Bad Blood

Too many shootings in the city have this in common: escalating anger over an old grudge soon leads to murder. But did a 2-year-old boy have to die?

In many respects, Mike Howard was a second son to Randolph Wysinger.

Howard wasn't blood — he's the son of Randolph Wysinger's common-law wife — but he was very much part of the family and he grew up in Randolph Wysinger's home, along with Dernae. Though Dernae and Howard weren't actual siblings, by all accounts they loved one another like brothers.

A tall character with a mess of unkempt hair and a despondent expression, Howard last month celebrated his 25th birthday while confined to a cell in the county jail, and will be spending many more birthdays behind bars.

Not long after Anderson was killed in 2003, somebody pointed a gun at Howard and began firing. The shooter missed, but ricocheting bullet shrapnel tagged Howard, the fragments burrowing into his leg.

Silence rules the streets. You do not snitch to the police. Even if someone has just tried to put you in a casket.

Because hospital staffers are required to call the police when shooting or stabbing victims show up at the emergency room, Howard chose not to head to San Francisco General, the city's major trauma center. Instead, he took a do-it-yourself approach, attempting to handle the wound himself.

"Fuck the hospital," Howard said. "I didn't go. I went and got me some drank and got some tweezers and tried to get [the bullet fragment] out. I never got it out."

After unsuccessfully trying to dig the metal out of his leg, Howard apparently decided to retaliate against Stevens and his crew.

Not surprisingly, Howard wouldn't tell SF Weekly who was trying to kill him — code of the streets, again — but in mid-October he pled guilty to fatally shooting Parish Williams, an 18-year-old who ran with Stevens.

The slaying, which occurred in early 2004 after a foot chase through Lakeview, made Williams the city's 12th homicide victim that year. Under the terms of the plea arrangement, Howard accepted a seven-year prison term, which is set to begin in the coming weeks.

Police and prosecutors theorize that the execution of Williams infuriated Stevens, prompting him to strike back at the other faction with overwhelming force. Stevens, the authorities claim, was seeking revenge on that night in October 2005 when he allegedly blasted Dernae, Naemon, and Ridout in Potrero Hill. (In court, Stevens has insisted he's innocent ever since he was first arraigned.)

Asked if he felt responsible for Dernae's and Naemon's death, Howard paused, drew several deep breaths, pointed his eyes toward the ceiling, and then slowly, quietly uttered the word "No."

However, Howard does think there may be a link between the murder he's jailed for and the murders of Dernae and Naemon. He says both he and Dernae figured prominently in 'hood gossip about the Williams killing — and some people thought Dernae was the assailant. "There was always rumors. Names kept popping up — 'He did it! He did it!'" Howard explained. "They had to get one of us [for revenge]."

A year later as he sits in jail, he's still haunted by the deaths of Dernae and Naemon. "[Jazmanika] sent me some pictures in a little yellow envelope. I had a picture of him and the little boy and I couldn't take it. I can't look at the pictures, you feel me? I can't take the pictures. I gave them to my lawyer," he said, pausing as tears collected in the corners of his eyes.

"That shit fucked me up," continued Howard. "I had to see a motherfucking psychiatrist. I was gonna slit my wrist. I'd switch places with Dernae. I'd switch places with his son. For my brother I'd do anything in this world."

When it comes to the subject of the murder of Williams, Howard is evasive, reluctant to take the blame for the slaying, or to confront the obvious parallels between the suffering he's experiencing and the suffering he's inflicted on others during the neighborhood civil war.

W figures the feud between the two factions has taken "eight to 10" lives. Each time one side lost a friend, they hit back at the other side. "I done lost a lot of homies," he said. R puts the number at 10, noting, "That's a lot for Lakeview, 'cause we a small community — it's only about five blocks long. ... As black people it seems we don't have nothing to fight any more, so we fight ourselves."


If there's anybody who's well acquainted with the horrors humans visit upon one another, it's Thomas McDonald, an investigator assigned to the nightshift at the medical examiner's office. McDonald is tasked with picking up the city's dead and transporting them to the morgue.

He got the call on the night of Oct. 14, 2005, rolling out to Potrero Hill in a white van equipped to carry cadavers. Even for a seasoned veteran the violence was overwhelming.

"It was indeed a very disturbing scene for us even though we have been present at literally hundreds of death scenes including many homicides, suicides, accidental deaths, and natural deaths," he said in a written statement. "It was very disconcerting documenting the scene, and, in particular, the gunshots through the baby's car seat.

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