Lake Heights residents dispute circumstances of shooting

By Gus Bode

Residents of Lake Heights said testimony in court Tuesday about a late September shooting was inaccurate.

The testimony came from the preliminary hearing of Mark Crymes, 23, of 1404 N. Wall St., who is charged with the murder of Rodney Jones, 24, of 12154 Justine St., Chicago. Jones was pronounced dead at 3:35 a.m. Sept. 28 after being shot in the arm and back, police said. Rodney Jones was shot at about 2:40 a.m. Saturday in the 500 block of South Lake Heights.

Carbondale Detective Jeff Vaughn said in court that Margo Mathis, a Lake Heights resident, reported to police that Crymes and Jones were fighting and identified Crymes as the shooter.

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Mathis said she never spoke to any police officers but did provide a written statement. She said a police officer came out asked a question, and left the morning of the shooting.

“Was somebody in my house involved in what went on outside? No. That’s all he asked, and he left,” Mathis said.

Police Chief R.T. Finney said it is not unusual for an officer to try to find out what happened and interview witnesses later.

A preliminary hearing is a court appearance in which a prosecutor must present some evidence to show a judge there is cause to believe the defendant committed the crime.

Finney said officers use oral and written statements given to police. Finney said he knows Mathis was interviewed later and her testimony will come out in court.

Mathis said she saw the altercation that led up to the shooting of Jones. Mathis and her cousin, Banika Tipton, were sitting at the kitchen table near her window when the altercation occurred.

Mathis said Crymes and Jones never fought individually, but about eight or nine other men including Jones attacked Crymes.

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She said she saw three men leaning against the apartment next to hers, apparently waiting for someone to come out. Mathis said she told the men to get away from her house and called police after she got no response.

“It was awhile after the shooting because we were out there a good minute trying to get him into the car,” Mathis said.

Mathis said she knows the men came with Jones to fight Crymes. She also said Reginald L. Cavitt, 21, who is wanted in connection with the shooting, had a gun on him and never retrieved it from the residence of Altameis Traylor. She said Crymes grabbed the gun from Cavitt while the attack was happening.

“He grabbed it, and that’s what happened,” Mathis said. “The altercation hadn’t ended. He was getting the hell beaten out of him.”

She said Crymes began shooting in the air after he grabbed the gun.

“If that gun hadn’t have come into play, Mark would have been dead,” Mathis said. “It would have been a different story.”

Mathis said it is not right to blame Cavitt. She said the men were beating his friend and he should not have just stood by and watched.

She said Crymes was in shock after realizing Jones had been shot and she does not believe Crymes was the one who fired the fatal bullets. She said he was asking for help, shaking and acting as though he didn’t know what happened.

Mathis said that she and Tipton, her cousin, were trying to help Jones into the car to get him to the hospital. She said she and Tipton were screaming for people to help.

Mathis said that Crymes attempted to help the women with Jones and she had to scream at him to go away because she did not know if he would draw gunfire in her direction.

Despite court testimony at Crymes’ preliminary hearing Tuesday, Mathis said Jones did not hit Crymes with a rock during the fight. She said Crymes was hit in the head with something big, but not by Jones.

Police said Jones was killed by a .22 caliber handgun, but Mathis said the gun Crymes was shooting was a large gun and louder than a .22 caliber.

Carbondale Police Chief R.T. Finney said only four bullet casings were found, and all were .22 caliber. He said the size of the gun does not determine the caliber.

“Just because it has a large frame, it doesn’t mean it’s not a .22,” Finney said. “The frame of the gun doesn’t determine the caliber of the gun.”

Finney said there have been no reports of other people with guns at the shooting, but many people did run away.

“I’m confident that we arrested the shooter,” Finney said.

Mathis said Crymes was walking back up the sidewalk and didn’t see Jones lying on the ground. She said Jones jumped up to get into his car and startled Crymes, who began shooting in the air again. She said she never saw Crymes aim the gun at Jones.

“He turned around and started walking back up the sidewalk and he didn’t see [Jones] lying there on the ground,” Mathis said. “He jumped up to get into his car and it startled him so he started back shooting in the air.”

Mathis said she did not see Jones fall to the ground, but did see him lay on the ground to keep from being shot.

“He never aimed it at nobody,” Mathis said. “He could have, but he didn’t.”

Finney said officers saw a vehicle leaving the area and saw Crymes running to another residence.

Gale Campbell said she knew Crymes, Jones and Tipton. She said she and other women in the neighborhood have watched each of them grow up.

“We love each and every last one of them as if it was your own child,” Campbell said.

Mathis said she wrote the police statement for the truth to be known, not to take sides or incriminate anyone.

“What happened needed to be known,” Mathis said. “They came out here to fight that boy again. Nobody expected that to happen.”

Mathis does not think Crymes was the one who killed Jones.

She said Jones and Crymes were not friends but were not enemies. Mathis and Campbell said Jones and Crymes never fought and never put their hands on each other.

Campbell said it never got that bad until the night of the shooting and Mathis describes the shooting as incomprehensible, affecting the entire neighborhood.

Campbell said she is committed to constructing a memorial to Jones in Lake Heights. She said that she wants to make a box for the poem and have a memorial service.

“We’ve had good times out here, and I want that back,” Campbell said. “But I also want something to say you were here, you lived, you loved.”

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