By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Havard seemed to be doing his best imitation of a Sopranos character; the white kid's gangsta fantasy was in full flower now. But Simmons knew the difference between talking a dangerous game and staying alive. He preferred to negotiate his way out of such problems.
Havard somehow persuaded him that they had no alternative, Simmons says. Or maybe he thought it was time to thug out or lose respect himself.
Shortly afterward, Simmons says, Havard picked him up, and they drove to a McDonald's in Richardson, where a white teen-ager Simmons didn't know pulled up in a black Mercedes and climbed into the car. He'd invested money with Havard on the drug deal and wanted it back.
From a black bag in the backseat, Havard pulled out two handguns and handed them to Simmons. For himself, Havard grabbed a 9 mm Beretta--the kind he'd bought when he first met Simmons--and another for his friend in the backseat. The two white teen-agers pulled on bulletproof vests marked FBI. "These guys are serious," thought Simmons, who says he'd left his own gun at home.
An account of what happened next can be pieced together from court testimony and interviews with Simmons. About 9:30 a.m., after loading the guns, the three men drove to Peewee's condo. Havard's friend broke a front window, reached in and unlocked the door. Havard motioned Simmons to lead, and the three entered.
Simmons was about to commit the dumbest move of his criminal career. It was daylight, and they weren't even wearing masks. He was in the lead, though the other two were wearing the body armor. They inched their way upstairs, Havard whispering orders to Simmons. Simmons opened a door and saw a man in bed with covers pulled over his head. As the three piled into the room, Simmons said, "Rise and shine."
"Please don't kill me!" Peewee pleaded. Grabbing an assault rifle in the corner, Simmons made him turn over, then put the pillow over his face. "I'm not gonna kill you," Simmons said. "I just want my money."
Peewee told them to check his pants. Simmons found no money. Feeling he was being played, Simmons flashed hot. He slugged Peewee in the head with the butt of a gun, hitting him four or five times before Havard grabbed his arm.
"We can't get our money if you kill him," Havard said calmly. He ordered Simmons from the room. "Go get the duct tape in my car," Havard said. "We're going to torture him until he gives us the money."
Torture? Was this a Quentin Tarantino movie? At Havard's order, Simmons grabbed the rifle and several other guns from another room, stuffed them in a duffel bag and walked outside. As he popped the trunk of Havard's car, he glanced to the left and saw a Richardson police car parked down the block.
Simmons put the guns in the trunk, slid into the front seat and leaned it back as far as it would go. In the backseat, he saw more guns, clips and a silencer in plain view. Another police car cruised by. Heart pounding, Simmons turned the ignition and slowly drove away.
"I'm not Superman," Simmons says today. "I'm not going to run up and save them." In his rear-view mirror, he saw the policemen get out, weapons drawn, and approach the condo. Peewee's half-brother, locked in another bedroom, had heard the angry voices and called police. In moments, Havard and his friend were arrested and charged with aggravated robbery.
At home, Simmons gathered up all the guns--14 in all--and sold or gave them away. Simmons visited Castelon. "Just make sure your boys don't rat me out," Simmons told him, peeling off a few hundred dollars.
The next day, Havard called. His friend was talking, he said, but he didn't know Simmons' name.
"I won't tell them nothing," Havard promised. "Don't worry."
Later that day, Havard pulled up to Simmons' apartment in a Mercedes. "It's good to see you," Simmons said, eyeing Havard warily. "How'd you get out so fast?"
"I made bond," Havard said. Trying to draw Simmons into a discussion of what went wrong, Havard seemed entirely too cool. Simmons was sure he was wearing a wire, so he said little.
Havard asked Simmons what had happened to his car, the one Simmons drove away. Simmons explained that he'd parked it on Forest Lane. "I'm going to check," Havard said. "If it ain't there, I'll be back."
Mutual suspicion had set in. Simmons, in fact, had parked the car behind his apartment complex. After Havard left, he cleaned it thoroughly, took it to a used car lot, busted the back window and left it there.
Simmons never heard from Havard again. But about two weeks later, as he was leaving home to meet with a counselor at Richland College, Simmons heard a cop yell, "Freeze!"
While Simmons ate bologna sandwiches in Collin County jail, unable to make bail, Havard continued his life in the drive-through fast lane. Few at Winston School even heard about the aggravated robbery charge. In May 2001, Havard graduated with honors as salutatorian of Winston School. He'd slimmed down, "handsomed" up and seemed on top of the world.