By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
It was almost a quarter past eight on the evening of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday when a police siren from an unmarked black car with a flashing red light clamped to the roof on the driver's side buzzed a 1999 Chevy Tahoe cruising along Dean Street in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn.
Such stops by undercover cops are routine in "the Ville," a mostly poor black community that has been a flashpoint in Mayor Rudy Giuliani's vaunted war on crime. Such stops by warring drug dons who pose as fake undercover cops to rob rivals, or by "MC Jackers" who specialize in ripping off rappers, often erupt in gunfire.
That evening two weeks ago, rapper Russell Jones, 29, known as Big Baby Jesus, or less benignly as Ol' Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan, felt he had reasons to be paranoid after two white men with guns drawn and wearing bulletproof vests approached his moss-colored jeep.
According to Frederick Cuffie, Dirty's 37-year-old cousin, who is also known as Sixty-Second Assassin from the rap group Sons of Man, Dirty feared the men might be "legit Five-Os" harassing him, or hit men sent by the same gangstas who shot him during an invasion of his Brownsville apartment last summer, or the vindictive "player hater" who shot him in the stomach four years ago after an "ill" argument over rap music.
"He's been telling friends that somebody is trying to kill him," Sixty insisted in his first interview since that night. After gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur died from wounds inflicted during a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996, Dirty changed his name to Osirus and began warning friends and relatives that he was next on an FBI hit list of un-American raptivists. "He's been telling me that the CIA and the FBI wants to get him for some reason," Sixty adds. The New York Postreported last week that Wu-Tang Clan is the target of a federal gunrunning probe. The newspaper quotes sources as saying that at least two members of the chart-topping rap group are involved in a gun ring linking the small town of Steubenville, Ohio, to Staten Island. The probe was sparked by two killings involving friends of the rappers. Both of the guns used were traced to Steubenville, where one of the band members, Robert Diggs, has family. Federal authorities refused to confirm the report. (A lawyer for Wu-Tang denies its members are involved in gun trafficking.)
Sixty also was concerned about his own criminal background and history with the NYPD. Three years ago, he says he was wrongfully accused of shooting at cops after a performance at a nightclub in Bedford Stuyvesant. He plea-bargained to assault. Last year he was caught driving without a license. "Lately, I have been getting a lot of charges from police who are picking me up for no reason," Sixty complains.
Now two white men, who appeared to be cops, were tailing Sixty and his infamous cousin. Sixty had two bags of marijuana on him and there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest on unspecified charges. "I was scared they was gon' get me for that." Sixty's and Dirty's fears, as well as aggressive community policing, may have contributed to the explosive events that unfolded on January 15 like the gut-crunching madness in a Master P. gangsta flick.
A Criminal Court complaint against Dirty identifies Street Crimes Unit Police Officer Christopher Roche as one of the cops who sidled up to the sports-utility vehicle. Sixty says one officer "had his gun pointed dead at my head" while another menaced Dirty.
"I'll never forget that white-boy face," Sixty says. "He has white hair and he looks like a cracker. He look prejudice. He looks like a redneck. He look like he was hungry to shoot somebody."
"Get outta the car!" he says the cop demanded.
But Dirty rolled down his window, opened the door, and shouted, "Yo, man, it's me, man. It's me! It's Ol' Dirty!"
"If you don't get out of the car, we're gonna blow your damn head off!" one of the cops allegedly shouted. Dirty, Sixty recalls, felt that the cop "was gonna hit him with the gun" and he wanted to drive off.
"Dirty, don't do it!" Sixty pleaded. "They gon' really think we up to something!"
"He comin'!" an antsy Dirty yelled. "I'm getting ready to go! I'm goin', man!" Dirty slammed the door and rolled up his window.
"Wait! Wait!," the cop shouted. "Where are you going? Stop!" Dirty sped off. Sixty says he was trying to persuade Dirty to pull over when the cops opened fire on them.
"Man, put your feet on the pedal and push down!" he urged Dirty. "Go! I believe you now, nigga!"
"Now you believe me, nigga?" Dirty said irately. "I told you they is tryin' to kill me!"
As the Tahoe skidded and swerved along Atlantic Avenue, Sixty began to reflect on Dirty's troubles with cops. NYPD officers have arrested Jones seven times since 1987, and he's been arrested four times in less than a year around the country. Last November, he was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill his girlfriend. He's also been accused of trying to steal sneakers from a shop in Virginia and threatening people in a West Hollywood, California, bar. Maybe Dirty's allegation of an FBI and CIA murder plot isn't real after all.