Family points to gang crossfire in death of St. Paul teen

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 27, 2008 - 11:20 AM

Jaques Dortch, 18, was found dead after the car she was in was shot at on the East Side. The driver of the car was wounded. Police have not commented on motive.

Jaques Dortch

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Jaques Dortch was an innocent victim caught in the middle of gang warfare when she was shot and killed Saturday night on the East Side of St. Paul, her mother said.

"She was really bright, really happy," her mother, Jah'ne Dortch, said from her front yard in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood. "She was always trying to help me around the house."

Icy rain fell on Jah'ne Dortch as a dozen white roses scattered in the grass and street memorialized her 18-year-old daughter, a senior at a St. Paul schools Area Learning Program.

According to St. Paul police, Jaques Dortch and James Jones Fields, 24, were in a car when they were shot about 9:35 p.m. at the corner of 6th and Forest Streets. The man drove to the M&H gas station a few blocks away at Arcade Street and Minnehaha Avenue.

"This guy pulls up frantic," said M&H employee Alan Lorge, who was working Saturday night. "He says, 'I need help.' He said his brother was in the back seat not moving."

Lorge said there was a second man in the car. Jah'ne Dortch believes that man and Fields were the intended targets. Police spokesman Peter Panos wouldn't confirm or deny the second man's presence or comment on who was targeted. Authorities have not publicly discussed a possible motive or indicated if it was gang-related.

There were no arrests by Sunday evening.

Lorge said a few police officers who'd stopped at the gas station for coffee ran out to help the driver, who left behind bloody footprints from a gunshot wound to his hip. Dortch was dead in the front passenger seat, and a young man was unresponsive in the back, Lorge said. Both passenger-side windows were shattered. Within seconds, about 10 squad cars and an ambulance converged on the parking lot.

Dortch was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver was hospitalized and is expected to fully recover, Panos said.

"It makes no sense," said Jaques Dortch's cousin, Jason Jefferson, who broke his right hand punching a door after his cousin's death. "I just told her yesterday ... stop getting in the car with people."

Jaques Dortch met Fields at Dayton's Bluff Recreation Center, where she recently began volunteering in hopes of a gaining a full-time job, her mother said. She volunteered at the center because she loved children, said friends and family members, and helped with a Halloween event there just hours before she was killed.

"Jaques was a beautiful young girl," said neighbor Lorraine Payne. "She had a heart of gold. She was caring."

Jaques Dortch stopped by Payne's house almost every day to do her five daughters' hair or watch movies. The youngest called her "mom," Payne said.

Fields also worked at the recreational center, Jah'ne Dortch said. He lived a few houses down from where Jaques Dortch lived with her mother, stepfather, seven brothers and four sisters. But family members said they only knew of Fields and didn't approve of her riding in his car.

The shooting occurred outside of his duplex. A woman who said she was his girlfriend was moving out Sunday afternoon. She asked not to be identified because she feared for her safety, and said her boyfriend's 21-year-old brother was in the car. The brother is physically fine, she said, adding that her boyfriend is in stable condition.

Meanwhile, volunteers with Dayton's Bluff Vacant Building Committee showcased eight homes to prospective buyers, including a $149,900 duplex next to where Dortch was killed.

"It's certainly a very tragic event," said Realtor and committee volunteer Matt Mazanec. "I will certainly say it's a rare occurrence around here."

Jah'ne Dortch said she and her family worry about the domino effect her daughter's death may have on everyone's safety. She thought about the people who have inflicted violence on Jaques and their neighborhood and quietly said, "Stop it. It's not worth it. Just stop it."

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call St. Paul police at 651-291-1111 or Crime Stoppers, 1-800-222-8477.

Chao Xiong • 612-673-4391

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