Yukon Jack and a Single Shot 12 Gauge
Please understand I love you all, but when people fuck with me, kill ’em.
These were the last words I wrote in my journal before I committed a crime that landed me 43 years in prison.
April 8th, 1994. I woke up at a buddy’s house with a hangover, looked at the clock, and realized I was already late for work.
I hung sheetrock for my dad, so skipping work without getting fired was easy. But still, I needed a good reason. So I called my dad, who was already at the job site.
“Where the fuck are you, and why aren’t you here?” he demanded.
“Dad, I’m sorry. But a good friend of mine is dead, and I’m really fucked up over it. I don’t think I can make it in today.”
My dad’s tone instantly changed.
“I’m sorry to hear that, son. Is it anyone I knew?”
“I don’t think so. Did you ever meet Gunnar?”
“No. What happened?”
I took a deep breath as if to compose myself before I explained. “I was in my car following Gunnar. We were going to a friend’s house. Gunnar tried to pass this truck in front of him, but his Bronco hit a curb and rolled.” I paused dramatically, let my voice choke up.
“Dad…I watched his body fly out of his Bronco and then get crushed by it.”
I could tell my dad was hurt by the pain I was feeling. He had no idea I was lying to him so I could skip work. He said, “Well, go ahead and take the day off. I’m sorry for your loss.”
I hung up and thought, “That was easy. Now where’s the beer?”
I went to the fridge and grabbed two cold ones. I woke up my buddy Ryan by tossing a frigid brewski onto his chest. Didn’t realize his voice could go that high.
Ryan worked for his dad, too. He was a bricklayer. Like me, he was late to work and hungover. He called his dad and said he was sick—we had the entire day free.
The blurry memory of the night before started to come together in bits and pieces. We were at a party; Ryan was playing poker. He caught a guy cheating and demanded his money back. I was in another room hanging with the ladies when the argument started. I heard it, so I went to see what the commotion was all about.
As I entered the room, I got tunnel vision. All I saw was some dude getting loud-mouthed and aggressive with my best friend. So I slipped around behind the asshole and cracked a beer bottle over his head. He dropped like bricks.
I was out of line. It wasn’t that type of party, as if there is that type of party. It was a small social gathering in a clean family home. Everyone, for the most part, was good friends.
As dude hit the floor, Ryan and my sister Tabatha immediately ran to my side and restrained me, then hustled me away from the victim.
Jackson, the owner of the house, was pissed. He was yelling at my sister and Ryan, “Get him out of here!” We took off before any more damage could be done.
After I tossed that frigid brewski on Ryan, we started to talk about last night’s incident.
“We owe Jackson an apology,” I suggested. Ryan agreed. So we grabbed a few beers—never go anywhere without a few beers—and headed to Jackson’s place.
As we got to my car, there was an officer putting a ticket on my window for parking in a handicapped space. I tried talking him out of it; I told him I always parked there because I leave early. No dice. He said, “I patrol this lot every morning and I’ve never seen you park here until now.”
My first thought? “So you come through here every morning, huh? Good. One day I’ll be waiting for your fat face, and I’ll shoot you a few times in the head.” I gave this some really serious consideration. I figured I could get away with it because of all the blind spots throughout his route. Note to self: “I’ll take care of him later.” But I didn’t say any of these things, for once. I just took my ticket. I’ve got more important things to do this morning.
Ryan and I drove off. We arrived at Jackson’s at about 11am. Everyone in the house was still asleep. I kept hammering on the door until Jackson’s sister finally answered, a look of confusion on her face.
I’m sure she wondered why we were there. I explained that we owed Jackson and everyone else an apology. She accepted, then let us in.
When we entered Jackson’s room, he was sound asleep. It suddenly occurred to me how easy it would be to kill him while he slept. I shook it off.
We woke Jackson up and talked for a few minutes. He accepted our apology, and we were on our way.
It wasn’t yet noon, but I was catching a decent buzz. Probably the buzz is why I pulled over and picked up a hitchhiker. As this scruffy, long-haired hitchhiker was running up to my car, Ryan yelled at me, “What in God’s name are you doing? Don’t give him a ride! GO! GO! GO!”
It was too late. My man was already at the window saying, “I just need a ride a couple miles up the road.”
Ryan gave me a dirty look as the scuzzy-toothed, crusty-faced dude climbed into the backseat.
I pulled back into traffic and finished off the beer I had between my legs.
“It’s a little early, isn’t it?” Scuzz remarked. Was this fucker really judging me?
“Not really. It’s Friday,” I said. “I’m Catholic.”
“Well, then maybe you want a bong hit,” he offered. Dude was running around toting a bong. He loaded it up and passed it to me.
“Ryan, grab that beer from the glove box. Pour some in the bong,” I ordered. The car filled with smoke.
So we were all driving down Highway 99 at high noon, taking bong hits and pounding beers. All any cop had to do was pull me over, and it would have changed the course of my entire life. No such luck. My path of self-destruction would continue for another twelve hours.
I pulled into Denny’s on Highway 99, and because I was buzzed and stoned, I almost side-swiped another car. As the hitchhiker got out, Ryan said, annoyed, “Let me drive.” I didn’t object.
We got back on the road and headed south. On the north-bound side of the street, I saw three ladies sitting at a bus stop. I rolled down my window and climbed halfway out of the car so they could see me from the passenger side. As we rolled by the bus stop, I threw both hands in the air and yelled, “Whooo hoooo” like a drunken dummy.
To my astonishment, one of the girls stood up, flashed her tits, and yelled back with equal enthusiasm, “Whooo hoooo!” Clearly, this was a woman I had to meet.
Ryan yelled, “Steve, get in here, you idiot!” He was pissed for some reason—maybe because I picked up that hitchhiker, almost got in a wreck, and was now flopping out of the car yelling at pedestrians.
I gushed, “Dude. Did you see that? She just lifted her shirt! Turn around! Turn around!” But Ryan wasn’t going to turn around. “Ryan! Turn around and let’s see if they need a ride. C’mon! Seriously, turn this car around right now!”
Ryan finally gave up and went back to the bus stop. “Would you lovely ladies like a ride?” I asked sweetly.
“Can you take us to Edmonds Community College?” Tit Flasher responded.
“We certainly can! Hop in.” I tried to sound as gentlemanly as I could despite my slightly slurred words and bloodshot eyes.
As the girls gathered their bags and pranced to the car, I gloated to Ryan, “These girls are cute. And you didn’t want to turn around.”
We introduced ourselves. One of the other two girls, a perky blonde, asked me, “Are you stoned?”
“A little bit, yeah.”
“I wanna get stoned,” she whined.
“And I wanna get you stoned. But I won’t have any more weed until tonight.”
She gave me a look of confusion and asked, “But if you don’t have any, then how are you stoned right now?”
I shifted sideways in the front seat so I could make better eye contact with this cute little lady in the back, then spoke in a singsong voice, like I was talking to a kindergartener, “Weeeelllll, maybe I just smoked up the last of my stash. Orrrrr, maybe we just picked up some greasy scumbag hitchhiker who just happened to be toting a loaded bong around town.”
She looked at her girlfriends, then back at me. “Yeah right.”
“Would I lie to you? Sorry, honey, but it was the greasy scumbag’s shit, not mine.” I flashed her a charming smile, and she giggled.
I tried to talk the girls into skipping their college classes to come back to Ryan’s place with us for a few drinks. Tit Flasher thought this was a great idea; the other two said they couldn’t skip class. Jesus, live a little.
Anyway, I gave them Ryan’s address and they promised to meet us there at seven o’clock. I told them I’d score some weed and asked what they liked to drink. Blondie said, “Anything but beer.”
We dropped them off at their college and we were gone. As we drove off, Ryan said bluntly, “They won’t show up.”
“Yes, they will,” I replied confidently. “So now, we need to score some killer bud and get some booze.” We decided on Jack Daniels and his cousin Yukon Jack, stopped at the liquor store, then went back to Ryan’s house and got ready for the night.
I made a few phone calls trying to score bud, but I was unsuccessful. Too bad. Maybe that would have calmed me down. Drinking 100 proof whiskey would only fuel my fire, a fire already hell-bent on death and destruction.
Seven o’clock. To Ryan’s wonder, the girls showed up. I made some drinks—orange Minute Maid and Yukon Jack. The girls didn’t like it; I had made the drinks too strong for them. So, in an effort to show off, I pounded all three of theirs, then told them to go ahead and make their own.
We spent the next few hours talking and dancing. I was having a good time with just the five of us, but everyone else was getting bored and wanted a change of scenery, so I made a few calls and heard about a party. The girls were eager to go meet new people.
But Ryan knew everyone in that crowd and decided he’d rather go to a bar. The girls and I were too young to get into a bar—I wasn’t turning 21 until July; the girls were all 19-year-old college freshmen.
Since Blondie had daddy’s car for the night, I gave them directions to the party, telling them I’d catch up with them after I dropped Ryan off. Before we left, I finished off the drinks that were still sitting around. Then I poured the remaining fifth of Yukon Jack into the remaining 2-liter of orange Minute Maid. Ready to roll.
I showed up at the party around 9:30, already pretty buzzed. As I walked in, the first person I saw was Angela.
Angela and I went way back. I first met her my freshman year of high school. She and my sister were friends, so occasionally Angela would spend the night at our house. One night I came home and found her sleeping in my bed. A pleasant surprise indeed. We spent that one night cuddling and kissing—PG, I know, but in my defense, we were only freshmen.
But on this night, she immediately approached me and started to yell at me about a court date we had coming up. Three months ago we’d had a minor fender bender in an Albertson’s parking lot. Parking lot parties were popular at the time. A bunch of friends and acquaintances would gather in parking lots, because there wasn’t shit else for a bunch of underage teens to do, and we’d drink beer and smoke weed until we found a party to attend. On some nights, when we couldn’t find a house party, we would just spend the night driving from parking lot to parking lot. It was never a good idea to stay in one place for too long; when we did, the cops always showed up.
Angela and I were parked side by side. Someone got directions to a party and it was time to roll. As all the cars—about fifteen of them—were pulling out, Angela and I swapped paint in a minor fender bender. She must have forgotten our romantic night together, or maybe she wasn’t a PG kind of girl. Because she Flipped. The. Fuck. Out. I had been drinking; she had not. She called the cops. Needless to say, I took off.
A few days later, I got two citations in the mail. One was for a DUI, the other was for hit and run. I knew I would beat them in court; it was her word against mine. I made up a false alibi and had ten witnesses ready to commit perjury in court for me. When Angela got wind of my plan, she was pissed.
So that’s who I saw the minute I walked into this party. After a few minutes of arguing with Angela, people decided enough was enough. Bickering is a buzzkill. That’s when her male friend stepped in.
He rested a hand on my shoulder. That’s all it took for me to become violent. Joe was only trying to calm me down, but I didn’t see it that way. I punched him in the face and screamed, “Get off me!”
Angela ran downstairs to where the majority of partygoers were and reported, “Steven just punched Joe in the face.” Once a rat, always a rat. This created an angry murmur, as Joe is one of the nicest guys on the planet. Even though he stood 6’4″ and weighed 250 lbs, he wasn’t the fighting type. So when the others heard I hit him, they came rushing up the stairs. Leading the charge was Rob.
I didn’t like Rob. He was dating my ex-girlfriend, but I didn’t have a huge problem with that because she and I were still having sex behind his back. My real difficulty was that he was hitting her when they argued—and he liked to argue.
So as Rob approached the top of the stairs, I ran over and pushed him back down into the basement. A couple more guys tried to make it out of the basement, but I pushed them back down the stairs as well.
Then everyone in the basement forced their way up the stairs. There were too many to fight them all, but I was willing to give it a go. I punched a few of the guys in the face before I pulled out my knife, a 3″ lock-blade I kept on my keychain.
Suddenly I had fifteen guys surrounding me as I stood in the middle of the kitchen. I would have stabbed anyone who tried to make a move on me, and they all knew it. Most of these guys were just acquaintances; none were good friends. I felt like an outsider among a well-established hostile group. I snapped into warrior mode and was ready to take on anyone who might get within striking distance. I didn’t take into consideration, or care for one second, how bad I might hurt someone. And it really never occurred to me that I could get hurt.
What I really needed at that moment was someone I trusted to come in and tell me, “Okay, Steven, that’s enough. C’mon. Let’s go.” Like Ryan had done the night before at Jackson’s house, and so many other times at previous parties. But on this night, Ryan was at a bar, and I was alone. I had no one to calm me down and soothe my anger. It manifested and spread inside me to the point that I was ready to kill.
As I stood surrounded by a mob of people, someone opened the back door. The circle of people broke and created a path to the door, like I was a rabid raccoon. I was persuaded to leave without further incident—at least for the moment.
I arrived at my apartment ten minutes later. I was too mad to unlock the door, so I kicked it open. Inside was just as cold and dark as the outside. I hadn’t paid my electric bill in four months, so they finally turned off the electricity. The only power I had was coming from my neighbor’s apartment through an orange extension cord plugged into a six way outlet. This powered a lamp, TV, VCR, and stereo.
As I walked in, I turned on the lamp and sat in the dimly-lit room. My mind reflected the darkness of the room; evil thoughts ripped my soul. I hated myself and hated that my life was headed nowhere.
I was constantly fighting with friends and family. My own brother wasn’t talking to me after, while in a drunken rage, I had kicked him in the face and smashed his guitar. I spent all my money on alcohol and weed. Rent was past due and I had no idea how it would get paid.
No one really understood how my mind was thinking then, not even myself. All I knew for sure was that I drank every day and I was losing control. I was becoming more aggressive and more violent. I needed help and I knew it. I didn’t like the person I was, and the more I grew into that person, the more I disliked myself. And if I didn’t even like myself, I naturally hated those around me. I was sick.
I knew I was failing life. That hurt. I had too much pride to accept reality. I didn’t have the skill or the maturity to change my reckless lifestyle, even though, in the brief moments I was sober, I constantly thought about how I had to change. I’d numb the pain by drinking, which only made things worse. I’d sober up and realize I had just sunk a little lower, remembering I had just beaten up another friend, or punched my brother, or trashed another party.
I would even trash my own mother’s house. When I lived with my mother, all she wanted was for me to respect the rules she implemented for her house, but of course I didn’t. I was constantly drinking in her home and bringing my friends over to drink with me. My drinking was out of control. I was out of control.
One night she yelled at me in front of my friends. I was drunk, as usual. Bad timing. I lost it. I smashed the mirror on the living room wall, then flipped the coffee table over, breaking the glass top. I threw the microwave against the refrigerator, then chucked a thick glass vase through her TV. I was completely out of control and didn’t care about anyone: not myself, my friends, or my family. I was a ticking time bomb.
All my altercations that had led me to this point started flooding back to me in reverse, as if I was watching a video stuck on rewind.
A week before trashing my mom’s place, I had trashed a party. Some wannabe gangbangers were running their mouths. Just the way they spoke pissed me off. I punched one in the face, and that set off a brawl. It was just me and one other friend taking on about six little white kids who thought they were gangstas. It was like two pit bulls against six poodles. My buddy was putting heads through the sheetrock as I was fighting four guys at once. I finally pulled out my knife and cleared the entire room. As I left, I took three starter baseball hats and two parka jackets that the fleeing wannabes left behind.
A week before that, at some other party, I ended up pinning two guys on a couch. I had each one by the neck: one in my left hand, one in my right hand. Like gripping a twisted towel, I had a handful of skin in each hand. As one guy struggled to break free, I head-butted him in the face a few times. Then the other guy tried to muscle his way up, so I head-butted him, too.
As I let both necks go, I grabbed a coffee cup and broke it over one of their heads. Why? Because I didn’t like the way they dressed. Khaki pants sagging low with their hats tilted sideways. Punks.
About a week before that—I guess I had to get my fix every week—I showed up at a party with the parking lot crowd. When the guys running the party found out we were under 21, they told us to leave. But of course they said the girls could stay. As a few of the residents were rounding us up and walking us to the door, I prodded my friends, “You guys ready to do this? Huh? You guys ready?”
Nobody answered or made a move, except for one of the guys who was backing us out of the house. He said, “Do what, little guy? What are you gonna do?”
As he approached me, I blasted him in the face with my fist and then body-slammed him. From there, all hell broke loose. The living room became a brawling cage.
We made it outside and could hear police sirens approaching in the distance. My sister and her friends had to literally push me to her car.
Not long before that I was at a party when I spotted a guy who had ripped me off about four years prior. At the time I was only a freshman in high school and he had graduated. I gave him money to buy me an ounce of weed. He brought me back a quarter ounce of weed and said, “That’s just the way it is, sometimes.”
I thought to myself, “Who are you, Bruce Hornsby?” But at the time I had to accept it. I knew he could easily take me. I also knew that someday I’d get revenge. Then I saw him at this party. As I watched him put a case of beer in the refrigerator, I plotted my payback. When he left the kitchen, I took his beer and went out the sliding glass door. I hid the beer in a neighbor’s yard, then walked back in through the front door. I took a seat on the couch and my girl joined me, sitting on my lap.
When the dude realized his beer was gone, he flipped out. He started calling everyone names and said no one was leaving until he got his beer back. I told him I’d leave whenever I wanted.
“Oh yeah? Try it!” he challenged. My girl started to panic and began pleading with him to chill out. She tried to reassure him that he would find his beer. It was the beginning of the end for him when he sneered, “Shut up, tramp,” as he jabbed his finger right at her face.
“Kerrie baby, get up,” I said.
“No, it’s okay, he’s just upset,” she replied. She didn’t want me to fight, but at that point, she didn’t have a choice. So I scooped her up in my arms, stood up, and set her back on the couch. By that time everyone was pleading, “Take it outside. Not in here.” They knew what was about to happen.
We went outside. I knew this guy was half-tough. He was an ex-football player and much bigger than me. I raised my hands and said, “Dude, I don’t want to fight you.”
He put his guard down, and that’s when I rushed him. I took him down fairly easily and pounded his face in. I wouldn’t let him up until he apologized to my girl, and he did, finally.
After he left, I walked into the house with his case of beer. Someone said, as if surprised, “You did take his beer!”
“You’re damn right I did.”
These not-so-cherished memories just kept coming, as I sat by my single lamp in my Yukon Jack haze. I wallowed in them. It was like worrying a bruise just to feel the pain. To feel anything.
A few months before getting my revenge on Bruce Hornsby, I was riding my bike when I saw a long-haired stoner-looking dude smoking at a bus stop. As I passed by, I squirted him with my water bottle. Just for the hell of it. He yelled, “You better keep going, you coward!”
I turned the bike around. He ran toward me. When he got to me, I popped a wheelie and plunged my mountain bike into him. He tripped over my bike and fell to the ground. I jumped on him and got him in a choke hold, putting him to sleep. Before I left, I kicked him in the face a few times. The last I ever saw of him he was lying on the ground, out cold and bleeding.
I kept reaching back, further and further, into my history of violence. In May of 1993, I was at the Salty Sea Days Parade in Everett, Washington, a huge Mardi Gras-type festival. A group of guys were driving around in a huge jacked-up 4×4 convertible Jeep. They all had super soaker squirt guns. One dude even had a big stainless steel fire extinguisher filled with water. These assholes were just driving around getting people wet. As they drove past me, the dude aimed the fire extinguisher my way.
I pointed at him and warned, “Don’t you fucking do it.” But he did anyway. Soaked my ass. Without thinking, I instinctively threw a full can of beer at the Jeep. BAM! It nailed the passenger door.
Two of them immediately jumped out and came toward me. For a split second, I thought about running. But I didn’t. I pulled out my knife, a permanent fixture on my keychain. They didn’t see it as I held it by the side of my leg.
The first guy came at me swinging. I ducked under his attempt and grabbed him around his waist. I slid the 3″ blade into his butt cheek. He screamed, “He stabbed me! He stabbed me!” As he ran back to the truck holding his bleeding ass, I took off.
Around that time, in another incident, I was in a supermarket when I walked past an athletic-looking guy. We made eye contact. That’s all it took.
I clenched my fist and lunged at him like I was gonna hit him. He laughed and said, “Was I supposed to flinch?” Then he flinched dramatically, smirking.
We passed each other, I took four steps, turned, walked up behind him, and body slammed him. He was knocked out cold. I kicked him in the face and then casually walked out of the store as if nothing had happened.
Once I reached the parking lot, some shelf-stocker employee ran after me. He tried to “detain” me. We got into a fight then and there. This kid was a wrestler, like me. As we hit the ground, he gained control, and for a few seconds he had the upper hand. Until I plunged my fingers into his eye sockets and bit his neck hard.
The kid wasn’t an everything-goes fighter; he panicked. I got hold of his hair and planted a few knees into his face. As more employees ran out of the store, I ran, leaving my car behind. A few hours later I came back for my car and drove off.
One thing all of these episodes had in common was that they were fueled by alcohol. The more I fought, the bolder I got. I had no fear of dying, nor did I care if I killed someone.
Ask any addict or alcoholic who’s on a path to rock bottom, and most will tell you that they don’t care about life. They don’t care if they live or die. They don’t care who they hurt.
The first time I realized this was when I was at a party when a guy pulled a gun on me. It was a pistol, and he aimed it right at my face. All he had to do was pull the trigger, and I would have been a goner.
He expected me to respond as most people would in that situation, by cowering and pleading behind upraised hands. He didn’t expect me to walk up to him and grab the gun. After I wrestled it away from him, I beat him half to death with it. I sat on his chest and served left after right, left after right. No one pulled me off of him until the police sirens got close. I would not have stopped; I would have killed him.
I loved to fight. It was like a drug. I was addicted to the chemicals my brain would release, the adrenaline rush fighting would give me. Alcohol just gave me the liquid courage to act out against the slightest provocation. Once I was sober, I would realize what I had done, and I would regret it.
I hated myself. I hated my life. I hated making my mother cry. I had pushed my brother away. Most of my friends weren’t really friends; they were only nice to me so I would leave them alone. They were afraid of me. I was a loser. I had no future. I felt helpless.
All these revelations hit me hard on that night in 1994, sitting in my dimly-lit apartment after yet another piss-poor showing. But instead of resolving to change my ways, I decided I didn’t want to live anymore. And I couldn’t simply kill myself—I had too much anger and hate to spread around. I wanted to take out the people at the party who I thought had done me wrong.
My phone rang, snapping me out of my trance.
It was my friend Jeremy. I had never had any problems with Jeremy because he knew how to stroke my ego. He never argued with me or did things to piss me off. Instead, he would agree with me, laugh at my jokes, make sure I always had a full beer, and come find me when it was time to smoke a bowl.
That was the type of person I got along with: people who were nice to me because they feared me. If they didn’t fear me, I could sense it, and more times than not, I’d try and give them good reason to fear me.
Jeremy was calling to see what I was doing, because I usually had parties at my apartment. But with the power cut off, it was not exactly a place to host parties.
I told Jeremy I was about to crash because I intended to get up early and go target shooting in the morning. I asked if he had any 12 gauge shotgun shells. He said he had a few lying around and that I was welcome to come get them. I grabbed my 12 gauge, and off I went to Jeremy’s house.
He managed to scrounge up six shotgun shells by the time I got there. Once I closed my hand around them, I knew nothing was going to stop me. I handed him $70 in cash.
“What’s this for?” Jeremy asked as he followed me out.
“It’s for you. I won’t be needing it,” I said as I got into my car, setting the handful of shells on the passenger seat.
Jeremy’s voice grew concerned as he sensed something was wrong. “Steve, what are you about to do?”
“Nothing,” I said as I put the keys in the ignition. Jeremy stood in the way of the door, clearly nervous now. He asked again, more forcefully, “Where are you going?”
I replied, “You’ll read about me in the paper tomorrow.”
As I sped off, Jeremy latched on to the side of the car. The door was still open as he was flailing all over the place. “Stop the car, Steve, stop the fucking car!” he yelled, panicked.
“Fuck you, asshole, get off my car!” I shouted back. Jeremy managed to reach in and grab ahold of my shirt up by my left shoulder. I bit his hand so hard I felt two of his fingers break in my mouth. He screamed in pain.
I released his hand and vigorously started to swerve side to side. He went flying like a ragdoll. I looked in my rearview mirror and watched his body roll end over end before he came to a bloody stop. I slammed the door shut and kept driving as Jeremy lay motionless in the dark of the night. I felt a slight twinge of guilt. Oh well, fuck it. At least he wasn’t dead. At that point it didn’t matter to me anyway. I was on a mission.
As I arrived back at the party, it was still in full swing, despite the fact that I had called the house and told whoever answered the phone that I was on my way, and that I intended to kill people when I got there. I was trying to make a point, not commit a massacre. They must have thought it was a prank call.
I parked in front of the house, grabbed my shotgun and shells, and strode to the back door. It was locked. I kicked it open. The same door I’d used earlier to exit the party through a corridor of growling men, I used to forcefully return. I crossed the same room where I had been outnumbered fifteen to one. This time, it would be fifteen to one plus one 12 gauge shotgun. More than evened the odds.
The house was full of people, groups in every room. Why I didn’t instantly blow away the first person I saw, I’ll never know. Maybe there was still a shred of conscience buried somewhere in all that alcohol.
I fired the first shot into the kitchen ceiling. Later, police forensic teams discovered that shot was buckshot—shotgun shell packed with bigger, pea-sized ball-bearings, designed to bring down a full-grown buck.
The sound of the shotgun blast sent people scattering in every direction away from me.
I quickly reloaded the single-shot weapon with a random shell case from my shirt pocket and swaggered into the basement. There were about twenty people down there. Some were playing pool; others were just socializing.
The only exit out of the basement was the staircase I was descending, and no one was getting by me. I had everyone trapped.
I fired another warning shot into the ceiling, also buckshot. But warning them was pointless. There was no place to run.
I wanted to convince these people that they had messed with the wrong person. In my sick mind, everyone needed to acknowledge my superiority and treat me with respect. If they didn’t, it would cost them their lives.
The first victim was Jason. Ironically, I actually liked Jason. We hung out frequently; he often stopped by my apartment to smoke some weed and drink a few beers. Good guy. I miss him now. But I wasn’t feeling so sentimental this night.
A few weeks earlier, Jason had made the mistake of playing a hand of poker with me. We each threw a five dollar bill on the table and dealt the cards. He won fair and square, but it pissed me off because I knew that Jason had just won a legal settlement worth over $100,000. He drove a ’67 Camaro and had several other cool cars. He had money. And this guy took my last $5 at poker. I thought he should have given it back. Although I was pissed the night it happened, I had shown no indication whatsoever. There was no way he could have known how I felt.
As petty as it was, that’s the reason Jason got shot.
He was standing by the billiards table. I held my shotgun at waist level. I pointed it in his direction and pulled the trigger.
The dispersion from that shot also clipped Larry. I didn’t know Larry well—I didn’t have any beef with him—he was just standing behind Jason, lucky guy.
I quickly reloaded the gun, then I noticed Eric sitting on a couch directly in front of me. Even though Eric and I went to junior high and high school together, he was never a friend of mine. He was a stuck up preppy boy with an “I’m better than you” attitude. But other than that, I hadn’t had a huge problem with him when we were in school. All that had changed about a year earlier when he decided to run his smart mouth toward me.
I was working for a temp service, and one day I was sent to the Everett Mall to work for Sears. Sears had me work in the mall parking lot repainting the lines. As I painted, I noticed Eric walking across the lot. So I yelled, “Eric! What’s up!”
He looked my way, pointed his finger toward me, and just laughed. He yelled back, “What are you, doing community service?”
I was offended by his response and his attitude. So I yelled, “No, sucka, I’m getting paid $12 an hour for this.” I lied—I was only making about $6 an hour. But from that day forward, Eric was someone I’d smash in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.
And I almost did one night, months later, when I saw him at a kegger by the river. That’s when I learned he had date-raped a couple of freshmen girls. He’d take them out to dinner and a movie, then he’d drive them to a secluded place for a make-out session. As it would get hot and heavy, he’d force himself on the young girl and take her virginity. I heard from several people that he had done this on at least two occasions.
So as I saw him sitting on the basement couch, beer in his cup, shaking, arm flung around some chick, I approached him with my gun aimed at his chest.
“Do you know who I am?”
“Who am I?”
“You’re Steve Jennings.”
That’s all I needed to hear. I shot him in the chest at point blank range. I reloaded.
Why no one rushed me is a mystery. Everyone easily saw I had a single shot gun and had to reload after every shot. I know for a fact that if I would have been in that crowd, I would have rushed the gunman the second after he fired. Fear can be paralyzing for some people, I guess.
One guy did try, but he could’ve used some backup. He was way too slow. He got within three feet of me before I swung the shotgun up into his face. He snapped back, froze, raised both hands, then slowly backed away.
Meanwhile, everyone else was huddled together, backed into a corner. People were swarming, like puppies at mealtime, like washing hands, everyone trying to get behind someone else. The screams got loud as I pointed the gun toward them and pulled back the hammer. But if I pulled the trigger, I’d hit some of the ladies. Maybe I was a fucked-up maniac, but I would never physically abuse or hurt women, and I despised those who did. Just ask Eric.
I had only the six shells I got from Jeremy, and I had just loaded the fifth one. I calculated: I could shoot one more person, then I would use the sixth shell to blow my own head off. The single shot weapon was small enough for me to put the barrel under my chin and still pull the trigger. I decided to go back upstairs. Why? Logically, everyone on the first floor in their right minds would have vacated the premises long before. And everyone had, except the owner, James. He had gone up into the attic and gotten his .30-06 rifle.
Just as I reached the top of the stairs, James was coming around the corner with his gun at waist level. He was still fumbling with the bolt action, jamming it back and forth, up and down, trying to get a cartridge into the firing chamber.
I rushed him, grabbed his gun by the barrel, ripped it away from him with one hand, and threw it across the room. Adrenaline made me an action figure. Then I pointed my gun directly at his chest.
James dropped to his knees and begged me not to kill him. He started to cry. His abject cowering saved his life. Instead of shooting him then and there, I told him, “You’ve got three seconds before I shoot. One, two.” BOOM. I never got to three, I just pulled the trigger. The blast of pellets tore into his side and stomach.
All the shooting took place within two to three minutes. After the first shot, someone called the cops. The first responding officer was on bike patrol, and he was there within one minute. He later testified that he heard gunshots from within the house.
I looked out the window, saw the carnival of red and blue flashing lights, and thought, “No turning back now.” It was time to finish myself off.
I reached into my shirt pocket for the sixth shell. But it wasn’t there. I patted all of my pockets frantically. “I have one left. I know I do! Where the hell is it? I can’t find it!” I thought to myself. But it was gone.
My thoughts raced: Maybe the cops will shoot me. All I gotta do is run outside, waving my gun at them, shouting. I could still complete my suicide mission.
I must have run right past the two cops crouching on the porch, because the instant I stopped running and pointed my gun toward a cop car, I was tackled from behind. In seconds, there was a football pileup of cops on top of me.
Before I was stuffed into the cop car, I took my last breath of free air.
* * *
Read the rest of “Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary” by purchasing the ebook.
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