It’s April and that only means two things in the Rice house: my mom’s birthday and playoff basketball. While watching the Lakers play, I started thinking about my friend that recently got laid off. I hadn’t heard from him in a couple of days. I didn’t follow up on my thoughts and never called him. But at work one day, I got a phone call.
The sound was muffled. “Hello? Hello?” the voice on the phone said.
“Who is this?” I didn’t recognize the number, nor was it saved in my phone.
“It’s me, boy,” the voice said.
After I heard that, I knew exactly who it was, my friend that got laid off. I asked him what happened to his phone, because we both had Sidekicks and we usually AIMed each other.
“I’m using that phone downtown.” Damn, what happened? He didn’t go into his criminal charge or anything. He just told me he wouldn’t be looking at a long time. Only like 180 or something.
“Light-weight vacation” was the phrase he used to describe it.
A few days later, I called his father, whom I knew from the Thursday-night Bible studies we used to have at his house when we were kids.
“Hey, how you doing? It’s Victor, I’m calling to get the scoop on your son.”
He didn’t go into detail. But he did tell me that his son was sentenced to 120 because of a probation violation and would be serving it at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.
I couldn’t help but think my friend from Skyline Piru was a victim of this economic crisis. Or did he just go out and do some dumb shit? Either way, if he would have never been laid off, he would have been a lot more focused on staying out of trouble, instead of having idle hands. Is he a victim? Or is he just a thug? He might seem like a lowlife to others, but to a young San Diegan like me, he’s just trying to deal with the high price of housing and everyday life in the city.
My everyday life in Encanto changed on a sunny afternoon on May 2, 2007. After having a wonderful time fishing at the beach with friends and family the day before, I threw a fish fry at my house. The night was real cool. There were about 20 people, from my girlfriend of three years to my brother and his wife. Some high school friends, ladies, and some active gang members were among the other people who attended the function. The night was full of fish, hot sauce, booze, and bud. After most people left, a few friends stayed the night for a few more drinks and some conversation with the ladies.
The next morning my Skyline Piru buddy and a couple of other good friends came to the house and wanted to play some PlayStation. My nephew and his grandmother pulled up to the house with her fiancé named Meredith, who drove a burgundy Jaguar. He parked in the driveway and stayed in the Jag. A green-colored car pulled up and stopped in front of the house, and I asked my sister-in-law if she knew who it was. “Damn, Vic, I don’t” is what she told me.
Right as I looked back, two men approached both sides of the burgundy Jag, exchanged a few words with Meredith, and started shooting through the windows. I pulled my nephew to the floor and rolled with him behind the wall, because we were standing in the doorway when the shooting occurred. Everyone was stunned for a second; I don’t even think my sister-in-law moved away from the front door while they were shooting. The shots that were fired sounded similar to metal chairs being thrown.
Meredith died on the way to the hospital in that burgundy Jag driven by his fiancé. I didn’t really know the guy, but the next day, his son and a couple of his nephews came over and confronted me, thinking my friends and I had something to do with it. Eventually, they caught the shooters. I went to high school with one of them at Morse. The outcome of this tragic event led my parents to get a brick wall with two electric sliding gates and one buzz-in door for our house. This is how close this stuff can get real fast. These guys who shot Meredith followed him from the Hometown Buffet on University and waited for everybody else to get out the car at my house to execute him. Sounds like a hit to me, and the fact that one of the shooters lives near me and went to the same high school made me feel real vulnerable.
The years following the shooting were filled with interrogations by the detectives handling the case. I was bombarded with questions about stuff that I could not remember. The first encounter I had with the detectives was a surprising one because they chose to pop up at my house like I was some sort of suspect. I saw the two of them approaching the door dressed in black suits and dark glasses. I stepped outside because you never let the police in your house willingly. It’s sort of an unspoken rule. The conversation was about what I saw that day, and they also explained how they were able to apprehend the suspects. While we were in the middle of the interrogation, my father came to the door, and he wasn’t very happy.
“How are you doing, sir?” one of the detectives asked my dad.
“How did you get in my driveway?”
The detectives look at each other, bewildered, and said the gate was open, so they walked right in.
“It won’t be next time,” my dad said in disgust.
We finished the conversation, and they informed me that I would have to go to court and testify to what I saw that day. Immediately after they left, I phoned my brother and alerted him that the fuzz was on the way, so he wouldn’t be caught by surprise.