A shocking tale of a mistaken-identity multiple murder and its aftermath.
Retired NFL All-Pro cornerback Alexander’s life story would be compelling on its own merits, without the disturbing tragedy at the center of this memoir. In 1984, as crack and gangs were overwhelming South Central Los Angeles, gunmen invaded the home of Alexander’s mother, killing her, Alexander’s sister, and two boys. Beyond his own anguish, the author notes how the crime’s “extreme nature shocked even the calloused inhabitants of South Central.” Although Alexander contemplated a vigilante hunt for the perpetrators, the investigation soon pinpointed several members of the Rolling Sixties gang, one of whom passed a note to a co-defendant following their arrest that was practically a confession. With three gangsters convicted and two sentenced to death, Alexander was left to brood on the case’s unanswered questions; supposedly, the killers were hired to attack the plaintiff in a lawsuit stemming from a bar brawl, yet they went to the wrong house. “Every detail had to align, fall just so, to produce this tragedy,” writes the author. While co-authors Gerould and Snipes (Criminal Justice/San Francisco State Univ.) bring an authoritative voice to the story’s legal and investigative aspects, Alexander lends gravity to his tale of personal tragedy by looking for broader narratives. He dramatizes his family history, noting that his parents’ generation fled Jim Crow for a middle-class life in LA, a promise eroded by segregation and crime. While castigating South Central’s gang culture for its nihilistic violence, he also notes its historical roots in racist “street terrorism, in addition to the governmental tactic of restrictive housing covenants.” Despite his anger, Alexander shows remarkable empathy by investigating the killers’ forsaken childhoods and lives in prison. Finally, observing, “I had gone from professional athlete to professional victim,” the author concludes by discussing his adoption of five Haitian orphans, a difficult ordeal with a more positive outcome.
A bleak but thoughtful look at the curse of urban violence, both its causalities and its long-term effects.