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Street Brawl: "This is where my son's blood spilled" (Part 1)

Clinton West caressed the concrete.

"This is where my son's blood spilled," he said. "Just because I don't see it don't mean I don't feel it, and it don't feel right."

Tears trailed down the Chicago resident's face as he chastised God.

"You gave me a gift," he hollered. "Why did I have to lose my precious gift? Why?"

Big brawl
On Monday, Dubuque police say 24-year-old Jermaris West, of Dubuque, was stabbed to death.

At 11:09 a.m., police responded to a disturbance call at the intersection of 16th and Washington streets. Fourteen minutes later, officers were dispatched to another disturbance involving "several subjects" in the 1600 block of Washington Street. 

They discovered Jermaris West, who later died at Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque. They found three other men also stabbed. Two were treated and released at area hospitals, while the last victim refused medical attention. Police have not yet disclosed their identities.

Officers later arrested two men in connection with the fight. Jerel L. Wright, 18, of Dubuque, was charged with attempted murder, and Joseph L. Wright, 20, of Chicago, was charged with assault while displaying a dangerous weapon. Both were incarcerated in the Dubuque County Jail.
But little else is known about the fight that covered three city blocks and involved as many as 20 people, according to witness accounts. 

'Dubuque's getting rough'
"I'll tell you what I know about this whole thing," Shirlee Bolds said. "It's downright scary is what it is."

The former Milwaukee resident offered nothing but disgust for her new hometown of Dubuque.

"I moved away from the city to get away from all this crap. I didn't want my kids to be another statistic, but what else are they supposed to be here now?" she said. "Dubuque's getting rough. I think it's turning into a little Chicago, like they're bringing the street rep here."

She cited the most recent stabbing death in Dubuque, on Aug. 15.

Dubuque resident Michael L. Mayton, 40, is accused of stabbing and killing 38-year-old David O. Tate. He also is accused of stabbing 23-year-old Richard A. Schramm Jr., who survived.

Mayton has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, attempted murder, willful injury and going armed with intent.

"This just wasn't what I wanted to move to," Bolds said. "I wanted to bring my kids to a safe place, a place where they didn't need no guns."

'Get my knife'
By noon, everybody in the neighborhood knew something had happened.

Police cars patrolled the area. Both marked and unmarked cars circled the streets, and sometimes as many as three emergency vehicles could be seen in the span of one minute.

Tension filled the air, and nobody seemed to want to step inside for fear they would miss the action.

A pale green-sided house on Washington Street was the hub of attention. It was here Jermaris was confronted by a group of six or so attackers, witnesses said.

"I saw six or seven ... guys running down the street, and they were screaming that they were going to beat somebody's (expletive)," said one woman who asked to remain anonymous because of her role in the police investigation. "I was just sitting in my backyard reading, and I saw them hightailing it, chasing one guy. Then I heard some guy yell, 'Get my knife.'"

Brent and Mary Leick said they know what happened next. According to the couple, Jermaris was stabbed in the back and in the chest when he collapsed on the lawn of Mary's mother's house at 396 16th St. Mary said her mother, Rosemary Howell, saw Jermaris fall and seize before she called 911.

"She's 74 years old, my father just died a few months ago, and she's all alone," Mary Leick said. "She doesn't need to see that. Her own son was murdered years and years ago, and it just isn't fair for her to experience this."

Hours later, Mary Leick stood in her mother's backyard, offering words of comfort to Jermaris' mother, Lorease Williams.

'Not a trouble-maker' 
At 8 p.m., about 100 people gathered at the scene to hang signs, light candles, place stuffed animals and pray.

Williams stood in front, sobbing as she talked about her youngest son.

"He was a nice, young, kind man," she said. "He always had a smile on his face."

Williams traveled from her home in Rockford, Ill., to spend Labor Day with Jermaris and his fiancee. She said Jermaris told her he was stopping over at a friend's. The next time she saw him, paramedics were placing him on a stretcher.

"He died doing what he's always done -- keeping the peace," she said.

Williams said Jermaris broke up a fight on Sunday night between his cousin and another man. She said the men who attacked Jermaris were still angry about the earlier incident. Police did not confirm the motive.

"My child was not a trouble-maker," she said. "He was not involved in drugs or gangs. He was a good child who liked to keep the peace, and he got killed in the process."

'Babies should be safe'
Mourners recited the Lord's Prayer as Jermaris' father, Clinton, ran his hands over the spot where his son died.

"I don't get it. I just don't get it. Lord, help me get it," he wailed.

Clinton West said he sobbed for more than just his own son.

"I'm crying because we've lost peace," he said. "And it's all wrong. Our children should be safe. They should be safe on the streets of Chicago, and they should be safe here on the streets of -- where are we? What is this small town? Yes, our babies should be safe on the streets of Dubuque, too."