It was the biggest mass killing in the city's history. But that doesn't begin to tell the story of what happened that night in West Philadelphia.
"One day he came in here and he was high," his mother says. "Smoking blunts, smoking weed. And then he tried to tell me that he wasn't. I would notice little things. He was coming home late, and then I couldn't keep him off that corner--the deli near Lex Street."
Once, in an effort to rescue her son, Watson rode to the corner of 44th and Brown, forced him into her car and took him home. But she couldn't keep him from going back.
When he was caught with drugs in front of the deli last July, he was put on probation and given 60 hours of community service. But he didn't complete it.
Instead, he began sneaking out of the house, skipping school and hanging out with a crowd that included Hezekiah "Griz" Thomas, one of the men who would later be charged in connection with the Lex Street shootings.
"Guy would always say, 'My mans Griz,'" his mother remembers. "I would be like, 'Who are you talking about? I don't know nicknames like that.' And Guy said, 'Griz, Griz, Hez, you don't know Hez?'"
But more than hanging in the streets, Long loved to rap about them.
"Guy, he really rapped about a lot of real shit," says his friend, Randolph Henry. "When I heard him rap, his shit stood out. I was like, damn. You could hear the pain. He was real, you know what I mean? The realest person I heard that wasn't on a record with a deal."
In October, Guy Long and a friend stole his mother's car. She called the police and had them locked up. And then she put Guy out. He moved in with his older sister and got a job at Target.
When he lost the job, he returned to the streets.
For CJ Helton, whose dimpled smile dominates so many of his pictures, the trouble was minor, says Carlos Heath, a man who had been like a father to him since he was 12.
"These guys went and jacked some guy for his car," Heath says, "and he was just with them. The guy was actually trying to put the blame on CJ, and then they find out that he wasn't the one who did these things."
CJ Helton was on probation for the car theft when he got into a fight at school and was sent to the VisionQuest program for juvenile offenders. In May 1998, while he was there, he wrote this essay:
"... I got into a fight in school over someone threatening my life. I let my temper take control of my actions, and when the school security guard came to break up the fight, I snapped even more. As he was pulling me away from the other person, we made a mistake and fell down the steps. At the time I was in handcuffs and pushing back from his grip, and neither of us saw the steps and we just fell down two steps. Neither of us was hurt in the process. I was arrested, expelled from school, and the school security guard pressed charges. So I'm here for simple assault and assault."
When he came home, CJ Helton focused on his education and graduated from high school. He was the only one of 17 grandchildren on his mother's side of the family to graduate.
He contemplated joining the Navy, says Heath, his surrogate father. Then he got a job. But when he got hurt on the job, he turned to his friends in Mill Creek.
And trouble was waiting.
Trouble began in earnest last summer, when the drug-dealing hierarchy in Mill Creek began to shift. Dealers operated from the intersection of Parrish and Markoe--an open-air drug market framed by vacant lots and a burned-out Chinese restaurant. They also dealt from June and Brown, where the dealers congregated before the Lex Street shootings; 46th and Brown, near another Chinese takeout; and 44th and Brown, near the deli.
Police say Willie Davis, known in the neighborhood as Maynard, had previously operated as a sort of kingpin in Mill Creek. He had just come home from prison and told George Porter, a former pizza deliveryman who was trying to break into the neighborhood drug scene, to find another game.
Porter--whose friends say he planned to sell drugs until he could graduate from high school and join the Marines--ignored him and assembled his own crew. They were all from the immediate neighborhood, except for Jermel Lewis.
PW's Taste of Philly 2014
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