Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Fight is On

Rattler swung at Jon but missed. Taunted by the others, he charged Jon— swearing, swinging, and fuming, backing Jon closer to the kids he felt he must protect with his life. Jon snatched the kid's wrist in midswing, spun him around, their feet accidentally getting tangled, and Rattler hit the hardwood floor face first. The kid howled and cursed in pain—teeth loose and blood droplets spewing. Jon knew it must have looked—and felt—like an intentional, vindictive takedown. John thought God help me as he scrambled quickly to his feet.

The other seven thugs were nearly on him when a loud, heavy rap on the gym's main doors stopped them in their tracks. Two LAPD officers entered with their nightsticks in hand to break up the fight. His assistant had seen the gang come in and called 9-1-1. Two of them were arrested for packing semiautomatic handguns without permits. The others had no weapons on them and were released at the scene.

Later that night, nineteen-year-old Eugene "Rattler" Hackett paced the dark driveway of the run-down house where he lived with his uncle. Sober now, he had been seething for a couple of hours over being bloodied and humiliated in front of his gang. Eugene vowed to find the guy in the gym, the basketball coach who had taken him down. His buddies had told him to let it go, but Eugene wasn't about to let this one go. A man had to take a stand, earn his stripes in front of his brothers. He looked down and admired his gleaming equalizer: a military issue .45 automatic. He aimed the large gun at a battered trash can. "Hey, coach," he said adding bitter curses. Then he mimicked firing a lethal burst from the .45 into the can. "You're a dead man."

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