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TALES OF THE TOWN: Part 29

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Rosey’s Persons of Interest

In Rosey’s long experience as a cop and detective, he’d figured out that there are basically two types of people: Those are have committed crimes but haven’t been caught, and those who have committed crimes and have been caught. Everyone, in other words, in Rosey’s opinion was a criminal.

This gave him a rather gloomy picture of human nature, which is perhaps why he tried to compensate for this dark side by doing many acts of goodness. Rosey was a volunteer coach for a local after-school kids’ basketball group. He was active in his church. He routinely represented OPD at charitable events, and he and Mrs. Brown had organized an effort in their Dimond District neighborhood to pick up litter and trash and plant wildflowers.

Still, Rosey had seen enough of life’s sinister side to realize that every tenth person he randomly saw on the streets had probably killed someone at some point. Maybe it had been a sanctioned killing, as in the U.S. military. Maybe it had not. Secrets made the world go ‘round, Rosey had long ago decided, and this included him: for Rosey, too, had secrets.

He’d been a troubled kid. By twelve, Roosevelt Wilson Brown—named after two American Presidents—had been in and out of Youth Authority in Oakland. At the age of fifteen, he was sentenced to a term of eight months at the Alameda County Detention Center, a youth camp in the Hayward hills, for breaking into cars. He smoked pot, sniffed cocaine, and drank to excess. Rosey seemed headed towards a lengthy period in prison, until a significant event turned him in a new direction.

That significant event was meeting his future wife, Ceci. He adored her from the moment he set eyes on her, at his cousin’s wedding, where Ceci was a bridesmaid. She was tall for a woman, pretty and vivacious. They dated, fell in love, and married after knowing each other for only six months. Ceci’s Dad, Cecil, Rosey’s father-in-law to be, was a minister in the Jeremiah Baptist Church, and it was he who had turned Rosey around.

They called him Reverend Cecil, “Rev” for short. He was one of those guys whom everyone likes; no one had ever heard or spoken a bad word against him. Cheerful of disposition, eternally optimistic, he also had the gift of gab. “I swear, Daddy could sell ice to eskimos,” Ceci remarked. It was true: his Sunday sermons were among the best- attended in town. A few fiery words from the Rev could inspire an audience to rise to its feet and sing.

The Rev saw in the young Rosey the potential for a good man. Yes, he’d done some bad things, but hadn’t Jesus told the world He would forgive all sins for the asking? The Rev took this seriously. As the instrument of God, he saw his task as nurturing the qualities in perplexed young people that would someday blossom into beauty, kindness and love.

Once Rosey and Ceci started dating, he and the Rev grew closer. They went to the Rev’s favorite fishing spots, bowled at the Academy Lanes in Alameda, and had long talks at night, over a few beers, in the course of which the Rev delicately pried open the closely-clustered petals enclosing Rosey’s heart. The Rev—a big supporter of the police, whom he viewed as indispensable in providing safety to Oakland’s poorest residents—encouraged this respect in Rosey too—a big leap for a young man whose street life had inclined him to view cops as the enemy. That was Rosey’s first step towards becoming a cop himself.

He started Cal State Hayward rather late, graduated with a B.S. in criminal justice, and immediately applied to OPD, which accepted him with alacrity. It was evident to his superiors that he was being fast-tracked within the department; and indeed, at the early age of 35, he was promoted to the Criminal Investigations Department, which entitled him to the rank of Detective. There were many who knew him professionally who thought that, in Roosevelt Wilson Brown, they were seeing a future Chief of Police, in Oakland or someplace else.

Rosey wasn’t enamored of the bureaucratic side of police work. He liked working the streets: wearing out shoe leather chasing down leads, turning up clues, following his nose and arresting the bad guys, to prevent them from harassing the great majority of Oaklanders who were law-abiding citizens. It was exactly that nose for sleuthing that prompted Chief Kirkpatrick to appoint Rosey to head up the Homeless Killings Task Force.

The way Rosey saw the emerging investigation, there were no suspects at this point, but there were persons of interest. Such individuals are often identified in the early stages of investigations; the majority turn out to be innocent. But an investigation has to start someplace, if it is to start at all, and there were three persons of interest on Rosey’s list so far: Devon Camber and the Wu’s, both the doctor and his wife. All of them, in all likelihood, were completely innocent of any crimes related to the murders. But the statistical probability, plain and simple, was that one or more of them knew something that could lead, however indirectly, to the apprehension of the real killer. It was Detective Brown’s task to crack the puzzle and find out what that something was.

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