K.G. Wilson: The Murder Witness
K.G. Wilson celebrated St. Patrick's Day this year by taking his eight-year-old daughter out for burgers at McDonald's. After they finished their meal and stepped out onto Lake Street, gunshots rang out.
Wilson spotted a group fleeing the scene. Grabbing his daughter, Wilson took off toward the commotion and found a young man lying on the sidewalk. The tire of his blue bike was still spinning.
"Daddy, is he dead?" Wilson's daughter asked.
"Yeah, honey," the father replied. "He's dead."
When there's a body in the street, Wilson usually gets a call. This time he was there to witness the city's 11th homicide of the year. By the time the journalists showed up, he had already planned out what he was going to say.
"I saw green all day," he began, referring to St. Patrick's Day, "but it ended in red."
Wilson has made a name for himself by being in the wrong place at the right time. The 6-foot-3 former Black Gangster Disciples gang leader on Chicago's South Side moved to Minneapolis in 2000 with plans to clean up his act, but fell back into drugs.
He sobered up by 2006 and promised himself he would never turn back, committing to helping other kids on the street escape the life he knew too well.
In 2007, Wilson saw the reports about the death of Charez Jones, a 14-year-old girl killed by gunfire at a party. He wanted to reach out to Jones's father, Guy Jones, but didn't know how to do it. He created a documentary in memory of Charez and gave it to Guy Jones at her funeral.
"When you have something traumatic happen like that, you're walking in a daze, waiting to wake up at any moment," Jones says. "It helps you maintain your sanity when you know you aren't there by yourself and you aren't abandoned."
Since that moment, Wilson has tried to make it to every homicide scene and peace vigil in Minneapolis. He says he's there to help the families grieve.
"The worst part is that our kids now are used to it," Wilson says. "It's like nothing happened. The kids are laughing, playing, and joking. There's a kid laying there dead and they don't even care."
Minneapolis Police Officer Dave Roiger has become good friends with Wilson over the years. The two talk extensively about how to end violence on the North Side.
"There are the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons in this city doing it for their own benefit," Roiger says. "KG is truly doing this for the right reasons. He wants the black community to be healed and he wants these people to live lives that are useful."
When Wilson isn't at a homicide scene, he can be found on some of the roughest corners of Minneapolis talking face-to-face with drug dealers and gang members.
On a recent afternoon, Wilson saw a bunch of young men throwing up gang signs across the street. When he went up to them, their eyes dropped to the sidewalk.
"So whose mom am I going to have to go talk to?" Wilson asked the boys. "Whose mom am I going to have to go hold while she's crying because you didn't want to listen and you got killed gangbanging and selling drugs?"
When no one spoke up, Wilson kept up his message.
"Come on now," he said. "You were throwing up gang signs just a minute ago. Tell me which one so I can start preparing and tell your mom to start saving for your funeral."
Eventually, Wilson settled for a couple of hugs and handshakes before moving on.
"It's change or die out there," he says. "You're either going to hear my message of change on the street or you're going to be dead on the street and I'll be doing your vigil."
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