A Family Mourns: Will There Be Justice For Jaquille Tidwell-Johns?

Jaquille was the family member all the younger kids flocked to…

On the Friday night of November 11th, Jaquille Tidwell-Johns and a friend were inside a vacant house on West Kettelle Street in Peoria, Illinois. Willie Mason, 61, the homeowner, saw someone in the house and investigated. Mason originally said he did so alone but eye witnesses say differently and as many as four people have been placed at the scene. Jaquille and his friend (who told investigators who was actually present) ran out of the house after being confronted by Mason. The friend got away but Jaquille was allegedly beaten by Mason (and others according to Jaquille’s friend), suffered a skull fracture and other injuries. He was on life support until November 17th…the 16 year old died that day of a massive brain hemorrhage following emergency surgery.  He fought as much as he could…evidenced by his heart beating 22 minutes after being taken off the ventilator.

This is the hardest interview I’ve ever had to transcribe. Steve Johns is Jaquille’s Father and I applaud him for keeping it together in spots I found myself becoming emotional as a Father of my own children. I cannot imagine what he and Jaquille’s family are going through.

A grand jury convenes Tuesday, and shortly after, the family will have a better sense of how this case will be prosecuted. The State Attorney’s office number is posted below. Please call and ask Jerry Brady to do whatever should be done to ensure Jaquille Tidwell-Johns receives the justice he deserves. Please share this on social networks as well. Thank you.

Another son is gone…

This is his Father’s account…

Michael Tillery: Has the newspaper reporting been accurate?

Steve Johns: It’s been slow. Slow. It’s really not been accurate. It didn’t come out that there was more people at the place then they said it was.

MT: See that’s what I was getting. Mason originally said he went to see who was in the house alone but then changed his story after police spoke to witnesses and also your son’s friend. What is your opinion of what happened?

SJ: What I think happened was…the grandson of the Mason guy was around. People have been going in that vacant house. Kids have been going in and out of it. I guess my son and his two friends were there. The people came over. The kids tried to run out. They caught them on the alley on the side. They caught my son. Dragged him back and beat him. The problem with the case is the officers who got there took it as the kids tried to beat up a man (Mason) because they were in a vacant house. They said the guy pushed my son down and that’s what happened. I don’t even think (the police) asked anybody there any questions. That is a big concern of mine. They didn’t even follow up or come to the hospital. The detective came to the hospital and went back down (to the scene) but by that time they (who the family thinks committed the crime) probably got up what they had to get up (evidence)…the pole or whatever (weapon used). Another big concern is why the police didn’t treat this as a regular crime. They treated it as an accident and didn’t get both sides to see what was going on. You just don’t say that’s it.

MT: Is there anyone in law enforcement doing what is necessary to get this case solved?

SJ: The detective Felicia Bonds. She got on the ball and her investigation was reason Mason changed his story.

MT: I know this is painful but can you talk about what kind of kid your son was?

SJ: He was a good kid. He was really like the family’s big uncle. He was my son and my daughter’s big brother. When the kids would come over they would always be around Jaquille. He would cook and make them burgers…stuff like that. Turning 16, he was at a period of a little bit of rebellion but he still was a respectful good kid.

MT: What did he like to do?

SJ: He played basketball a lot. He played football. He liked to listen to his rap. He was real good to my nieces and nephews…stuff like that. That was basically his 16 year old life.

MT: So this was a thing of a lot of the neighborhood kids went into this vacant house. It wasn’t just Jaquille and his friends.

SJ: No it was a lot of the kids going in there.

There is a 911 tape. I don’t know what’s on it. I don’t want to hear it. I hear Jaquille is asking them to let him go and leave him alone. I don’t know if I can listen to it.

MT: What else would you like to say sir?

SJ: Even if it’s not a slam dunk case. I want the prosecutor to prosecute. We don’t want this to be swept under the rug. Whatever you have…you have testimony. You have the man saying he put his hands on Jaquille…so you do have something. You have the 911 tape…you have these things. I want him to be prosecuted. I know he’s not going to give up his son and daughter that were there. I want something done about them too.

MT: How many people are witnesses saying were at the scene?

SJ: There were three or four. Mason, his son, daughter and someone else. That’s what I hear. The son ran back to Atlanta. They are so callous that the guy and his brother opened a club here…that night.

I know it’s early, but I just don’t want them to not prosecute because they say they don’t have the necessary information to go forth with the case. There are a lot of unsolved murders in Peoria in the last five years. That’s more of an area situation…where we live. Something happens and they don’t really push it.

MT: Are there many murders in Peoria?

SJ: No not really. There was 18 one year. It’s not a big city. Out of the last 20 murders maybe two have been prosecuted.

MT: That’s not good at all. Obviously if they say this was an accident it let’s the city off the hook. What is the official charge?

SJ: One count felony obstruction of justice. They haven’t charged Mason with anything else in the wake of Jacquille passing (A charge of aggravated battery with great bodily harm was added Thursday).

MT: Jaquille was on life support for a week?

SJ: Yes from November 11th to November 17th. The first four days he was in and out of consciousness. He was talking some days. We had to hold him down because he wanted to get out of there. Then after a couple of days he passed. They said he passed and called everyone up to the room. After 45 minutes, one of the kids was messing with him…kinda saying goodbye…touched his eye and he moved.

The nurse came over and did an eye scrape and nothing happened but he moved his arm. They rushed him to surgery and put him on the ventilator but Jaquille had a massive brain hemorrhage and that’s when he passed.

These people (Mason and his family) live 1 block down and 3 blocks over from us. That’s a bad situation for his Mother.

I hope that people pressure the State Attorney’s office into action despite the case not being open and shut. We have a page,  Justice for Jaquille, set up to bring attention to the case.

MT: How are you holding up sir?

SJ: I’m doing ok. I’m at work and it just bangs in my head. It’s hard…he’s my son. I’m not gonna see him. 16…in a vacant house that the kids ran away from. You want the law…

This is something you want to get done the right way. We want people to do the right thing. We don’t want anyone to do anything that would tarnish Jaquille’s memory.

We had an interview in his room. We wanted to show that Jaquille is a person…so people can look in his room and see the stuff that he did. This is the just the south of Peoria. He was a person. We want him to be treated as a person. We hope that out of town pressure shines more light on the case. When I told the state attorney this was being talked about in St. Louis he said “Oh really?” That meant something. It showed him it’s not just something in Peroria. I’ve been emailing people all over.

MT: I”m asking people on behalf of the family to call Jerry Brady in the State Attorney office at 309-672-6900 and ask him to act on this case so it won’t become yet another Peoria unsolved murder.

Mr. Johns, do you have any representation?

SJ: We don’t have any representation as of yet. We’re trying to see if anything is handled here by the law. I will go to Internal Affairs about the beginning of the case.

It’s the job of the police to protect children. He was 120 pounds. This guy (Mason) is 6’4″ 250? His son is the same height and about the same weight?

MT: What do you think was the cause of the injury?

SJ: Some object. I don’t know what it is. A bat…a pipe. There were more injuries on the side of his body. He was hit with something at the top of his ribs and the bottom of his ribs. He was hit on his shoulder blade. Scratches on the back of his arms…he was being dragged. His shoes were off and in another part of the yard.

Why were his shoes so far away? That was a big concern. This wasn’t an accident. There should be more charges. I just hope there is. The grand jury goes Tuesday.

At the memorial I had people come up and speak. People are saying if this would have been a white man beating Jaquille…the NAACP would have been here. We would have been marching. We got so scared of our own that people are just moving along.

We have to stop doing that.

We are letting the people of the streets dictate our morality.

How we should act…so in certain situations we don’t say anything. That’s something we gotta stop.

31 Responses to “A Family Mourns: Will There Be Justice For Jaquille Tidwell-Johns?”

  1. Melzie says:

    What a vicious and cruel crime.

  2. sharterrica says:

    I love you lil bro R.I.P gone but never forgotton#soSAD

  3. Tanisha says:

    To many times we see our young black male cases go as a cold case and just forgotten. Please help support my family and help get justice for cousin

  4. Shampalet Williams says:

    Missing you so much Quilly… Love you!! I will not let this case die!!!

  5. Naj says:

    Thank you to everybody keep on pushing let them know that human rights are more important than property rights

  6. Toya Coleman says:

    Justice needs to be served for the family of Jaquille… Please call Jerry Brady!!! RIP Quilly gone but never will be forgotten!!!

  7. Miranda says:

    This is so horrible. Lord, when will it ever end?

  8. Lonnie Riley says:

    I am glad You are continuing to shine light on this- so often tragic stories like this one is in the media for a couple days and everyone forgets that Justice was not served- Someone lost a son-a brother-a friend and student etc- He was a really good kid and deserves to know these people will be punished!

  9. Ron Glover says:

    My condolences and heartfelt sympathy to Jaquille’s family and friends. I’m thankful that this site could be one of the many voices that will cry out for justice for this special young man. May God Bless and keep Jaquille and his family.

  10. Kenneth Benefield says:

    I’m so proud of you little brother.

    I admired the way you held it together for the sake of your wife and kids.

    I’m specially proud of the way you stopped so many kids from taking matters into their own hands because they felt it was the only way to get justice in your area of Peoria.

    Stay strong

  11. dammion and qua says:

    Miss and love u Quilly…justice will be served for you.

  12. Alexes says:

    To all jaquiells fam n friends im so sorry for your loss, he sounds like a great kid. I hope and pray for nothing more then justice to be served!!!!
    god bless

  13. Andrea Bower says:

    R.I.P Cousin you will not be forgotten.

  14. CAvard says:

    This is journalism at its best. This is why I come to The Starting Five.

  15. Rose Tillman says:

    From a grandma’s point of view, Quilly I miss you. I would love to see your smile again. Rest my love as we will never give up fighting for Justice for you. I’m so proud of you Steve my son, as you have conducted yourself well. Only you and I know how hard our vigil was those 1st days & nights.

  16. Faith Milton says:

    Steve, aunt faye just want you to know we love you and are keeping you lifted up in prayer, weeping endures for a night joy comes in the morning. We are praying for a peace of mind and that Quilly rest in PEACE!

  17. Jean Pickett-Michael says:

    My Sister Rose Maria and Nephew Steve,

    I am sorry to here about my great nephew, and I know justice will be done. Steve keep fighting the courts and keep your head up. Only God knows why and we never quesstion God’s doing, only man. To my sister Rose, you are in our prayers and thoughts and we love you. Let not your heart be toubled: Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansion; If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. Nephew Steve, stay strong and I love you.

    Love you guys, Sister/Auntie Jean Jenkins Pickett-Michael

  18. Corinne Crabtree says:

    To Unlce Steve, G-ma Rose, and Neicy:

    I am so saddened to hear this story. Trust and believe that everything with respect to the law will work out exactly as it should – sometimes the process is s-l-o-w; the problem is that our pain is immediate when we lose our loved ones and we need somebody to pay NOW and I understand that. Reading this story, I feel that too. Just know that you all are doing the right things here, you are staying on top of law enforcement, you are putting the word out to the public and when people join together, it becomes impossible for our voices to be dismissed. I am sending my love and light to you all, now and always.

  19. Tanisha says:

    I just wanted to let everyone know that the number for the States Attorney office is (309)672-6900 sorry .

  20. […] A Family Mourns: Will There Be Justice For Jaquille Tidwell-Johns? | Link […]

  21. That’s my bad Tanisha. Thanks.

  22. Tanisha says:

    That’s ok.I just wanted to thank you for writing this for my family

  23. you’re welcome. Just doing my job.

  24. Meisha says:

    May your precious soul Rest In Peace! Your missed! And may the man or men who did this get what’s coming for them. God don’t like UGLY!

  25. robin bryant says:

    R.i.p sweetie it was a joy having you as a student at Tyng Nd Manual you put up a great fight and for that we will fight for you something must be dne about this i dnt understand ho they give a drug dealer life in prison but a man thtkilla child dt getany somethi mustbe dne

  26. Brandon vernon says:

    My hopes and pray goes to you! Hope they get to the bottom of this so my cousin can rest in peace!

  27. Nicole Holmes says:

    This is a sickening tragic situation. An innocent life lost to a senseless unneccessary crime. To make the situation worse, the justice system is falling apart right before our eyes. Sadly, the law enforcement is dismal and does the bare minimum at best. I hope the state attorney will do what is right under the law and for the family. Jaquille your spirit lives on and you are in the presence of God. I hope and pray that the ones left on earth do better in every way in honor of your life.

  28. Just got word from the family that Mason is being charged with 2nd degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, mob action and obstruction of justice. Court date is Thursday at 1:30 pm.

  29. steve says:

    thanks everybody for your comments please keep up the good job on the state attorney office

  30. Jahkira Williams says:

    I will always remember you JAQUILLE…..i will never forget the good times we spent in class together….MY HEART GOES OUT TO YOU…. Class of 2014…i love you Jaquille

  31. Debra Jordan says:

    I just became aware of this after searching for some with the same first name and this popped up. I know it’s been 4 years and I hope justice was done for JaQuille. This man deserved some type of punishment and his accomplices as well. I believe in the power of prayer and God is going to do what he said he would do. Mr. Mason will get his just due!!!