I met Jervonnti in my role as a case manager while he was a student at William M. Raines High School and ever since even once I was no longer employed there we remained in contact. Years later while working in that same role at Westside High School I met Anthony Ray. Anthony’s last name Ray was prophetic he was a ray of sunshine. He appeared intimidating because of his hair (glob locks) but he was the sweetest, funniest kid. I took a liking to him. I always took a liking to the children others did not want to necessarily deal with due to pre-judgement. We had many talks and I understood him. I understand and empathize with Jervonnti as well. While law enforcement and those looking from the outside considered these children gang members (by statute), violent criminals and menaces to society. I see children in impoverished areas, food deserts, single parent homes, a city that lacks opportunities and safe spaces for children to be themselves. After reading this please note that the only viable solution offered to him has been prayer and the only safe space provided for him was prison! In my humble unsolicited opinion as a community we let these children down! It is each of our responsibility to ensure that the incidents you are about to read do not occur again. I remember going against district policy to transport Anthony Ray home after school or picking him up when he was late because of my fear of him being gunned down at the bus stop. Everyday to see children like him walk into a school building was a gift. Can you imagine fearing for your life once home never knowing when your last day alive might be yet STILL managing to have the will to want to come to school and learn. I beat myself up tremendously after his death thinking of the what ifs. Thinking of the answers and I still do not have them. My prayer is that whomever this article touches together we can find solutions……..P.S. NEVER GIVE UP HOPE!
December 28th 2013, I ran out of the club where I was hosting a teen party, to see chaos. People running, tires screeching, blood was everywhere. Two missed calls both from “Hi-Top” (Darrell Rutledge), I call back, no answer , call back, no answer. Where’s Top? Who’s blood is this? Running down the surrounding streets yelling “Top”. I here a noise in the distance. In the direction of an abandoned building. As I began to hear more clear. The noise was top screaming my name in the darkness, stumbling trying to keep balance. “Guttaaa, Gutaaa”! Another friend and I ran 50 yards and picked Top up and carried him to the middle of the street where the ambulance was arriving. This was the beginning of a nightmare…
December 31st, a few days later New Years Eve , only a few minutes after walking into my mama’s house. I hear bullets ringing through the house, Glass shattering. More bullets. More glass shattering. Running through the house to get to mama’s room to check on here. Tire’s screeching. Mama’s okay well not really, 50 shots were just shot in her house. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time. The next day, January 1st 2014, Top calls still recovering from his gun shot wound which broke his collar bone to check on me. “I’m good bro”. What a way to end a year. Hopefully 2014 will be better I thought. It wasn’t! Over the next few months things got worse. I tell my friends to stay out of sight as possible. No playing basketball at the park, no parties, no doing too much of anything. We were a young rap group being targeted. For a reason none of us could figure out until we realized it was “clout”, Beefing for a name and local fame. I lost my closest friends to clout chasers. One of my youngest friends “J5” (James Thomas) was on the stubborn side. But he was like a little brother to everyone so he was always around. Walking and riding his bicycle through the neighborhood which we stayed scolding him about because it wasn’t safe. He was the carefree type and had just turned fourteen. Some of the guys from the other rap groups had little brothers, cousins and nephews that attended Butler Middle School with J5. They’d get into fights and the fights escalated. One morning J5 knocked on my window. I came outside and said “Man why you ain’t in school?” I used to stay on him about not going to school. He said “Man it’s over with, I ain’t going no more. I got caught lacking walking to school” On his way to school, some guys pulled om the side of him and started shooting. He ran all the way back to the neighborhood. How could I change his mind about going to school after that?
Late one Wednesday night, I was waiting to go pick up my cut for promoting a local club every week. Usually, because of all of the shooting coming my way lately one of the promoters DJ Shab or the late DJ Sheldon would bring me my cut to me so I wouldn’t have to show up to the club which would be risky. J5, of course not going to school the next day, asked could he ride to the club with me. For some reason I told him no probably because I had plans with my girlfriend. I dropped J5 off to his mom’s house and headed to the Silver Fox Nightclub with two of my friends riding behind me in another car. We arrived to the fox around 2:00 a.m. just in time for the let out. Everybody was getting in their cars leaving. We waited a few minutes before we got out scoping the scene trying to see if we’d spot any trouble. We didn’t so we got out. Shab and Sheldon came out and greeted us, handed me my cut & a “Boosie Bad Azz” ride out mixtape they just released. We chatted for a few minutes before departing We thought we were alone but I later found out we weren’t. 3-4 guys were in an SUV near watching us the whole time. We pulled out, I stopped to put the Boosie CD in. My friends were far gone down the road and turned off. They were going back to the neighborhood, I was headed across town. While I’m riding down the road, I notice an SUV in my rearview. I think nothing of it. I continue driving. My phone rings it’s mama, I answer. “Are you home yet?” “No, I’m headed home now mama”. Ok, call me when you get in, Love you”, “Ok, love you too mama”. The phone hangs up. I look into the rearview mirror once again. The truck is still behind me, it switches over into the next lane and speeds up, I see hands come out the window along with rapid fire. Glass is shattering everywhere. I slam on brakes assuming that they would keep driving. They didn’t, they slammed on brakes and continued firing, for what seemed like hours. I see my whole life flashing. They pull off and I try and crank the car back up and it doesn’t start. I jumped out of the car, as soon as I looked down the street a police pulled up to the stop sign. This is no later than 1 minute after the shooting, my car is slanted in the middle of the street, me and the officer locked eyes and instead of him turning down the street to come help me, he turns the opposite way and continues about his night. (Ain’t that some shit) I see the SUV get on the expressway, so I hurry back to the car and that’s when I see blood everywhere. I’m hit. I start panicking. I’d never been shot before so I just go to thinking about how they say you don’t know where you’re hit at so you just die. I start to think I’m dying. I grab my phone and called everyone in my recent call log. I just got shot on Beaver Street right before the underpass come get me! I didn’t even call the ambulance. Within 5 minutes my best friend bends the corner doing about 100 mph. I jumped in the back seat and land on my arm. That’s when I found out I was hit in the arm. My dawg rushed me to the hospital. I was released from the hospital after about 2 hours. My family went back to the crime scene and the police tell them “We’re gonna get Lil Gutta, we know what he’s out here doing.”! WTF? I just got shot in a drive by and they’re talking about getting me! Not the suspects whoever they were but me, SMH. The next day, my phone rings , it was the shooters bragging about the night before. “You better be glad my 40 jammed, We’ll get you before the summer is over.” When the police released the car it was about a week later that I went to take a look at it. I could not believe what I was looking at. Bullet holes were everywhere. Windows were shattered, tires were flat, the engine was damaged. A bullet hole was in the passenger’s headrest; right where J5 would have been sitting if I had let him ride with me that night.
A couple weeks later, a few songs were arranged to be made by my entertainment group and another. We met at my mom’s house where I had my home studio. After hours of recording, and the sun had gone down, we wrapped up the session and schedule for another time. While walking out my mama’s house getting into their car, an unknown car was bending the corner with gunmen hanging out of the windows firing from pistols and assault rifles. Bullets ripping through the house, cars and flesh. Three of the artist were shot. Five minutes prior to the shooting, my mom and brother walked to the corner store. They heard the shots came running back. We put them in the car and rushed them to the hospital. Luckily, they all survived. In May of 2014, J5 was arrested and sent to the detention center. He called me and I told him that I was glad he was there because the streets weren’t safe. A couple weeks later, a lady from the center called was I James (J5) uncle and if I was able to come pick him up. I went to pick him up something that I now regret every day. I dropped him off in the neighborhood and told him to lay low. About 2 days later J5 was gunned down in a drive by while at the community center pool. I got the phone call and just felt empty. My lil brother can’t be gone is what I kept thinking while driving to the scene. The drive felt so long. When I got to the scene everybody was crying. It hadn’t hit me yet. My phone rang. “Yea nigga! How did you let ya lil dawg slip! We got his ass! You next!” I hung up the phone. At home, later that night, I went in the bathroom, so my girl wouldn’t see me and cried like a baby. He was only 14. I was hoping it was a dream and he survived like the first time he was shot in a drive by. It wasn’t a dream and he didn’t survive.
Devron “Big Baby” Crowden was full of life, there was never a dull moment when he was around. He was always “turnt”. I never seen him in a bad mood, he was always joking and laughing. December 10, 2014 Ms. Quita, Big Baby’s mama dropped him off to the bus stop. By the time she made a turn and got down the street, shots were fired. Gunmen ran up to the bus stop and gunned Big Baby down. He was on the way to school. He was 16 years old. He was the life of the neighborhood. I remember getting that call from my mama that morning. “Big baby just got shot on 13th and Canal. I jumped up and asked was he okay. When she hesitated to respond I already knew the answer. Seeing his family at the scene grieving still plays my head today so does the white sheet covering his 16 year old body. First J5, now Big Baby. It couldn’t get any closer. At least that’s what I thought.
By 2015, the streets got hotter. The police was harassing me more than ever. Alleging that I was a notorious gang leader. Blaming me for everything that was going on. Holding press conferences about us stating that we were threats to our community. I was repeatedly getting requests for interviews from numerous news stations. Cars were getting stopped by the gang unit after leaving my mama’s house being asked what their affiliation was to me. Anytime the police would see me they would record videos and take pictures. They were even at a back to school drive we had at the King’s Road Apartments. There were at least 50 patrolmen patrolling the area and at the event. They were taking pictures of us. It was ridiculous. They were treating us like “New Jack City”. An officer stopped and told me, “We’re gonna get ya, we know you’re selling drugs, we’re not dumb.” Crazy thing is, they were dumb lol. The drug money they assumed I was getting was actually came from promoting parties, special appearances and selling wholesale iphones bought off of ebay. Speaking of parties the gang unit tried their best to sabotage that source of income. I would spend hard earned money on booking venues, promotion, and even contracting police for safety and the gang unit would show up the day before the event and present pictures of me to the venue owners telling them that I was banned from hosting events in Jacksonville and risk losing their venue in proceeding to allow me to have an event there. They cancelled almost every time.
In October of 2015 I was wrapping up a video shoot and was bum rushed by police officers. I was at the hood of my car hooking up jumper cables to my car. They searched my car and found guns that I legally possessed. Two were in the car because I was in the process of moving that day. I was arrested and the booking reports were totally falsified. The guns were legal and properly stored in my car. In the report the officer stated that when they arrived he witnessed me retrieve the firearm from my waistband (which was illegal because I didn’t possess a concealed weapons license) and throw it into my car when I saw them. They confiscated the guns, my Macbook that I worked off of, a hard drive, an ipad, an iphone, a video camera, a toothbrush and more personal belongings that I can’t remember. I took approximately 7 months of me calling the property room almost daily to retrieve my equipment. My computer had hundreds of pre recorded tracks, videos, family photos and marketing ideas. I felt like giving up on music. I had lost more friends in the process of trying to get my belongings back so it felt like I had lost everything. During the process I had bonded out on a $100,000 bond. I’d just bonded out on a $50,000 bond on another bogus charge a few months prior so I was at rock bottom.
May 15th, 2015 Jaquon “Quon” Reeves, another one of my friends, was attending a candle light vigil for a teammate on his First Coast High School Football team that was just shot and killed at a prom after party a few days prior. While at the vigil, Quan was gunned down by unknown assailants. He was mourning at a candle light vigil when he was killed. A candle light vigil.
November 3rd, 2015, we were chilling in the neighborhood. Trayvon “Bando” Lundy, Anthony “Amp” Ray, “Von”, “High-Top” (who was shot in the beginning), and I. I remember having an outer body experience that was so vivid. I was telling myself “Y’all tripping, sitting out here in the open, y’all need to leave!” I ignored myself. Something that I regret everyday still to this day. I remember Bando telling us that he’d be back. He left where he went no one knows. 15 minutes later, I was talking to Top with my back to the street, while he was sitting on the ditch when I heard tires screeching and gun shots. The bullets were ripping through my flesh, knocking me over the ditch rails. For a moment everything went black. I was still hearing shots firing. When the darkness disappeared, what I saw was an event that will play in my head every day for the rest of my life. Von was at the top of the ditch crawling, screaming in agony, full of blood. Top yelling my name while in the ditch holding on to the wall to keep from drifting into the water, the water around him was now red. Amp was in the water face down floating. I see my brother who was at my mama’s house running towards the scene along with neighbors to help us. I was yelling “Get Amp!, Get Amp!” I managed to get up. I realized that I’d been shot in my neck. Blood pouring down my body. Still I ran over to Amp’s motionless body we hurried and pulled him out of the water. His eyes were closed when we rolled him over. I began to give him CPR over and over. Screaming for him to wake up with tears running down my face. He wasn’t waking up. I held him in my arms. He took one last breath and he was gone. It felt like a nightmare. When we got rushed to the hospital, Top, Von and I were next to each other. They were screaming in pain. I was in so much pain but I was numb to it. I couldn’t scream, Amp just died in my arms. He was gone. All I could think of was the times we shared, his loyalty and the fro he used to wear when he was younger. The dreams of making it out the hood that we used to talk about late nights. Then when I thought of his mama I broke down. The doctor told me I was supposed to be dead or paralyzed. I felt both dead and paralyzed. Then the detectives showed up. They scolded me for not answering their questions. When I told them I didn’t see anything (which I really didn’t), they told me I should have died with Amp and that I would be next. The doctors patched me up and in a few hours I was being placed in a police car and taken to interrogation for questioning.
|Rest in peace "Bando, Amp & Top"|
The next few months I kind of gave up on life. The only thing that put a smile on my face was my son that I’d had during the mix of all of this (April 4th, 2015) with my girlfriend of 7 years. With everything that was going on, I lost focus on our relationship, which eventually I lost also. It seemed like everyone I loved I was losing. I thought once again that it could not get any worse. I was wrong again.
|Darrell "Top" Rutledge|
On March 31st, 2016 we were waiting on midnight to celebrate Boss City Ent’s 5th anniversary. April 1st marked 5 years. Approaching midnight 3-4 gunmen ran up firing bullets at us. HiTop was shot multiple times. His last words were “Tell Jaydn I love her” His daughter and my son are all I feel like I have to live for.
|Jadyn (Top's daughter) and Jayce|
Two months later I was charged with carrying a concealed firearm, and was sentenced to 3 years in prisom. It’s now 1:38 a.m. , January 7th, 2019. I’m 12 days away from my release. While I’m happy to be going home, I have to realize that going home means leaving the peace of my cell and facing the reality of my life.
I asked Jervonnti a few questions to wrap up this article and if there was anything he wanted the world to know and his words to those who may be dealing with similar experiences. He told me he does not consider himself a “gang member” and he is not involved in a criminal organization. He wants to encourage kids to stay away from the streets by that he means to stay in school, be productive. He wants to teach young people the importance of remaining focused on their goals in life and avoiding negativity. He mentioned that he carries the guilt of failing his friends who loss their lives to gun violence. “I was looked upon as the one to open the doors to a better life for us. They put their faith into me to get us out the hood. They followed me and didn’t make it back. That’s something that tears me down everyday. I do believe a higher power has kept me through this because I have made it out of some situations that I shouldn’t have made it out of.”
If after reading this you wish to further the discussion on how we as a community we can provide solutions or simply have a discussion that speaks on the issues mentioned within this article please email firstname.lastname@example.org
|Jervonnti and I "1st Day Out"|