Longform

The Girl Who Played Dead

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Hudson, who would frequently work a regular shift in homicide then get called in from home when the unit got overwhelmed, recalls the toll it took on his colleagues. "We'd get called out in the middle of the night, work all night, all day, and when we finally got to a point where we could stop, we went home, died for a few hours, and then we'd get called out again. It was just that way.

"Inside, in my psyche...I felt like, is there ever an end to it? Is it ever gonna be normal? Is this just building up for the worst? Is this the end of the world?"

Cleveland Street

By 1990, the area around Cleveland Street was controlled by rival groups of Brooklyn-based Jamaican drug dealers who had an almost mythical status in South Dallas. They dressed well, drove well, armed well; their pockets bulged with money, and their sophisticated ways and sensuous talk lured the neighborhood girls, making their own boys seem little more than scrubs. From the Silver Slipper, a nightclub on MLK Boulevard that always stayed krunk with a dancehall reggae beat and what seemed like nightly shootings, to the Caribbean liquor store nearby, where members of the Allen family--a notorious Jamaican drug ring--were known to hang out, to Elaine's Kitchen a few blocks west, where the boys would gather after hours in their gold-package BMWs and Benzes for aromatic plates of curry goat and stew beef, the Jamaican posses had the run of the 'hood.

It was easy for authorities to find their traps, Storey says. Undercover cops would wait outside Elaine's Kitchen and watch the posse members leave with stacks of take-out food for workers in the crack houses. Then it was simply a matter of follow-the-jerk-chicken. It was much tougher, however--and infinitely more dangerous--to put together a case against operators of a barricaded crack house.

Inside the traps, South Dallas kids cut and bagged rocks and ordered around the users--the butt side of the bottom rung in the hierarchy of the streets--like slaves. Their Jamaican lords would cruise by several times a day to deliver more dope and scoop up piles of cash.

And so it was that Kenneth Covington, a 19-year-old small-time dope dealer, was doing his shift in an upstairs apartment at 2727 Cleveland St. on May 31, 1990, smoking weed, drinking cheap beer and working with his two helpers, Daryl Oudems, 13, known on the street as Youngster, and Juniores Ray Mahan, a 15-year-old buddy of Oudems nicknamed "Red." Folks knew it as Kenny's place, but Oudems was actually the chief of the dope house, and the skinny boy was suited for the task. He knew South Dallas as well as anyone, having grown up in a tough area on Elihu Street near Fair Park, and he'd been in the game since he was 9, carrying a weapon, working as a lookout in crack motels. His taciturn manner was strictly business, just the way his Jamaican bosses wanted it. As usual, the men who came by to pick up the cash--Oudems knew them by their street names, Junior and Chris--melted away whenever things got hot, leaving children to deal with the consequences.

This was a new location, open about a week, and business was slow, so to pass the time Covington invited over 16-year-old Lizzie Williams, whom he'd seen earlier in the day. She brought along her cousin, a street-tough, smart-mouthed little gangbanger named LaTonya Williams. Unit 205 was one of only two occupied apartments in a clapped-out complex, supposedly run by the Allen drug ring, and few users made their way there that night. At about 1:40 a.m., when the most desperate dope fiends are trolling the streets, a pregnant woman and a younger man walked up the stairs. They fit the early-morning profile: willing to trade anything for $50 rocks, from a pair of snakeskin boots to an old Cadillac Seville parked outside. LaTonya Williams was sitting on a couch facing the front door with Lizzie and Red, watching Covington try on the boots, and she picked up something strange: The woman insisted on keeping the front door open a crack while she bargained. Even a dope house has rules, and Williams, streetwise beyond her 16 years, knew that users didn't tell folks how to run their business.

LaTonya was on edge, but she never had a chance to react. Just three minutes later, she'd testify, she heard the sounds of men clambering up the concrete stairs. A pack of Jamaican gangsters--five or six, with high-caliber weapons in hand--pushed aside the two dope fiends and shoved their way into the apartment.

"Everybody get the fuck on the ground!" one hollered.

Covington was grinning, chuckling at first. He thought it was a joke; he knew these guys, even called some of them by name. Oudems thought it was a game, too. When the Jamaicans pointed guns in their faces and started smacking Mahan upside the head with an Uzi, they realized there wasn't anything to laugh about. The kids hit the floor.

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Julie Lyons
Contact: Julie Lyons