‘It had to stop there.’ Slain teen’s mom forgives suspects
COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Around 8 p.m. Aug. 21, 2014, three teen boys in a stolen car drove up to a house on Winston Road and asked for “Worm.”
“Worm” was the name by which they knew Terrance Jamal Streeter, who an hour earlier and one block away had robbed them of a Glock .40-caliber pistol the boys stole in a car break-in.
Pretending he would buy the gun, Streeter had reached into the car, snatched it from the front passenger’s lap, and shot at the teens to chase them off.
Humiliated, the boys vowed he would pay. When they came looking for him on Winston Road, the 15-year-old in the front passenger seat had a .25-caliber pistol. The 14-year-old in the seat behind him had a semi-automatic rifle with an extended clip of 38 rounds. Also in the car was a stolen .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun investigators believe the 16-year-old driver had.
When Streeter came over, the boy with the .25-caliber opened fire, but the boy in the back seat couldn’t work the rifle.
Streeter drew the .40 caliber and shot back.
As the driver sped off, a bullet went through the rear of the car and hit him in the head. The stolen Hyundai Sonata crossed Head Street and wrecked in a ditch, crashing into a tree, a fence and a fire hydrant.
Two boys got out and ran. Streeter fled, too.
Police called to a report of “shots fired” found the car engine running, the fire hydrant spewing water, and the rifle on the ground outside the passenger’s side door. Behind the wheel was a dead or dying teenager, slumped into the front passenger’s seat, his right arm still moving, the stolen .380 pistol two feet from his hand.
He later was identified as 16-year-old Christopher Jones, pronounced dead at 10:40 p.m.
Four years later, Jones’ homicide case has ended with three guilty pleas in Muscogee Superior Court, and no one’s going to prison.
And that is the way Jones’ mother wanted it.
Authorities decided that since the boys shot first, Streeter fired in self-defense, so he could not be charged with murder, under Georgia law.
But the boys could be: Their plot to shoot Streeter got Jones killed while they were committing aggravated assault, a felony. They were charged with felony murder.
They were Jaquan Jermaine “Droopy” Harris, 14, and Jamal Jaquell “Lil’ Boosy” Scott, 15.
Scott and Harris later returned to the scene with their parents, and told police they were just driving by a “party house” when someone started shooting at them.
A party house is a home being used like an unlicensed bar or drug den.
No one inside the house at 1055 Winston Road said they saw what happened. Either they weren’t there at the time, or they only heard gunfire, they told police.
Eventually two admitted seeing Streeter sitting on the front porch, before the shooting.
Also a man on Calvin Avenue, where Streeter snatched the gun, witnessed the robbery. It happened by an alley called the “The Cut,” from Calvin Avenue to Winston Road. The man told police he heard shouts and gunfire as a black car sped away.
Eventually detectives learned that in the revenge shooting on Winston Road, Scott was the front-seat shooter with the .25-caliber pistol, and Harris was in the back seat with the rifle. Besides felony murder, each was charged with aggravated assault, using a gun to commit a crime, being a minor with a handgun, and two counts of theft by receiving stolen property.
Streeter, then 18, initially was charged with armed robbery, using a firearm to commit a felony, and three counts of aggravated assault, for shooting at the kids when he stole the pistol.
Now 22, Streeter pleaded guilty Feb. 8 to robbery by snatching. The other charges were dropped. He was sentenced to 10 years’ probation with 60 months to serve. With credit for the time he already spent in jail, he was expected to serve no more.
On Feb. 26, Harris and Scott each pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, and their other charges were dropped. Judge Ron Mullins sentenced each to 10 years’ probation. Harris now is 18 years old. Scott is 19.
Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson, who represented Scott, said his client has two young children, and no previous felony record. Scott needs to be able to get a job to support his family, Jackson said.
Jackson and public defender Ray Lakes, who represented Harris, noted neither youth fired the shot that killed Jones.
Prosecutor George Lipscomb told Mullins that Jones’ mother wanted the plea agreement: She did not want her son’s death to ruin his friends’ lives.
Jones’ mother is Myisha Jones, 40, who sat in her living room Wednesday and tearfully explained her reasoning, as a 1-year-old granddaughter fought for her attention.
Each of her son’s friends had faced up to 20 years in prison for aggravated assault, and 30 for felony murder. She didn’t want that: Losing one child was heartbreaking. Losing two more would not compensate.
“I had to put my feelings and my anger aside to realize that my baby’s life was enough,” she said. “It had to stop there. That was enough, because putting them away for the rest of their lives; they’re not going to learn from that.”
She said she learned the value of forgiveness from her mother.
“She taught me and my sister how to forgive, and how not to hold anger and frustration and sadness,” she said. “In order for you to be able to move on, you have to be able to accept that, and forgive them — not just for them, but forgiving them for yourself, because at the end of the day, that’s going to be the biggest hurdle that you’re going to have to overcome. ...
“Even though I lost my child, their lives are still important. They have the opportunity to do great things, and that’s what I’m looking forward to, to see them prosper, and take this situation and turn it into something good. That’s what I want out of it.”
She didn’t want Streeter put away, either, she said:
“God will deal with him for me. If it was intentional, if it was out of hate, if it was out of malice, whatever his feelings were when he pulled the trigger and killed my baby, God is going to deal with him. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think it’s that easy for him, either.”
She misses her oldest son, but still has his 5-year-old brother to care for. Now she also helps care for her 22-year-old daughter’s child, a 1-year-old granddaughter.
She has not yet told the 5-year-old what happened. He knows only that his big brother is gone.
His big brother loved Columbus, she said. The family has lived elsewhere but always came back to where he was born.
“We’ve moved and been a couple of places, but his home and his heart was here. This is where he said he belonged, and this is where he wanted to be.”
She is from New Jersey, she said, and for a while they lived there, but she didn’t want to stay.
“It’s so different from here,” she said. “I didn’t want them to always have to feel like they had to be worried about something happening, or having to look behind their backs, because Jersey is rough. It’s rough, and it ain’t got no better. So I do thank God that I chose not to stay there and came back home.”
One reason she holds no ill will toward Harris is that he and her son were close, and Harris often was at her home. It was Harris’ family who told her that her son had been shot, and Harris’ aunt drove her to the scene, where they joined Harris and his mother.
“They were just as hurt as I was,” she said. “They brought him back down there to the scene, Jaquan, and the expression he had on his face, I’ll never forget that. ... All he was saying was, ‘God, please let him be OK.’ I think he was more hurt than I was.”
There at the crime scene, police collected the weapons, impounded the stolen car, and began to backtrack.
They found the 2010 Hyundai Sonata was stolen from a 53-year-old man in the 2700 block of Buena Vista Road, between 11 p.m. Aug. 20, 2014, and 1:30 a.m. the next day. It was worth $28,000.
The .40-caliber Glock pistol the suspects fought over was stolen around the same time as the car. It belonged to a 33-year-old Statesboro man who was here visiting his grandmother on Knight Drive. He said it was taken from his 2000 Cadillac DeVille between midnight and 6:30 a.m. Aug. 21, 2014.
The Bersa Firestorm .380-caliber semi-automatic found in the Sonata was stolen in a car burglary two years earlier, in the 6000 block of Trestlewood Drive. The owner said someone went into his unlocked 2003 Chevy Malibu and took the gun from the center console between 2:40 and 3 p.m. Oct. 23, 2012.
The pistol’s hammer was cocked when officers found it near Jones’ hand, they said.
Also at the crime scene, police found a Phoenix Arms .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol, a pair of Nike flip-flops, several .25- and .40-caliber shell casings, and three white cloth gloves in the car.
And that semi-automatic rifle on the ground outside, with one round in the chamber, and 37 in the clip.
In court the rifle was described as an AK-47. In fact it was a Romanian SKS 7.62 semi-automatic with a fold-out stock.
Lipscomb said authorities still don’t know where the boys got that gun.
Sitting outside Mullins’ court a few weeks after the boys pleaded guilty, the prosecutor tried to sum it all up.
He said Jones and Harris had been spending more time together after Harris wrecked his mother’s car, and slept at Jones’ house to dodge her anger. Myisha Jones confirmed that.
On that Thursday in August 2014, the boys went out, stole a car and a gun, and went down to the party houses around Winston and Calvin to show off their loot.
Showing off the Glock made the young teens targets for an easy robbery, so Streeter took advantage of them, and they decided they would show him they weren’t just kids he could bully, Lipscomb said.
As Myisha Jones looked back on her son’s death, she took comfort in the thought that when the shooting started, he tried to get his friends out of harm’s way:
“He was thinking about saving his friends instead of saving himself.”