By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
You didn't just walk up to Jeremiah Simmons and start talking business. You had to go through someone he trusted--that's how he survived. So when one of his associates asked him to meet a white high school kid with money to spend, Simmons was willing but wary.
"He wants to talk to you about buying some guns," Randy Castelon told Simmons one spring day in 2000. "He wants five Berettas." Then Castelon added an odd warning: "He's a crazy white motherfucker, man."
Simmons just laughed. He'd been dealing cocaine, crack and marijuana since he was 15. Now 18, he'd avoided shakedowns by dope-desperate customers, stayed out of the penitentiary as his peers went down, even survived an armed robbery in which he was shot in the face, an attack that should have killed him.
Though just shy of 6 feet and 160 pounds, Simmons gave off a carefully cultivated aroma of tough that he could turn on and off at will, switching from his normal voice, soft-spoken and full of amusement, to a menace-inflected sneer in an instant. The act was strictly for effect, like the professional business cards he handed out listing his name and cell number. But it worked. His reputation as a dangerous man had protected him both from those he considered his own kind--the low-income blacks who populated his drug-infested neighborhood around Abrams and Fair Oaks streets--and the white and Hispanic users who peeled off a few hundreds for that night's recreation.
He took no chances, though. Simmons always carried a gun. And he wasn't afraid of no 17-year-old white boy.
A few nights later, Simmons knocked on the door of an apartment in Garland. Loud music blared from inside, and when the door swung open he saw 15 to 20 people in various stages of undress writhing around on the couch and chairs of the living room, touching and kissing and sucking on each other. Some of the teen-agers--friends of Castelon--were openly having sex.
"Damn," Simmons thought. "This is crazy."
He'd arrived in the middle of an Ecstasy party. It was the first time he'd ever been to a party with rich white kids--and the first time he'd ever been immersed in what looked to him like an old-fashioned "orgy." Though he'd hung around lots of dope fiends, the out-and-out decadence made him uneasy. In his culture, this sort of public sexual display showed a lack of self-respect.
Castelon--which isn't his real name--introduced Simmons to Doug Havard. Though one was Hispanic and one white, Castelon and Havard were alike in many ways. Both attended private schools; both had wealthy parents. They were the North Dallas version of the boys next door. Ignoring the funk around them, Simmons and Havard sat down at the kitchen table, with the veteran drug dealer sizing up his customer. Even though he stood 6-foot-4 and weighed over 200 pounds, Havard had the innocent baby-fat mug of a junior high kid and sported a typical preppy-boy haircut--brown hair parted on the side. Like Simmons, Havard wasn't under the influence of Ecstasy or any other drug. They were strictly business.
Simmons shoved a handgun across the table. He had the rest of Havard's merchandise--five 9-millimeter Beretta handguns, purchased through a local gunsmith--in a bag. Simmons had studied salesmanship books for ideas on how to encourage repeat customers. So he'd made Havard a deal: six guns for the price of five. At $200 a gun, Havard owed him $1,000. Though he'd later find out Havard was peddling the weapons to other prep-school students, Simmons didn't ask why he needed them. That violated the etiquette of the transaction. As protection against getting robbed, Simmons didn't include clips or ammunition; the buyer had to purchase that somewhere else. Havard agreed and handed over the cash.
They kicked it for a while, Havard boasting a bit about how he robbed another white kid of his drugs and money by simply walking up to his door with a gun. He didn't bother with a mask. He knew the guy would never report it to police; his parents would freak.
Simmons just smiled. He didn't believe it for a minute. Nobody--especially not this soft, spoiled rich kid--would do something that outrageous.
Then Havard made Simmons another business proposition. He had a customer base: private high school kids with money to burn. Simmons had the product. What if he moved some "X" for Simmons, as Castelon was doing?
He didn't let on, but until just a few months before, Simmons had been clueless about the drug. When Castelon, who sold powder cocaine for him, asked if he could get some of the popular club drug for his college clients, Simmons' reaction was, "What's Ecstasy?"
Simmons only had to pop one tablet to understand. It made you feel incredibly happy, not to mention horny. He found a Vietnamese supplier with connections across the ocean, and Castelon started helping him sell the stuff. Ecstasy and the world of white clubgoers were revelations to Simmons: A whole new realm had opened up, not just culturally, but also financially.
Simmons had always avoided methamphetamines and heroin because the clients were too volatile. He didn't like crack, either. Crackheads were likely either to turn on you or try to rob you. But his cocaine clients never gave him problems. They had jobs. Ecstasy expanded that trouble-free cash zone. When Simmons gave someone free Ecstasy, they always came back with money for more. He quickly built a whole new clientele, high school and college students willing to pay as much as $25 for a single pill that cost him $7. For one lot--5,000 pills--he could make a profit of $50,000 in a couple of weeks. Virtually no risk, and too much cash even to count.