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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
reason he didn’t want me to go up, he told me later he didn’t want me to be involved because he felt that we were powerless against the gangs.” Another youth in the neighborhood who had heard about the dispute approached Joseph with a small, semiautomatic pistol, which he loaded and test fired.
Joseph bought the weapon and carried it to school, thinking he was most likely to be jumped by members of the Blackstone Rangers as he walked through their territory on the way to or from school. He wasn’t likely to go to the police for help. His mother later explained, “young boys in that area, the police and them were at odds. So it wasn’t like he felt he could go to the police for help.” Joseph reported being chased by members of the gang on the way to school, but the shooting occurred later as he arrived in a hallway at the top of a stairwell inside the school.
Joseph was walking with a girl who testified on his behalf. When they arrived at the top of the stairs, Delondyn Lawson was standing with Duwaun Glover in an area of the hallway that the Blackstones commonly occupied. Duwaun crossed in front of Joseph, and he remembered him saying something like, “Hey, man, what’s up with my money?” Another unidentified youth reportedly said, “Man, we didn’t come here to talk. Let’s do what we gone do so I can put this (guy’s) head up in his locker.” Joseph continued “and then I began to get hit, and I fell. And when I fell, I didn’t fall flat; I kind of braced myself with my hands.” The cluster around him included Delondyn, Duwaun and other Blackstone gang members. Attorney Habib asked, “Did you think you could run away at this point?” and Joseph answered that “I had no way of getting out. I tried, but I … couldn’t.”
The ensuing shooting by Joseph White can possibly be explained by the male posturing that is prevalent in both youth and gang culture. In their research from an earlier era in Chicago, Short and Strodtbeck (1965) noted that “gang rivalries were often focused on turf, men defending ‘theirs’ against the encroachment of another man. Such incursions are a sign of ‘disrepect’ which leads to men needing to display toughness. Fights were often a matter of chance combined with a tough guy image” (p. 87). Duwaun Glover testified that when he asked Joseph where the missing Blackstone money was, Joseph replied, “I ain’t giving your money back, pussy.” Joseph’s refusing to give the money back and signaling disrespect for Duwaun by calling him a derogatory name (“pussy”) probably played a role in provoking the skirmish that escalated into Joseph pulling his gun and shooting into the cluster of students around him.
A considerable amount of time was taken in connected testimony to establish whether the shots that Joseph fired came “defensively” from the ground or more “aggressively” from a standing position. In his own words: