Dangerous Delivery

Dangerous Delivery

by Gabriel Baird
Plain Dealer reporter

Out of the shadows, the pizza deliveryman spotted something charging
toward him.
A wolf’s face. A man’s body. And a knife.

“Give me your money,” the robber in the werewolf mask demanded as
darkness crept over the city.

Anthony Jones dropped the pizzas and his cell phone and money where he stood, on the porch of a house in the 7900 block of Jeffries Avenue in
southeast Cleveland.

But the thug kept coming with the knife. Jones, 28, backed away, hit
the porch’s banister and crashed to the ground 5 feet below, snapping
two bones in his right wrist.

The robber fled, taking about $50.

Cleveland police found Jones cradling his broken wrist. Two detectives
told him they were investigating a string of armed robberies of pizza
deliverymen. There had been about 10 in May. Jones was at least the
second in recent weeks.

The detectives suspected the robber was a 15-year-old boy who was
recently on house arrest for a similar robbery in May.

He lived nearby – about 150 yards down Jeffries Avenue. A girl had made
the call setting up Jones, but police traced it to the boy’s house.

The next day, Jones heard that the two detectives, Phillip Habeeb and
John Kraynik, had shot and killed a 15-year-old while searching the
boy’s house for evidence connecting him to the robbery.

Jones learned the boy’s name was Brandon McCloud. Then Jones began to
ask himself a question he would go back to over and over again: Is it
his fault Brandon is dead?

The day after the shooting, Jones returned to Pizza Hut on Turney Road
to deliver pizzas in Garfield Heights and southeast Cleveland for about
$6 an hour plus tips.

“Gotta make that money,” he said.

As he made deliveries, he struggled with his feelings. He was grateful
to the detectives for moving so fast on his case. But he could relate to
the boy.

Jones, like Brandon, had gotten in trouble while a teen. He had grown
up on the East Side and started living the street life before he entered
South High School. He sold crack, got caught and served time. He decided
to go straight when he was 21, even if it meant struggling to make ends
meet.

Jones’ felony conviction prevented him from owning a gun, so he
sometimes carried a .32-caliber snub-nosed revolver that only fired
blanks. He hoped it would scare away robbers. He didn’t have it the
night he was robbed.

By 9 p.m. on his first night back at work, the darkness had overtaken
Saybrook Avenue as Jones searched for the right address. The
streetlights provided little reassurance. Instead, they created shadows
where he feared danger lurked.

“This is an easy street to be robbed on,” he said. “Man, it’s
dark.”

He found the right house, awkwardly lugging the pizzas with his left
hand while keeping his broken right wrist safe against his chest.

A woman and a few children came out.

“What happened to your arm?” the woman asked.

“I got robbed,” he said.

The robbery and Brandon’s killing had been all over the news. People
were talking about it. The woman’s son immediately connected Jones to
Brandon.

“It’s your fault that boy got killed?” the boy asked.

“Please don’t say that,” Jones said quietly.

The woman paid him for the pizza, and Jones retreated to his car. The
woman called him back. He had forgotten the thermal pizza carrier.

Back in the car, he repeated the boy’s question. Was it his fault?
The police might not have searched Brandon’s house if Jones hadn’t
reported being robbed. He thought of his own plight: His broken wrist
was in a splint wrapped in a bandage because he couldn’t afford health
insurance or a cast. It would take a week or more for the Ohio Bureau of
Workers’ Compensation to approve paying for a cast, he said.

Jones found the next house within a few minutes. A handful of boys and
girls were hanging out on the porch next door.

While Jones was away from his car, one of the boys boasted about owning
two guns.

“I got a 9 [mm] right here and one at my house,” he said.

He and the other boys talked about stealing the pizzas out of Jones’
car, then one realized an adult was nearby. Giggling, the boys changed
the subject.

As Jones drove to Beechgrove Avenue, he said, “Whew! This is the last
one of the night.”

On a dark porch, he handed the customer his order and quickly retreated
toward his car. The man called him back. Jones had almost left without
the thermal pizza carrier.

“I didn’t do that before the robbery,” he said.

Then he drove past the house where he was robbed, recalling the shock
of seeing that wolf face and the knife.

“Man, I was scared,” he said.

He returned to the shadowy streets to deliver more pizzas the next
night and still more over the next days. But the fear persisted, and he
kept asking himself if Brandon’s death was his fault, until his mind
was made up.

Saturday, he and two other pizza-delivery drivers who had been robbed
met outside 4th District police headquarters to voice their support for
police.

“They were just doing their job,” Jones said.

On Monday, he said he will not work any more night shifts delivering
pizzas.

And as for the guilt: “I know it’s not my fault.”