By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Cha spotted Veronica first. She had just given birth to a premature baby the day before and Cha couldn't believe she was out partying and looking for a fight.
Tish came after Cha, swinging a padlock on a shoestring. Cha was able to duck a couple of times before the lock smashed her lip, splitting it open.
By the time the fight ended, LeLe was clutching her hand in pain. She'd been stabbed with a box cutter. It was sure to leave a scar.
LeLe had spent the past two years of her life living fast, ditching school, and recovering from fights that had become an almost daily routine. She was going on 18 and would have been graduating from high school in June if she hadn't dropped out.
"I feel we're runnin' in circles doing the same stuff," LeLe said, exhausted. "Fighting back and forth ain't getting us nowhere except with Mace in our eyes and headaches when we get home. I am so tired of this and been doing it for too long. I don't know why you all ain't tired, too."
MOURNERS WERE GATHERED AT THE SCENE OF the crime the day after LeLe's death, leaving flowers and cards, when shots rang out nearby.
At LeLe's funeral the next weekend, police arrested two men after one was spotted passing a gun to the other before attempting to enter New Salem Baptist Church for the service. As the family prepared to bring LeLe's casket out to the waiting hearse, a scuffle between two rival gangs led to guns being pulled in the crowd and scared mourners pushing their way out of the church.
One of the men arrested was Alonzo McCoy, a Tre Tre Crips member. In April, police filed search warrant applications in Hennepin County District Court to search his phone records along with Dillard's. Witnesses told police McCoy was seen shooting in Neeley's direction at the party that night. Both men were charged, but never tried, in the murder of Charez Jones in 2007.
But prosecutors dropped Dillard's case just hours before his trial after they were surprised by new witness testimony. The case remains open.
WHEN CHA HEARD ABOUT LELE'S DEATH, HER eyes welled up with tears, but she couldn't explain why. LeLe was one of her worst enemies, and here she was crying like she had lost a best friend.
She thought back to the last time she saw LeLe. They had been fighting just three weeks before, after a Henry basketball game. LeLe was attacking her with a belt.
Cha made a three-way call to Danielle and Jasmine, two of the Baddest. She spoke through sniffles.
"This is really serious," she said. "This is one of us. This is one of our girls. Somebody our age. Somebody who knew the same boys we knew. Somebody who did the same things we did."
The girls came to the only conclusion that made sense: It was time to squash the beef with the Ladiis.
"What the fuck was we thinking?" Cha said. "We're going to end up killing each other one by one. I am so mad because we coulda stopped this on our own. We was almost there. I know we was."
Toya called Monique from the Ladiis.
"Is LeLe really dead?" Toya said.
Monique was already in tears. "Yeah, she's dead."
"We don't want to beef no more," Toya said.
The idea caught Monique off guard. She had been mourning the death of one of her best friends and wasn't thinking about the Baddest.
"All right," Monique said. "I'll call you back later."
When Sarah Klouda heard about the truce, she jumped at the opportunity to help the girls make it official. Some of them came to her office to talk about it.
"This is huge, and it's on you guys to see it through and make it happen," Klouda said. "Alisha is gone, and in the back of all of our minds, you can't help but think who is next. The change isn't going to happen from me; change is going to come from you and your abilities to school the next generation and teach them otherwise. You need to stand as role models to start changing this cycle."
But emotions were running high. Rumors accused some of LeLe's closest friends and enemies of the murder. Girls on both sides had been close with the gang members involved in the gun battle that night.
Some members of the cliques weren't ready to drop the rivalry so fast. Bri was furious and went to talk with Helena about the truce.
"Now she's dead and they want to be our friends?" Bri said. "We can stop the beef, but they can't never be my friends. I can't just walk up to them like, 'How you doing today? You want to go smoke some weed?' I can't do that. We're not friends."
Girls from both sides struggled to maintain the truce when they saw each other on the street. Klouda kept receiving phone calls as the girls tried to cope with situations where they would usually fight each other.