Bad Dog

Cheri Jarvis raced to the emergency room, afraid.

"When I arrived at the hospital, I did not even recognize my son. He was covered in blood and his head was swollen and his nose was everywhere on his face. He had so much blood caked on his teeth and mouth that they thought at first that all of his front teeth had been knocked out."

The nightmare is one year old this week -- it began last Memorial Day weekend -- but it will not end any time soon. The horror will continue to unfold inside hospital rooms for years to come as doctors attempt to reconstruct what had once been her boy's face.

A pack of teenage white supremacists savaged 18-year-old Jordan Jarvis on May 31, 1999, as he sat trapped in an open-air Jeep, strapped in by a seat belt, unable to defend himself or flee.

The boy's mother believes the gangbangers got off with light sentences because they are white.

The assailants are all Devil Dogs, the Valley's most publicized gang and a subset of an older outfit in Gilbert known as White Power. They are a new kind of street thug, suburban children with all of life's advantages -- one drove a Volvo -- from stable, two-parent families. The Devil Dogs are high school athletes and body builders so pumped up on the steroids they sold, used and distributed that police reports repeatedly quote victims' astonishment at the sheer size of their attackers.

When the Devil Dogs beat down Jarvis, it was a case of mistaken identity. They had the wrong guy. But the Devil Dogs always got the wrong guy because they brutalized at random. The Dogs would call some stranger a "homo" or a "nigger" just to get something going, then swing into action, actually barking like Dobermans and stomping their victim until it was over.

Twice in the year since the attack, surgeons have cut open Jordan Jarvis' face, pushing muscle and bone in a vain attempt to recapture the youthful expression of the boy in the yearbook photograph. Before the stitches heal, the doctors scan their calendars, looking to schedule the next visit.

The teenager says you cannot imagine the physical pain after a scalpel carves between your eyes.

As a result of the beating, bone spurs must be chiseled from the base of Jarvis' skull, and calcified deposits over his eye sockets must be scraped off with a file.

Eventually the doctors will take cartilage from his ears to rebuild his nose. This will permanently scar his ears, however, and while that is less traumatic, certainly, than greeting the world with the mound of flesh that sits in the middle of his face where a normal nose ought to be, the operation is only cosmetic. He will forever feel and sound as if he has a sinus condition. And Jarvis will never breathe properly again because he lost the use of his right nostril.

The prospect of having a nose again. That is what passes for hope in this boy's life.

The hoodlums who disfigured Jordan Jarvis escaped justice with a wrist slap.

Despite vivid records of juvenile brutality, racist incidents and drug consumption as well as dealing, just one member of the Devil Dog gang, Kevin Papa, is sitting in prison. And Papa pulled a two-year term only because a startled judge caught him in outrageous perjury at a sentencing hearing. Five other Devil Dogs escaped with relatively light jail sentences of six months to a year in the county lockup.

No one, including Papa, got more than the minimum.

"It was just a broken nose," explained Hugo Zettler, the prosecutor on the case.

Zettler claims the Devil Dogs were only a hyperactive group of white jocks, which is why they were not charged or sentenced under the stiffer criminal statutes thrown at street gangs.

Jarvis' mother is outraged.

"If these same crimes were committed in another part of Phoenix by a different ethnic and less affluent group, we would have no trouble punishing them," Cheri Jarvis wrote to the assorted judges who sentenced the Devil Dogs.

If these same crimes had been committed by young black men . . .

You would think that when a white woman like Cheri Jarvis demands black justice, it would end up on the evening news. But while the Devil Dogs case was a big media event, there was no coverage of her charge that the gangsters got off lightly because they are white. Instead, the press wallowed in the delicious revelations that racist skinheads had surfaced in well-to-do Gilbert.

There was another gang prosecution last year that raised allegations of racism.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey