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.
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.