By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Around the time Dwayne found himself aimed at the future, his contacts with his candy-loving, dope-dealing cousin grew scarcer. The last time he saw Edwin, he'd come over to Dwayne's house to stash some Twix bars in the freezer. He'd just jumped a fence and stolen them from the back of a grocery store. "I put it in my freezer, he walked off, and that's the last time I seen him."
Edwin knows exactly what he was up to in those days. He was looking up to his big brother Herion Chase--known as Dinky, which he wasn't, in stature or boldness. Dinky, in fact, was brazen enough to run dope right from his mother's house. Edwin Debrow Sr. says Dinky showed his brother "a little gold and guns," and the boy liked what he saw. "Dinky was my role model," Edwin Debrow wrote in a letter. "I mean anytime you have brothers, you bond closely sometimes. And that's how it was with my brother and I. I just love my brother, and at that time I liked his lifestyle." More than once, the cops busted down the front door and ransacked the house. Life went on. "They tear it up, you fix it back up," Edwin recalls.
His mother couldn't seem to get her arms around the chaos. She'd lay a belt on Edwin, "but it didn't have no effect," he says. The older kids came and went as they pleased, flouting San Antonio's youth curfew, and at times Seletha ran drugs herself, Edwin admits today. "My mom got seven kids. My father wasn't there to help all the time, so she just couldn't keep a tight leash on it. Those were trying times."
He started carrying a gun at 8 or 9, started "Crippin'" like his brother soon afterward. By the time he was 12, he'd seen two murders close up. One time, a friend of his shot another man in the face. Edwin and his homies casually walked away. "I didn't run," he says. "We all left and went to Jack in the Box." Another time, he saw a man get killed in the parking lot of an East Side housing project. "I can honestly say, as far as the value of life, it was something that I didn't value," he says. The murders brought no reflection, no sorrow, no bad dreams. "It had no profound effect on me. Even though I knew it was wrong, I lived by the rules of the street."
All of his friends, he says, were older boys or young men--including a good-for-nothing ex-con named Floyd Hardeman, a sometime friend and distant relative of Edwin's mother who'd recently been paroled after serving time on a murder conviction. Hardeman spent his days and nights getting high and scrounging dope money, and he evidently saw an easy mark in the tiny neighborhood tough. "When I was 12," Edwin says, "my life had no purpose. I had no direction. I couldn't say then where I wanted to go or what I was trying to achieve. I was just out there for that time, that instant. You know, where the goodies are."
Edwin knew he was seeing and experiencing more than a boy ever should, but nothing made him want to stop. The nerve endings were dying.
I began to jack people for their money and one time I had to shoot a man because he refused to give me his money. I knew that if a person refused to give up the money then I would have to do what was necessary to get it even if it resulted in me taking another human beings life.
I remember one night me and my homeboys were riding around just looking for someone to jack and we seen this white man. He had just bought some dope and he had a lot of money. I told my two homies that I was gonna jack him. We got out of the car that we were riding in and approached him. My homie said that he was gonna do it so I gave him the gun which was a Tec 22. The man reached in the back of his truck and picked up a crow bar. My homie began backing up. I got mad and grabbed the gun. The man started to walk up these steps that led to this house. I told him not to move anymore and if he did I was gonna shoot him. He took one more step so I shot him in the back and he fell and crawled into the house so I ran in there after him to finish him off because he had seen my face. When I got inside the doorway to the house I seen around 8 to 10 little black kids so I immediately took off running. I didn't know if he died or not. I never heard anything about that.
I was now leading a dangerous life and my life took an unexpected turn.