The mother of a teen killed by Atlantic City police in December said she doesn’t believe her son was armed but that he did have a cellphone that she says has not been found.
But a gun was found near Derreck Mack, 18, after he was fatally shot during a police chase at Stanley Holmes Village, authorities have said. He had two previous gun arrests, and was on parole for one at the time.
Mack was shot moments after he sent a text to his girlfriend about apparent plans they had made, Ruby Conde said.
“I know but you said yes already,” replies Mack — who is listed in the phone just as “Boyfriend” followed by a heart — in the text sent at 2 p.m. Dec. 17.
A screenshot of the conversation was forwarded to a reporter at The Press of Atlantic City by Mack’s mother. Parts of it were blacked out, making it difficult to know exactly what they were discussing.
Conde said she has been told that the phone was not recovered. Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain would not comment on the phone. He said all personal property that does not have any relevance to the investigation has been returned to the family. That amounts to only the cash that was in his pocket, his mother said.
“My son never went anywhere without his phone,” she said, pointing to the texts with his girlfriend.
Around the time the screenshot shows Mack’s last text was sent, police received a call that there were two armed men at Stanley Holmes Village. When officers arrived, Mack and Terry Davis, 24, ran, McClain said in a release at the time. Davis — who was on parole for several robberies — followed officers’ orders to drop his gun.
Mack slowed down, then attempted to draw a gun from his waistband, according to statements the officer who shot him and a civilian witness gave detectives with the Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit. The officer, a 14-year police department veteran, said he feared for his life when he fired at Mack, who died of two gunshot wounds to the left side of his upper back. Other civilian witnesses said Mack was surrendering.
“I just want answers,” Conde said in a telephone interview from her home in Virginia. “I can’t take this. It’s like nobody wants to give me a straight answer.”
McClain said investigators are working on getting those answers.
“The investigation is active and ongoing,” he told The Press in an email this week. “The family has been advised of the findings of the medical examiner regarding cause and manner of death via a phone call from our victim/witness coordinator and through the statement that was released to the media and the public.”
That statement said a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun was recovered a short distance from the teen’s body. Conde said she doesn’t believe her son was armed.
Derreck did have some troubles, she said, but he was supposed to go live with her in Virginia on Dec. 27 — 10 days after the shooting.
“The last time I spoke with Derreck was the 15th, and he said, ‘Mom, I’ll be there on the 27th. I promise you, Mommy, I’ll be home,’” she said, crying. “He wanted to change his life. He wanted to turn his life around.”
But while she admits there were problems for him in Atlantic City, Conde insists her son never carried a gun.
That contradicts previous charges against the teen, who was on probation at the time of his death for a 2011 juvenile case involving possession of a handgun without a permit. He was given 18 months probation.
He also had pending charges from a July arrest in Atlantic City just before his 18th birthday, which he spent in the Atlantic County jail, records show. He was indicted on two counts of unlawful possession of a handgun and one count each of possession of penetrating bullets and receiving stolen property.
Conde said she could not comment on the pending charges but that the earlier arrest was for a gun found in a car he was in. She insisted it was not his.
According to the Atlantic City police report, the then-16-year-old was with his older brother, Michael Mack Jr., and each had a gun. Because Derreck was a minor, Conde said the information should not have been released. However, the Prosecutor’s Office does release such arrest information after cases have gone through the system and the juvenile has received punishment.
Michael Mack, 20, is serving a three-year sentence at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in that arrest. Conde said she tried to get him released for his brother’s funeral but was denied.
Another son, Raymond Mack, 19, was bailed out of the Atlantic County jail in time to attend the funeral. He was jailed after he punched a uniformed police sergeant shortly after the shooting. Family members have said he was distraught because he wanted to get into the ambulance with his brother and was prohibited.
“All my son wanted was two minutes with his little brother,” Conde said.
Instead, he faces incarceration because he was in possession of cocaine at the time of the arrest, the charges state.
Conde said she believes the officer who shot her son should be sitting in jail while the investigation is under way.
“I want him punished for what he did to my child,” she said.
Conde said her grandchildren ask why the police killed their uncle.
“I don’t want my grandkids to be afraid of the police,” she said. “There are good cops out there.”
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow @LyndaCohen on Twitter