Run and Gun: Jarvis Crittendon’s trek from basketball phenom to murder charge

I stand in the center of a busy strip mall parking lot just off Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, wiping the sweat from my brow. It is unseasonably hot for February, and my pulse is racing. How do you address a gang leader?

Soon a flashy, late-model car pulls up and he gets out slowly. He can’t be more than an inch taller than me, but his presence radiates across the parking lot. He wears designer jeans and a well-fitted gray polo shirt that struggles to contain his muscular shoulders.

He recognizes me by the notebook under my arm. We slap hands, then exchange tense small talk about mutual friends.

His phone vibrates in his hand, he glances down, then back up. “I know you got a story to write,” he says in a distinct L.A. drawl. “So tell me what you want to know.”

What I want to know is why Javaris Crittenton, the former first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, a quiet Bible-touting honor roll student and much-loved son of Atlanta, is now in jail facing charges of murdering a 22-year-old woman, attempting to murder two others, running huge quantities of drugs across state lines and being a member of the Mansfield Family Gangster Crips – the street gang that is the pulsating heart of this three-square-mile area.

I grew up not far from here, and in the past three weeks I had contacted old high school friends with loose connections to the Mansfield Crips to see if anyone would talk to me. Each response was similar.

“Stay away from this.”

“They know you’re asking questions.”

“Leave it alone.”

And I did, initially. I wasn’t naïve about gang culture. But then a couple days before our meeting, I got a text from T-Locc1, a Mansfield OG, who owed a friend a favor.

Now, T-Locc stands looking at me, awaiting my response, his lip partially curled. The sun fights through the lone cloud in the sky and I cup my hand over my eyes. Cars drive around us, curiously staring back as they pass. “I was hoping you could tell me something about …” — I pause, avoid his eyes and take a deep breath — “Tell me about Javaris.”

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