By: M.L. Stein
G. M. “MIKE” Bush, the gangs reporter for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram, recently got about as close to his subject as is possible to get.
A troubled 20-year-old man came to the newspaper office and confessed to Bush that nearly three years ago he shot and killed an innocent youth as his initiation into the Rolling 20s gang.
The suspect, Danifu Stallworth, first encountered photo editor Hal Wells, who was taking a cigarette break outside the paper in downtown Long Beach.
When he said he wanted to confess to a murder, Wells led him upstairs to the newsroom, where he was introduced to Bush.
“He was very confused and seemed to have psychological problems,” Bush recalled. “He rambled a lot while talking about law, crime and sin.”
Stallworth, Bush reported, said he became disillusioned with gang life after watching gang members back down when a policeman dared them to fight.
Bush wrote in his story about Stallworth: “He decided to confess after he realized that all people ? including gang members ? are cowards. It is time, he said . . . to end his stay on earth, this place he calls hell and where he feels unwanted, unloved and unnecessary.”
Bush walked Stallworth to the police station seven blocks away. There, homicide detectives determined that he had detailed knowledge of the killing, indicating that he was present at the scene, if not the actual gunman.
According to Stallworth’s confession, he shot the wrong person. He said he was supposed to have killed a member of the Roaring 20s’ main rival, the Insane Crips Gang, but mistakenly shot 15-year-old Desmond Mason, a non-gang member who died the next day.
Detective Ron Pavek told Bush that Stallworth’s statement matched information in the crime report: “Who, why, what, where and when. He had enough of them to let us know he was there.”
Long Beach police also are looking for a second suspect.
Stallworth was booked without bail on suspicion of murder and also arraigned on a non-related drug charge.
For a follow story, Bush interviewed Desmond Mason’s mother and several of the boy’s friends.
The mother, Patricia Mason, said she learned about her son’s fate when a neighbor told her to pick up the morning newspaper.
“I’ve always wondered who did it,” she said to Bush. “Every other weekend I go to Desmond’s grave and ask myself the same question, ‘Why?’ She said she hoped the youth’s death will teach children to stay away from gangs and drugs.
Bush recounted that before he accompanied Stallworth to the police station, the alleged slayer removed his sneakers and asked the newsman to give them to a cousin because he alone had “given a damn about me.”
Bush said the experience left him feeling sad.
“I felt sorry for the victim and Stallworth,” he said.