But more than anything, Trequan liked being around people, easily making friends, making everybody laugh.
The police officer stationed at Roosevelt, Dennis Milner, saw his promise.
At first Trequan, wary of police, averted his eyes and said nothing when Milner greeted him at the school entrance every day. After months passed, Trequan looked up, smiled widely and replied, “I can’t keep ignoring you, because you’re always so nice to me.”
“He had a natural leadership ability about him; his smile was very infectious,” said Milner. “He just had something about him that drew people to him.”
Their new south Minneapolis neighborhood was no Englewood, but Trequan the Invincible once made a crack about gunfire.
“If I get shot, I’ll eat the bullets,” he told his mom.
“Boy, you know a bullet would kill you.”
Choosing a weapon
Malcolm Maghundi Jackson also grew up in a rough Chicago neighborhood, where gunfire and gangs were common. Some of his cousins were Vice Lords and Black P. Stones, and their rivals would ask him on the street, “Are you affiliated?”
The Gangster Disciples dominated his route to an after-school program called Wicked Truth, which shows Chicago teens how to produce video projects that explore community issues. Some of the Disciples tried to fight him. He learned to box, but decided it wasn’t enough.
“After a while,” he said in an interview, “you get sick and tired of people coming at you, jumping you.”
When he was in eighth grade, Malcolm met a gun dealer inside an abandoned north Chicago duplex. Diapers and dishes littered the floor, and the air reeked of urine. To find this place, Malcolm just asked around the neighborhood — there were guys who knew guys who knew guys, and none of those guys cared that he was only 14.
The dealer lined up the selection on a coffee table, among them a “deuce deuce” revolver, a .380 Beretta, a Glock 19. Malcolm’s eyes went to the .357 Magnum. He liked the idea of a revolver — it didn’t jam and didn’t drop casings that police could find later. He handed over $300, which also bought six rounds.
Malcolm didn’t yet know how difficult a .357 is to fire, how heavy. How the trigger takes deliberate effort to press, and then, once the finger pulls back the right amount, how quick it is to fire, how vehemently it kicks, how loudly it booms. He had never shot a gun.
A year and a half later, halfway through his sophomore year in high school, Malcolm moved into a two-bedroom south Minneapolis apartment to be with his mother and three brothers.
He left the revolver and a white sock holding the six bullets with a friend in Chicago. He thought he wouldn’t need them anymore.
They might have been buddies.
Same age. Both from tough parts of Chicago. Moved as teenagers to the same south Minneapolis neighborhood. Liked sports.
But they went to rival schools and ran in different circles, and their first meeting last May was a confrontation.
Malcolm was walking near Trequan and Dre’Quan down Lake Street after school. Though everyone acknowledges that there had been a recent brawl between kids from their two high schools, Dre’Quan and Malcolm offered diverging accounts of what happened next.
According to Dre’Quan, Malcolm turned around and taunted them, saying that the Roosevelt kids had gotten whupped.
Malcolm referred to Dre’Quan as “son.”
“I’m not your child,” Dre’Quan replied.
Malcolm threw the first punch. Dre’Quan punched back, telling his siblings not to jump in.
When Malcolm’s friend tried to step in, Trequan hit him.
Malcolm, for his part, recalled walking with his friend in front of the brothers. He overheard Dre’Quan loudly ask his crew if these were the same guys involved in the Roosevelt-South brawl. Malcolm stepped toward Dre’Quan, but only to walk past him and join his girlfriend, who was farther down the sidewalk. Dre’Quan misinterpreted that as him stepping up for a fight, and threw down his backpack.
Malcolm punched, Dre’Quan hit back, and they went down to the ground tussling. The brief fight sent Malcolm to the hospital that evening for stitches on his finger.
Over the next few days, a girl Dre’Quan knew from South High passed along rumors that Malcolm was saying he would kill him.
That’s just what people said after getting beat up, Dre’Quan thought.
“Stop fighting because they’re taking it to another level,” Trequan’s mother warned both her sons. “Next time somebody tries to fight you, walk away.”
Trequan’s family turned its attention to something much more important: his mother’s upcoming wedding to her boyfriend of four years.
They traveled on the Megabus to Chicago for the May 26 ceremony at First Timothy Missionary Baptist Church. Trequan was ecstatic to see his mother and her boyfriend finally exchange vows. Trequan wore a red vest to match his mother’s dress as he gave her away, smiling widely as he walked her down the aisle.
Days earlier, Malcolm had also taken the Megabus to Chicago. He was visiting family. He had something else on his mind, a fear that the fistfight on the sidewalk would escalate, that he needed something to protect his life. Malcolm paid a visit to his friend and asked for his gun back. He tucked the revolver in his bag.
Back in Minneapolis, he stashed the gun under the bed. He hid the sock holding six rounds in a vent.
On June 1, Malcolm decided he would confront Dre’Quan. That morning, he put the revolver in his backpack on the way to school. Hiding his hands in the bag, he inserted two rounds into the chamber.
Showdown in an alley