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Ray Darrin Pierson, 27 -- Shot

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Jeff Pierson has hard questions for Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup. Why was his son portrayed as a "violent hoodlum" after being shot to death outside a youth club downtown?

Why did Tucson police give his son's girlfriend the impression that 27-year-old Ray Darrin Pierson "deserved to be dead" when they spoke with her outside Skrappy's nightclub?

And why, the grieving Tempe father asks, did he learn of his son's death through media reports and not directly from Tucson police?

These are the questions that Pierson, 52, asks in a letter penned to Walkup on Dec. 20.

The pain Jeff Pierson feels over the loss of his son is made greater by feeling that he is miscast in death.

"What I've read and what I've heard from his friends and those who were there just doesn't reconcile - nor does it reconcile with what I know of my son," Pierson said. "I don't believe what I've read in the newspapers, and I don't believe, necessarily, what I've heard."

There's not much police or reporters can do to ease the sense of loss and shock that accompanies a homicide, but leaving questions unanswered falls far short of that goal.

News reports focused on Darrin Pierson's affiliation with a group called FSU, which stands for "Friends Stand United" or an alternate phrase that refers to making a mess of things and can't be published here.

He also was part of "Team Loco," a Phoenix-area group started by friends with shared interest in extreme sports.

"I don't know anything about FSU," his father said. "Team Loco was started by a neighborhood friend as sort of an extreme sport clothing group. I think it's expanded to something more. It's a big group of young people, and I know a few of them. I can't imagine it being anything to do with harming other people."

But as a Team Loco member known as "Hairy Darrin," Pierson shared an interest in hard-core metal concerts with so-called "crews" of FSU members, who are known for instigating brawls at concerts in many U.S. cities.

Tucson police were unfamiliar with that trend, but say that's what led to his death Dec. 7.

Pierson died after being shot during a melee that broke out at the "Street Brutality Tour" concert at Skrappy's, 210 E. Broadway.

Police have released few details of what led to the shooting, but alleged witness accounts on numerous Web blogs indicate Pierson either was threatening a man with a machete or hammer, or trying to disarm him when he was shot.

The shooter's name has not been released. Police said he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Assistant Police Chief John Leavitt said detectives are still sorting through some 50 witness accounts before taking the case to the Pima County Attorney's Office for possible charges against the man who pulled the trigger.

Leavitt said the investigation indicates he likely was killed in self-defense, which is why Pierson's girlfriend might have felt he was vilified by police.

"We presented the facts as we knew them to the girlfriend," Leavitt said. "They are the same facts we will present to the county attorney. If she inferred from that that we felt he 'had it coming,' that's her inference."

While police were still investigating the crime, a friend of Pierson's notified Pierson's mother of the shooting about two hours before police made a call. Pierson's mother and father are divorced.

"Notification comes only after we are absolutely positive what we're dealing with," Leavitt said. "In a day of cell phones, it's not unusual to have somebody contact the parents before we do."

Jeff Pierson, who is divorced from Darrin's mother, said he was first contacted by a mayoral aide yesterday, three weeks after his son's death.

The letter he sent to Walkup came with a program from Darrin's funeral, a glossy brochure rich with snapshots from the life of the son he had buried three days earlier.

"I've enclosed copies of the program from Darrin's memorial service and ask that you have them distributed to the officers involved that night. I would like them to see him from another perspective," he wrote.

The question Pierson didn't ask in his letter is the hardest.

"I just want to know why my son died," Pierson said. "That's what I want to know."

Walkup wrote a letter in return, expressing sympathy and promising to get the answers Pierson seeks.

It's unlikely the mayor or anyone else can answer all the questions.



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