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Street brawl: "Dear God, help this man" (Part 3)



Rosemary Howell clutched the dying man's hand.
He blinked his eyes at her as he lay motionless between her garbage bins. Blood from a stab wound stained her sidewalk.
"OK, you hang in here. Help is on the way," Howell said.
The 74-year-old woman turned away and called to her grandson, Adam, who hid behind the door.
She didn't want the 28-year-old autistic man to be frightened again. Just months before, Howell's husband died at home after a long illness.
"Remember how you prayed for Papa?" she asked. "You pray to God and say, please, dear God, help this man if you possibly can ... you say that until I get back in the house."


Violent incidents
On Monday, police responded to two violent incidents within minutes of each other in Dubuque's downtown -- the first at 11:09 a.m. near 16th and White streets, the second at 11:23 a.m.
At the scene of the second incident, in the 1600 block of Washington, police discovered two men stabbed. Derrick Tye, 23, was treated and released from the hospital.
Jermaris West, 24, later died from his injuries, after an ambulance scooped him from Howell's doorstep.
Romaine Wheeler, 28, of Dubuque, refused treatment for what appeared to be superficial knife wounds. A fourth man was found injured, but not stabbed, at the scene of the first fight.
Police arrested Jerel L. Wright, 18, on a charge of attempted murder in connection with Tye's stabbing. Wright's brother, Joseph, 19, was arrested on a charge of assault while displaying a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed weapon.
No homicide charges have been filed in the case. Police said they expect additional charges, though it might not be this week.


'Every day around here is dangerous'
Since 2007, three men have been stabbed to death in Dubuque -- West, 38-year-old David Tate and 24-year-old Nicholas Blackburn.
The three incidents share striking similarities -- a large street fight ensues, somebody pulls a knife and family members are left wondering whether the victim was the intended target.
"Sometimes innocent bystanders, witnesses and parties that may not have direct involvement become the victim," Dubuque Police Lt. Scott Baxter said. "That's because of the rage that's involved, the impaired judgment, a variety of other causes."
However, he insists, the "average citizen" has little to fear.
"Often, it's our behavior or lifestyle choices that lead to these incidents," he said. "We don't want people to think that it's unsafe to walk the streets of Dubuque."
But on Monday, neighbors on Washington Street said they were angry and afraid.
A woman known as "Aunt T" hugged her teenage daughter on the sidewalk, between the scene of the fight and where police discovered West.
"The next person that's going to get killed or hurt around here is an innocent child," she said. "It's getting bad around here, and I want it to stop."
Police cars flooded the streets, and the blue and red lights flashed across her face.
"This is the most protection we've had in the years I've lived here. Why can't we have this every day? Because every day around here is dangerous," she said.

'We can practically eliminate retaliation'
At least 20 city police officers responded to the crime scene Monday, in addition to investigators.
Officials blocked off a large portion of Dubuque's north downtown area, and three organizations -- the Dubuque County Sheriff's Department, the Iowa State Patrol and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources -- helped patrol the neighborhood.
Police continued to patrol the neighborhood on Wednesday.
"I think the fear of retaliation exists," Baxter said.
Neighbors showed reluctance to cooperate with police Wednesday, saying they were scared those involved might hurt them for speaking.
Baxter said police could help avoid retaliation by arresting those involved.
"We can practically eliminate the ability to commit retaliation," he said.
As Lashaun Runnels grieved over her fiance, she made it clear Tuesday that she didn't want revenge.
"I want the people who killed my baby to pay, but I want them to pay through the courts. I don't want nobody retaliating," she said. "I don't want no more people dying, no more of our men going to jail."


Sharing the pain
Rosemary Howell knows what it's like to lose a son to violence.
Her 20-year-old son, Rodney, was shot to death in 1979 near Strawberry Point, Iowa.
The day after Howell found out her son was murdered, her mother offered advice.
"She said, 'You get down on your knees tonight and thank God.' I says, 'For what?' She says, 'That it was your son who died, and not your son who did the killing,'" Howell said.
After a candlelight vigil Monday, Howell embraced West's grieving mother, Lorease Williams, and shared the same advice.


Crime 'has no color'
Howell's daughter, Mary Leick, 44, said the neighborhood has changed since she was a little girl.
Back then, the family knew all their neighbors. At some point, though, most of them moved away. The neighborhood grows rougher by the day, she said.
"I worry about her a lot in that neighborhood, now, especially with my dad gone," Leick said. "My mom is everything to me."
Despite her daughter's pleas, Howell refuses to move out of the neighborhood and into Leick's home.
"Crime is not located in an area. I don't care what anybody says," Howell said. "Crime is the people who decide to do this. It has no color, no religion, no nothing. It's what's in the person."

(Written in collaboration with Courtney Blanchard)
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