bouncer, Hurd, heaved against the door several times and finally burst out as Anthony Rice took off running.

Rather than give chase, Hurd approached the younger brother who'd retreated to the Camaro. Hurd made a clear threat, Aubrey Rice would later attest: "You niggers need to get off our property, or we'll push you off."

That's when a white Ford F-150 came careering around to the front of the club. The truck was registered to Reggie Allen, records show. And according to what Hurd later told an insurance company, Allen was the one driving it.

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