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The assailants dispersed, Stephen said, and he followed them down the street on "a recon mission." When he got back to Andrew's house, kids were crying because they'd been robbed. Daniel, his face completely swollen, was trying to call his foster mom for a ride. Stephen said he grabbed Daniel's cell phone and called the police. When they arrived, the roughly twenty kids who'd been robbed were standing in front of Andrew's house. Stephen said he was the only person who would cooperate with the police. Stephen then described the kid who'd whacked Daniel with the bat: baggy pants, a black sweatshirt, and a black hat with yellow stripes on it. "And he's at 7-Eleven right now," Stephen said. Sure enough, Stephen said, the cops found a matching suspect at 7-Eleven with his stolen loot.
Stephen went back to the party and called his mother, who drove everyone to the El Cerrito police station. There, Stephen said he saw Max with the boy who started the fight. The police called the paramedics, who took Daniel to the hospital while Stephen made his statement.
In an interview three months later, Max conceded that he'd witnessed the fight, but denied having participated.
"Who have you talked to?" he then demanded of this reporter.
"Uh, the kid who got hit with the bat."
"That kid needs to stop talking," Max said nervously. "Or he's gonna get jumped."
December 8, 2007, Derby and MLK, Berkeley
On a recent Saturday, Michelle's cell phone started ringing shortly after 8 p.m. By 8:15 p.m., three people had called to ask if she was planning to crash the party at Derby Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Michelle was babysitting and assumed she wouldn't get off until 11:30 p.m., at which point she figured the party would have been shut down already. Besides, she was wearing a big sweater and Uggs — definitely not party attire.
But she called me to see if I'd like to go check it out. I said okay, with some trepidation.
At first it was difficult to find the party since Michelle didn't have a definitive address. I rolled west down Derby Street and saw nothing, so I hung a right on Milvia, crossed MLK, and checked the other side. Then a car parked on Derby, and guys wearing baseball caps and sagging pants hopped out. They started heading west down Derby. I drove back down the street and parked about two blocks away on MLK. I thrust my purse under the backseat of the car and carried my cell phone.
Another group of kids was walking north toward the house where everyone was gathering: a brown-shingled duplex next to Lee's Market. It was a mixed-race crowd and everyone was dressed in the standard uniform. Girls wore skinny jeans and sparkly flats, while the guys had saggy pants, airbrushed T-shirts, and Ecko Steelo hoodies. Teens crowded the front steps. A couple stood in front talking on their cell phones. It wasn't clear if you had to know somebody to get in. The kids on the stoop glared at me.
I dialed Michelle again, trying to look like inconspicuous. As we discussed how to get me into the party, a wiry girl with two-toned hair walked up.
"Who are you calling?" the girl asked menacingly.
"Um, I'm calling a, uh, friend?" I stammered.
"It looks like you're calling the police," a chubby girl behind her interjected.
"Which friend?" the first girl asked. "Do I know her?"
"Um, Michelle," I replied. "I don't know."
The girl rolled her eyes coolly, as though cycling back through her mental Rolodex. "Michelle, Michelle, Michelle. I don't know a Michelle."
"Who are you talking to?" Michelle asked me over the phone.
"Um, what's your name?" I asked the first girl.
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