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Following the Gun: Every Stop Is Life Or Death For LEOs

Following the Gun: Every Stop Is Life Or Death For LEOs

The casket of Phoenix Police Officer Sgt. Sean Drenth, who died in the line of duty, is brought in for his funeral Monday, Oct. 25, 2010, in Phoenix. [AP Photo]

Washington Post via YellowBrix

November 22, 2010

“He did me a favor and bought the gun for me,” Clinton, now 58, said in a recent interview with The Post. “Bad move.”

Johnson filled out the paperwork, claiming that he was the purchaser, and gave the clerk $460 in cash for the pistol and ammunition. As soon as they left the store, Johnson turned the gun over to Clinton.

Neither Johnson nor Clinton would be prosecuted for their roles in the straw purchase.

The transaction does not surprise John Riggio, the store’s owner.

“Everything has happened here,” said Riggio, 54, whose father started the shop in 1967. “Whose fault is that? I can’t control what happens when someone leaves the shop.”

The .380 remained with Clinton for more than six years, until November 2003. Clinton later told authorities that it was stolen from the trunk of his Buick Century on the city’s South Side. That proved to be a lie. Clinton actually gave the gun to an acquaintance, Randy “Bushwick” Vaughn, 43, to sell on the street.

“We were using [heroin] at the time, and I needed the money for drugs,” Clinton said.

Vaughn later told authorities that he sold it for $200 to a stockily built 26-year-old gang member at 69th Street and South Indiana Avenue in Chicago.

A month later, on Dec. 22, 2003 – nearly 2,500 days after Johnson first purchased it – the .380 pistol resurfaced in the hands of 19-year-old Darryl Jeter.

Jeter had been reared by his grandmother in the rough-and-tumble Robert Taylor Homes public housing complex on Chicago’s South Side. Like many of his childhood friends, Jeter got into trouble with the law at an early age. He was convicted in November 2002 of possession of a controlled substance, a felony, and was sentenced to two years in prison. He was sent to the Shawnee Correctional Center in southern Illinois and was paroled after six months, according to an Illinois Department of Corrections official.

‘Who doesn’t have a gun?’

Jeter later said in an interview with The Post that he got the .380 from a friend, whom he refused to identify. The man owed him $350 from a bet over a game of pickup basketball. Jeter had bumped into him at Hook Fish & Chicken, a fast-food restaurant in Chicago, about nine blocks from where Vaughn said he sold the pistol.

“They’re bartered and traded and sold as booty on the street,” said Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. Brian Olehy. “They’re another form of legal tender.”

Jeter, who was unemployed, said he intended to sell the .380 to buy Christmas toys for his daughter. She had begged him for Dora the Explorer dolls.

“I know it’s not legal to have guns in Chicago,” Jeter said. “But who doesn’t have a gun? That’s Chicago.”

He tucked the gun into the front pocket of his jeans and tossed his fast-food bag into a white 1993 Chevrolet Caprice that had been stolen six days earlier from a Sears parking lot in southwest Chicago. The thief passed the car on to Jeter, who used a screwdriver to start it.

Soon after getting the .380, Jeter took off to meet a 16-year-old girl in Gary, Ind. As he neared the Gary exit just before dawn, he realized that one of the tires was so flat that he was driving on the metal rim. He pulled off the interstate onto a grassy area. Jeter called the girl and told her that he would gather his CDs, find another car and meet up with her soon.

A trucker who had seen sparks shooting from the car’s rim called 911. Patrick, a state trooper who worked the midnight shift, responded.

Patrick, 27, was a small-town boy who grew up in Wheatfield, Ind., and loved to fish with his dad and brothers. Six feet tall, athletic and competitive, he played football and wrestled in high school, receiving the “Iron Man” award one year for never missing wrestling practice.

Outside the exit to Gary, Patrick pulled over to see whether Jeter, now on foot, needed help. Jeter said he and Patrick exchanged words. It got heated.

The trooper told him to put his hands on the police car.

“It just got aggressive,” Jeter later recalled in a prison interview with The Post. “In my world . . . when you get aggressive, you’re no longer an officer. You’re just a man like me.”

Karl Dickel, a trucker who happened by, saw the two men fighting and turned his lights on them to aid the trooper, according to court records. Dickel said that the men broke apart and Jeter went to the opposite side of the police car from Patrick. He pulled the .380 and fired twice over the car’s hood at Patrick. The trooper returned fire, hitting Jeter, Dickel said.

One shot hit Patrick in the shoulder and pierced his heart. Jeter ran, dropping the gun and his CDs along the way and leaving Patrick to die on the pavement.

“Things went bad,” Jeter said. “What happened shouldn’t have happened.”

Another trooper arrived and tried to help Patrick. Dickel spotted Jeter nearby and told the trooper, “That’s the guy that shot him.”

Jeter again tried to flee, this time by climbing into the cab of a truck, but the other trooper arrested him.

The shooting left Melissa Patrick without a husband, and the baby she was carrying without a father. She was six weeks pregnant at the time.

“The action he took changed so many lives,” said Patrick, who met Scott at a party when they were freshmen at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. “My husband never even knew he was having a little boy.”

Jeter was convicted of murder and auto theft in 2006. He is serving a life sentence without parole at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. In his prison interview last April, Jeter, shackled and wearing a tan prison outfit and new white sneakers, reflected on the shooting.

“I ask myself every day, ‘Why?’ " said Jeter, now 26. "What was I thinking? . . . He didn’t deserve to lose his life.

“I was presented with a weapon I shouldn’t have had. I should have went home.”

Clinton, who is an unemployed sheet-metal worker, said he was shocked to learn that the pistol was used to kill a police officer.

“I don’t want to think about it,” he said. “It still feels like my gun, but I don’t want to have anything to do with it.”


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