Drug Deal Becomes a Fatal Fall
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 30, 1998; Page A1
Eighteen-year-old Tyrone Wallace woke up at noon on Nov. 22, 1994, at a girlfriend's apartment in Southeast Washington. He ate a breakfast of Corn Pops with her two sons and set out across town in his 1976 blue Cadillac to deal crack on 21st Street NE, his place of business for five years.
Tyrone had been regularly selling drugs since he was 12, and he unloaded his $240 supply of crack rocks in a few hours. Traffic was slow in the neighborhood known to police as "Little Vietnam" a half-mile square pocket of Northeast Washington ruled by warring street crews and armed drug dealers. With his business done and the winter day fading, Tyrone caught up with his kid brother, Russell, in one of their favorite haunts.
"The evening was chilly," Tyrone later recalled. "Me and Russell were on the second [floor] landing of 1108 21st St. NE, where we usually went when it was cold, smoking weed." The landing had a large window overlooking the building entrance and the walkway from 21st Street. The apartment where they had lived with their mother for five years stood to the right, a stone's throw away.
Carolyn Wallace, the boys' mother, had moved into the neighborhood in 1989, renting a one-bedroom apartment at 1104 21st St. NE in Carver Terrace, a low-slung, red brick complex that climbs a hill near Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. Originally built by a private developer in the 1940s to house the city's growing population of lower-income black families, Carver Terrace had fallen on hard times. The shabby warren now was in one of the city's most violent neighborhoods. Russell often gave their address as "21st and Vietnam."
At first, the Wallaces had only flirted with violence. The brothers carried pistols because guns symbolized manhood and power in the street culture of Little Vietnam; for drug dealers, they also were tools of deterrence and self-protection. Yet Tyrone disliked the neighborhood's frequent killings. He considered murder bad for business.
Russell, on the other hand, had become part of the mayhem. He used his gun to hold up drug dealers and participated in a long string of gang shootouts. In the previous 18 months, he had also killed two people Anthony "Ant" Davis and Johnathan "John John" Ray. So far, Russell had eluded arrest.
Around 9 p.m., as the brothers waited in their second-floor hideaway, an occasional customer of Tyrone's named Ronald Camp pulled up in a car with a woman and two other men. The driver double-parked. Camp, 39, got out of the car and sauntered up the walkway, evidently looking for the drug dealers who frequently loitered around 1108. Tyrone watched him approach before walking down to meet Camp on the first floor. Camp asked if he had "something for $100."
His own supply was depleted, so Tyrone went back upstairs and asked Russell if he had any crack. Russell was down to a pair of $10 rocks. As Camp began to climb the stairs, a thought occurred to Tyrone. As he later recounted: "This dude has more money than what we got. My little dumb mind said, 'I'm a gonna take it.'"
Tyrone didn't have his gun and he asked Russell for his .357 magnum. Russell hesitated. He was the robber in the family, not Tyrone, but when Tyrone insisted, Russell handed over the weapon.
Camp reached the landing and Tyrone pointed the pistol at his chest. "Give me the money!" he demanded.
"Naw, man. Naw," Camp stuttered. "This ain't my money. This ain't my money."
Through the window, Tyrone spotted an acquaintance approaching 1108. He yelled down, warning the man to stay outside. The moment of distraction gave Camp, who was slightly built and barely five feet tall, a chance to grab the weapon.
"Let go of the gun!" Tyrone shouted. Camp, in Tyrone's recollection of the night, shouted back, "No!"
"So my brother begins punching Camp in the face," Tyrone recalled. "Hits him in the face. Boom. Boom. He ain't even feel it. Boom. Boom. I guess [Camp] was already smoking or was drunk. You could smell liquor on his breath."
Russell kept socking Camp while Tyrone kicked at his shins and tried to wrestle the weapon away. The pistol abruptly discharged and a bullet passed between Russell's legs, ricocheting off a concrete step.
Tyrone weakened, his grip slipping. "Don't let that gun go!" Russell yelled. "He'll kill both of us."
The three pitched down eight steps, tumbling onto the ground floor. As Russell tried to land a knock-out punch, Tyrone and Camp struggled to their feet, each clutching the .357.
"Next thing I know," Tyrone recalled, "boom! The gun went off."
The bullet hit Camp's chest, knocking him down five more steps and through the lobby. He fell across the doorway.
Tyrone, who had been frightened, was now enraged. He fired three more rounds into Camp's head and neck. This dead man would never identify him, as he later said. Russell flattened out on the walkway outside to make any witnesses believe "we were getting shot at."
Tyrone scurried back to the second floor landing to retrieve a black-and-white Nike and his red headband, which had come off in the scuffle. The brothers left the building and climbed into Tyrone's Cadillac. The car Camp had arrived in was gone.
They drove across town to Southeast. Both Wallaces had girlfriends there, and Russell stashed the .357 in his girlfriend's apartment. Tyrone asked his girlfriend to help him change his appearance by weaving his short bush haircut into cornrows. He changed his clothes after noticing blood on his left shoe and trouser cuffs. As he had after Russell killed Anthony Davis in June 1993, Tyrone drove back to the crime scene. For reasons he couldn't explain, he felt irresistibly drawn to inspect the site.
Russell rode with him. They parked along the National Arboretum, the northern border of Little Vietnam, and walked half a block to 1108. A single police car stood on the street.
Camp's body was still sprawled across the threshold, uncovered, almost an hour after the shooting. Tyrone walked up to a policeman and asked what had happened. The brothers lingered a bit. Camp's body was still there when they left.
The loud shots from the .357 had been audible in at least a dozen apartments in and around 1108. Yet neither Russell nor Tyrone saw any doors cracked or faces peering out of windows. The residents of Little Vietnam were exhausted by the violence-without-end, fearful of coming forward to bear witness in yet another killing, fearful of becoming victims themselves.
After the Camp shooting, Russell and Tyrone continued to hang out on 21st Street, dealing loveboat and crack, just as they had after Russell committed his second murder two months earlier.
Playing 'The Game'
From the day in January 1989 that Tyrone, then 12, entered what he called "the game," he viewed drug dealing as a lucrative trade despite the tensions of dodging police and "stick-up boys." He had never held a regular job, but thanks to crack he now had plenty of money for cars and clothes.
As children, the Wallaces had been ridiculed for their unfashionable clothes, but drug profits allowed Tyrone to be a fastidious dresser. He owned a large wardrobe of Polo shirts, Nike sneakers, and Guess jeans that he routinely had dry-cleaned. He was tight with money and didn't believe in "spending it up" on marijuana and wine the way Russell did.
Tyrone had been arrested for drug dealing in 1990, not long after the family moved to Little Vietnam. Put on probation, he entered the seventh grade at Browne Junior High School. He was an indifferent student, tempted by the streets, and he failed to fulfill his parole terms.
In 1991, at 15, Tyrone was sent away to a juvenile group home in Pennsylvania. On his second weekend visit home, he refused to go back and was placed on escape status. He eluded police for a year.
That same year, Tyrone stole his first gun, a .22 caliber six-shot revolver with a wooden handle. He pilfered it after watching a drug dealer named "Lil' Man" hide the pistol in the grass.
Tyrone had lent the gun to Russell, convinced that his 14-year-old brother needed a weapon to defend himself. Russell promptly committed a series of robberies mostly against teenage drug dealers and began participating in occasional gang shootouts. By the time he turned 16 in 1992, Tyrone had been a crew "big boy" for more than two years, but the frequent shootings and random stickups in the neighborhood threatened his livelihood. Pipehead crack addicts began avoiding the 1100 block of 21st Street NE.
As business cooled, Tyrone's life became even more aimless. Little Vietnam by this time was an urban combat zone. Police would respond to one shooting and hear shots around the corner from another. Gunfire seemed incessant "night and day," said one officer who patrolled the neighborhood. Of at least 49 killings that occurred in the half-mile square between January 1990 and December 1995, detectives estimate that more than one-third remain unsolved.
One of those cases was the first killing Russell and Tyrone witnessed. They were party-hopping in August 1992, when gang members from Lincoln Heights east of the Anacostia River appeared at a house at 19th and M streets and challenged the boys inside. The go-go music stopped abruptly; girls ran for cover in the back rooms.
Like characters in a Western shootout, Russell and Tyrone jumped out a front window, pistols in hand. As the two gangs exchanged wild shots, the Wallaces retreated to the back of the house. There they saw someone with an Uzi submachine gun spraying bullets into the body of Russell's friend Damon Lassiter, who was 16. The brothers took cover until the shooter left.
An important influence on both Wallace boys in those days was James "Reds" Rauch, an established drug dealer three years older than Tyrone, who had helped initiate them into the 21st Street crime culture. Rauch also loomed large in the life of their sister, Renee. When Renee was 15 and Rauch 16, she "cracked" on him made a play for him. "I was attracted to him by his cars," she later recalled. "He had a four-door Jaguar sedan and a Nissan 300 ZX. Girls in the neighborhood told me he had a lot of money. And he was handsome."
When police tried to disrupt neighborhood drug trafficking, Renee said, she hid Rauch's gun and drugs in the Wallace apartment. Rauch often stood in front of her building, keeping an eye on the boys who sold drugs for him.
In early 1991, Renee realized she was pregnant but didn't feel ready to have Rauch's child. Carolyn Wallace opposed abortion and refused to let Renee live with Rauch, much to his irritation. When their son was born, in November 1991, he stopped speaking to Renee.
Carolyn baby-sat for her grandson so that Renee, then 17, could finish her senior year in high school. After graduation, Renee went on welfare for five years before eventually finding work as a beautician. Not since the early period of hiding Rauch's drugs and gun has she been involved in criminal activity. "I was blind, but I was in love. Renee said recently.
Rauch's estrangement from Renee did not extend to her brothers. Russell's first gun other than the one Tyrone lent him came from Rauch, a .25-caliber revolver. The same night he got the revolver, Russell, who was 14 at the time, stood transfixed near the playground on 21st Street as Rauch led an attack against a Ford Bronco full of rivals from Lincoln Heights. No one was killed in the shootout, but the intruders crashed the Bronco and ran away on foot. Russell said later he was too excited to fire a shot.
The body of Reds Rauch was found in a Prince George's County motel April 23, 1996. At 22, he had been shot dead in an apparent holdup for drugs and money. A witness identified two men as the killers but later recanted. No one has been prosecuted for the slaying. The Wallace brothers saw a photograph of Rauch in his coffin. His face was battered, his eyes hidden behind sunglasses.
They still speak of him with admiration. "Even if Reds was tortured," Russell said, "he wouldn't have told them where his money and his drugs was hidden."
Continued . . .
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