Poster-Boy Perp

How Lester Pearson Became a Permanent Suspect

The day Burgess died, Pearson says, he went with Lester to his parents' home, but they were turned away by the family, who said they wanted to be left alone. (Lester later showed up at the wake.) "Look, I'll tell you something," his father sighs. "I don't know what young people do and say. We—the parents—are the last ones to know. I can't say that he is innocent, and I can't say he did it. The trouble is, I don't know why he would want to kill his best friend." Pearson says his son began to feel like a hunted animal, confiding in him, "I can't take this again."

His father says that Lester shuttled back and forth to New York while spending most of his time "down South" working on a rap album. Then, on May 29, 1998, police in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, arrested Lester for criminal possession of stolen goods and carrying a concealed weapon (charges were dismissed). On August 3, 1998, an unspecified warrant was issued for Lester's arrest. A year later, cops in Greensboro, North Carolina, arrested him for felony possession of marijuana and maintaining a safe house to stash drugs. Both charges were dropped. Last month, in an unrelated charge, Greensboro police issued a warrant for his arrest for carrying a concealed weapon. (An officer in the department's criminal records division refused to give details.)

Lester's father remembers that the last time he spoke to his son was about a week before the shooting of Officer Ling. Lester, he says, was concerned about the pressure friends were exerting on him to sign a recording contract with rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs. "He said he was not going to sign over nothing to them," his father recalls. "He was going to California to open a record shop. I said, 'Be careful in California—they kill rap artists down there.' "

Reason to live: Lester Pearson Jr. and son Greg, five
photo: courtesy of the Pearson family
Reason to live: Lester Pearson Jr. and son Greg, five

Lester never made it to Cali'. Police charged that he shot one of their own, and COP-SHOT (Citizens Outraged at Police Being Shot) put a $10,000 bounty on his head. "The only thing I fear is Giuliani and few of these fools around me," the rapper wrote while on the lam. He wanted to give up, but had to wrestle with "depression and death . . . no tellin' what's next." Desperate, he chain-smoked, "never seen so much stress and cigarettes." On the morning of his surrender, he woke up asking himself, "Who shall I trust?" Then he decided, no more hiding. Today is the day. But for permanent suspects like Lester Pearson, "tomorrow ain't finished fuckin' with us."

Additional reporting: Danielle Douglas

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