Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, USA TODAY, AND CHICAGO TRIBUNE • A masterly work of literary journalism about a senseless murder, a relentless detective, and the great plague of homicide in America
NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Economist • The Globe and Mail • BookPage • Kirkus Reviews
On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a young man is shot and killed on a sidewalk minutes away from his home, one of the thousands of black Americans murdered that year. His assailant runs down the street, jumps into an SUV, and vanishes, hoping to join the scores of killers in American cities who are never arrested for their crimes.
But as soon as the case is assigned to Detective John Skaggs, the odds shift.
Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential, but mostly ignored, American murder—a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another—and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice for forgotten victims at all costs. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in our cities—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.
Praise for Ghettoside
“A serious and kaleidoscopic achievement . . . [Jill Leovy is] a crisp writer with a crisp mind and the ability to boil entire skies of information into hard journalistic rain.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Masterful . . . gritty reporting that matches the police work behind it.”—Los Angeles Times
“Moving and engrossing.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Penetrating and heartbreaking . . . Ghettoside points out how relatively little America has cared even as recently as the last decade about the value of young black men’s lives.”—USA Today
“Functions both as a snappy police procedural and—more significantly—as a searing indictment of legal neglect . . . Leovy’s powerful testimony demands respectful attention.”—The Boston Globe
“Gritty, heart-wrenching . . . Everyone needs to read this book.”—Michael Connelly
“Ghettoside is remarkable: a deep anatomy of lawlessness.”—Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal
“[Leovy writes] with grace and artistry, and controlled—but bone-deep—outrage in her new book. . . . The most important book about urban violence in a generation.”—The Washington Post
“Riveting . . . This timely book could not be more important.”—Associated Press
“Leovy’s relentless reporting has produced a book packed with valuable, hard-won insights—and it serves as a crucial, 366-page reminder that ‘black lives matter.’ ”—The New York Times Book Review
“A compelling analysis of the factors behind the epidemic of black-on-black homicide . . . an important book, which deserves a wide audience.”—Hari Kunzru, The Guardian
From the Hardcover edition.
Blocc Crip. Then Stirling said: “Friday, May 11.” Behind him, Wally Tennelle’s dress shoes began to tap the vinyl floor. Stirling picked up a paper bag and drew from it a faded black Houston Astros hat, a dry pinkish tint on it. He told the jury, incorrectly, that Wally Tennelle was the first officer on the scene. “The paramedics came, and”—Stirling paused for a long moment, took a sip of water—“he dies.” The prosecutor hadn’t told the jurors which of the somber, suit-clad detectives crowding
Tennelle pulled his eyes away with effort, then kept glancing back at the photo. Arielle Walker, as pretty and fluttery as ever, was a swirl of blond extensions and big swingy earrings on the witness stand. She declared that she had been dating Bryant for four and a half months. This absurdly meticulous timekeeping reminded everyone in the courtroom that these were just a bunch of teenagers, after all. Arielle pursed her lips and began to cry when Stirling showed her Bryant’s senior picture,
tree. And it was dated 5-10-07. Also on the receipt were the printed name D. Starks, a driver’s license number, and a signature. The jurors peered. Stirling pointed to the slip and forced Starks to admit that it was his driver’s license number and, grudgingly, that “it looks like my signature.” “Nothing further,” Stirling said, and sat down. After court adjourned, John Colello couldn’t contain himself. “That’s it!” he cried, rising from his seat and turning toward his fellow DAs in back. In
siding used, at the time of their visit, as a crack house. Baitx knew how poor Tennelle’s parents had been, how humble his roots, and how far the family had come. Tennelle should be able to live wherever he wanted, Baitx thought. For Tennelle, the choice was easy. The neighborhood was home; it was near where he grew up, where his mother still lived. He had bought a home he could afford when he was a young cop, and had what he called “a wild-ass dream: that my children only know one home.” Not
died. It was similar to the murder of Charles Williams, targeted for wearing the wrong athletic gear, and of Dovon Harris, targeted because he was with a group of other teenagers branded as enemy gang members by his assailant. It was no wonder the media covered so few of these cases. But this time it was one of their own. The sickening culpability afflicted even young detectives such as Corey Farell, Skaggs’s new partner in the Southwest Division. Farell had never met Tennelle and had only