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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 5/28/2003 2:34:32 PM EDT
The dead man had been pummeled. He lay on the road on his back, his legs splayed, his left arm beneath him, his other arm extended, as if reaching for something. One of his shoes had come off, and his clothes were bloody and disheveled. A medical-alert medallion hung from his neck. He wore dress slacks, a white oxford shirt under a burgundy Redskins sweatshirt and a shiny black loafer on his right foot. In the waning sunlight, Will Silvers, a Prince George's County homicide detective, pulled on latex gloves and leaned down for a closer look. The head injuries were multiple and grievous -- the worst beating Silvers had seen, and he'd seen a lot in 13 years. The right foot was oddly angled, and Silvers saw that the attacker had twisted it violently, rending the ankle joint and tearing the flesh. The victim's face was turned to the right, and his eyes were open. Silvers thought he looked surprised. "I've seen people shot, stabbed, whatever," Silvers said later. "As far as trauma, this was, if not number one, then right up there with number one." The victim lay at the end of a blood trail, 19 feet from the open driver's door of his Chevy Blazer, on Marlboro Pike, a four-lane thoroughfare flanked by liquor marts and discount stores, auto shops and carryouts, south of Capitol Heights. It was there that Phillip Hansberry's pickup truck rear-ended Clifton Stokes's Blazer early on a cool Sunday evening. The two men got out, Hansberry looming six inches taller than Stokes and outweighing him by 131 pounds. He grabbed Stokes and slammed his head onto the pavement again and again. "Did they know one another?" the detective wondered. The bad guy had used only his hands, no weapon. What had provoked him? "Was there a dope deal? Did my victim owe this guy money? . . . Did they leave somewhere together? Was this guy following him?" It was brutal. And, as Silvers found out, it was random. In a hurried region that lives by the gas pedal, it was a stunning gust of violence spawned by a chance encounter of strangers in traffic. It was road rage -- the bloodiest case in memory in the Washington area. It had lasted maybe eight minutes, on a busy, low-end commercial artery just outside Southeast Washington. And three men were caught up in it. One was grotesquely reposed at Silvers's feet. One was at Prince George's Hospital Center. The third was a few yards away, sitting nervously in a car, waiting to explain why he used a 9mm Glock handgun to put an end to the beating. A few dozen witnesses, who had stood transfixed during the violence, absorbing images that would haunt some of them in their sleep for nights to come, were watching from beyond the police tape at Marlboro and Pacific Avenue as Silvers did his work. Tracy Parker, 39, was driving to a supermarket when she saw what happened. "I know I should have some counseling," she said later, "because I feel like I haven't been the same." And there was Hattie Sweet, 55, who saw what happened on her way home from church. When it was over, she called her pastor from the intersection, and they prayed by cell phone. "I can understand what the veterans go through after the war," Sweet said. "You have flashbacks." The crime-scene routine went on that evening. Evidence technicians stretched their tape measures and marked the pavement with orange paint. Radios squawked, a police camera flashed. Beyond the yellow tape, patrol officers routed traffic onto side streets. Silvers stood with his notebook at Marlboro and Pacific in the first late dusk of daylight saving time, April 6, and looked at the damaged vehicles in the eastbound right lane: Hansberry's Chevy Silverado pickup, red with black side panels, its hood crumpled against the smashed tailgate of Stokes's black and silver Blazer. A traffic beef. Should have been no big deal. He thought: "Why did this end up like this?" On the Road That Sunday, 7:15 p.m., four miles east of Marlboro and Pacific: A man, 53, a gentle husband, a kind father, tells his wife he is going to the store for a newspaper, he'll be back in a while. He's sickly, 5-foot-5, 125 pounds, a former warehouse supervisor. Disabled by strokes last summer and forced to retire, he feels at a loss, like a man suddenly grown old, his days empty, his future spent. The news, on TV and in The Washington Post, fills a void, animating the days he spends alone in his townhouse near Capitol Heights while his wife works and their daughter is at school. The news is his pastime, and tonight, home after a weekend trip, he wants his Sunday paper. He finds his cane, picks up his Redskins ball cap and limps out the door to his '92 Blazer. He's Clifton Stokes. He's a nervous driver, timid and deliberate to a fault, always puttering below the speed limit, which annoys other motorists. But he doesn't care. Let them honk. The same evening, about the same time, four miles west of Marlboro and Pacific: A man, 41, generous and easygoing when his mood is right, gets off work at Elesavetgrad Cemetery in Southeast Washington and climbs into his Silverado. He's powerful, 5-foot-11, 256 pounds, an auto mechanic and occasional gravedigger. Restless and self-sufficient, he quit the 9-to-5 world a long time back and survives on hustle, buying and fixing junk cars and selling them cheap. Although he's a genius with a wrench, he doesn't seem interested in owning a shop. He's a man of short-term plans and small ambitions. Home is sometimes the camper of the '89 pickup he's driving tonight. Where he's headed, he doesn't say -- he just motors toward the cemetery gate and toots his horn, telling the caretaker, "See you tomorrow." He's Phillip Hansberry. He's a proven menace on the road, heavy-footed and aggressive, with a long history of traffic citations and arrests. His driver's license was revoked long ago. He hates when people get in his way.
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 2:36:25 PM EDT
Two strangers, eight miles apart, as the sun begins to set. Soon both are on the pike traveling east, Stokes ahead of Hansberry. Past a pawn shop, past lottery signs, past a McDonald's. On Marlboro, they're getting close to Larchmont Avenue, where Tracy Parker, a first-grade teacher, is stopped in the right lane at a red light. In her rearview mirror, she sees Stokes approaching in the lane to her left, slowing as he nears the light. As he comes alongside her gray Toyota Camry, the light turns green and Stokes pulls past her, easing through the intersection. She watches the Blazer move ahead, under the 35-mph limit, and glances in her mirror again. It's just after 7:30, and she sees a pickup truck bearing down in the left lane like a torpedo. Hansberry, closing rapidly on Stokes, barrels past ABI's Discount Mart, past Larchmont, past Senate-Inn Liquors. Parker cringes as the Silverado flies by her on the left. "He was going extremely fast. . . . I could tell something wasn't right with the man. He was looking straight ahead. His eyes were wide open. His eyes were big. I can't explain it, but he just looked angry. . . . And then you could hear the crash -- like, bang!" She sees the Silverado slam into the Blazer from behind without braking, a block past Larchmont in front of a Texaco station. "I said, 'Oh my God! . . . When he hit him, it was like he was deliberately trying to hit the man." The Blazer lurches forward as its tailgate window explodes into shards, and the vehicles slide from the left lane to the right. "And instead of stopping, they kept going." The front of the truck is an accordion against the Blazer, and their bumpers are locked, the Silverado's underneath, lifting the rear of the Blazer slightly. The pickup's radiator is smashed, it's leaking coolant, there's steam billowing -- yet Hansberry plows on, pushing the Blazer along the pike, past Suburban Seafood, past Troy's Casual & Sportswear. Parker slows "because there was so much steam." But Stokes can't stop. If he has his brake pedal pressed to the floor, it does no good -- there's no tire traction in the rear, and the Blazer's anti-lock brakes allow the front tires to turn when the vehicle is skidding. Hansberry leans on the gas, keeps pushing the Blazer, but his pickup starts to shudder and overheat, its coolant gone, and finally, at Pacific -- 670 feet east of where the crash occurred -- the Silverado's engine quits. Traffic behind them stalls. Westbound rubberneckers slow. Passersby stop on the sidewalks. Stokes puts the Blazer in park and leaves the engine idling. Parker, nudging closer in her Camry, sees him get out and turn to face the pickup. "He was putting his hands up, like, 'What's up? What's going on?' I could see his lips moving, like, 'What's up with this?' " Hansberry marches up to Stokes. "Before the poor man could get the rest of his words out, the guy hit him in the head." Parker watches, and screams.
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 2:36:59 PM EDT
"He looked like a maniac, like he had death on his mind. The way his face was, the way his body was -- he was going to kill. You could tell. And I'm yelling -- I'm like, 'Oh my God! This guy is crazy!' " From Calm to Manic In December 2000, Lorraine Hansberry sat in her wheelchair in court and pleaded with a judge about her son Phillip. "I want him in a mental hospital," she said. "Or somewhere where they will treat him and not just turn him loose." She wanted to save him from himself. After 72 hours in a psychiatric ward, Phillip Hansberry was about to be released that day, and his mother implored the judge to order a longer commitment. "He's not in his right mind," she said. But 72 hours was the legal limit. He couldn't be forced to stay. "I can't do anything else," the judge said. Lorraine Hansberry saw a bad end coming for her eighth-born child a long time ago. So when two detectives showed up at her door April 7 and broke the news about what had happened on Marlboro Pike the night before, she accepted it as something inevitable. "I felt not shock, but hurt," she said. She raised nine children from two marriages. She lives alone in a one-bedroom rambler less than a mile from Marlboro and Pacific. She's 68 and has asthma, diabetes and a pulmonary ailment. She said Phillip, nicknamed Noona, wasn't bad at heart, only difficult to control. "He was a child who'd never sit still," she said. He'd pedal his tricycle full speed in circles in their Northeast Washington rowhouse, sideswiping the paint off walls until his head was spinning. "He moved every minute of the day. He moved so much, he had nightmares." But she noticed that when he played with toy cars, it had a calming effect. He'd sit by himself, tinkering, removing parts, switching them around. And that was the direction his life took. After enrolling in an automotive program in high school, he started acquiring real cars, old ones, to fix and sell. As a mechanic, friends said, he was "an artist . . . a magician." He was never happier than when he was leaning over an engine. In the early '90s, at a car club rally, he met a man called Skip, who was the caretaker of Elesavetgrad Cemetery. Skip let Hansberry set up his fix-and-sell car operation in a back corner of the cemetery, and Hansberry would help with digging graves for $80 a hole. That was how he spent the last dozen years, hustling his living and sleeping where he could -- at relatives' and friends' places, in a cemetery cottage, in the camper of his pickup. He was a tranquil man at the graveyard. He enjoyed the solitude. Pulling apart those broken-down autos, he was patient and careful, quiet and content, like that boy with his Matchbox cars years earlier. As a mechanic-for-hire, he'd charge people whatever they could afford, usually not much, and always far less than the going rate. A friend said Hansberry had a soft spot for people with car problems. He was generous and easygoing with kids, too. He had an on-and-off girlfriend, Sandra Taylor, whose teenage son and daughter thought of Hansberry as their father. Hansberry's two children, now 2 and 3, are by another woman. He found time for all the youngsters, their mothers said. He took them places and made sure they had fun. But when he was alone in a car or driving other adults, he'd become that manic child on the tricycle again. "He drove like a bat out of you-know-what," Lorraine Hansberry told the two detectives who visited her. "Everybody knew that." He'd whip and weave in traffic, squeal his tires, cuss at motorists and barrel along the shoulder of the road. "He was always in a hurry to get where he had to get to," said a friend, Marshall Rainey. Riding with him could be terrifying, Rainey said. Hansberry would say, "Well, that's the way I drive." Over the years, he racked up dozens of moving violations. He ran stop signs and red lights. He ran from the police. He was arrested several times but was never locked up for long. He drove with no registration, with no license. And he drove fast. After a harrowing drive to a doctor's appointment several years ago, his mother refused to get in a car with him again. In backed-up highway traffic, she said, Hansberry rode the shoulder for miles at frightening speeds. "The doctor asked me why my blood pressure was so high. I told him because my son drove me here. . . . That's what got me started riding the bus." But his driving wasn't her main worry. She worried about his mind short-circuiting and him hurting someone. She worried about phencyclidine hydrochloride. "PCP scrambled his brain," she said.
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 2:37:38 PM EDT
It's a potent hallucinogen that often induces psychotic-like behavior, and it was Hansberry's drug of choice for years. He dipped cigarettes in it, and the smoke made him giddy or spacey or morose or ragingly delusional -- there was no way to know until he lit up. Medical literature warns of PCP's "bizarre and volatile effects," that the drug "disassociates the user from reality; it feels as if the user is in a fantasy world," that "some users may become aggressive and violent," that users "have been known to assault others or injure themselves, sometimes resulting in murder or suicide." Usually, he'd get dreamy or silly, his mother said. "He'd call me up sometimes after he'd been using and tell me to read him the Bible. I'd read, but I knew it wouldn't change anything. . . . I told him he had to stop. But he couldn't stop." And there was a night when he lost his mind, Dec. 5, 2000. Hansberry and his two children, one of them a newborn, were at his mother's house when he started seeing demons. He wound up in restraints in a psychiatric ward, confined for 72 hours. In Prince George's Circuit Court, Lorraine Hansberry pleaded for a longer commitment. "His mind just snapped," she told Judge Herman C. Dawson. She said: "He bit my son's finger so bad, he broke it. . . . He just picked me up and threw me across the room. He tore up my phones, snatched up the babies and went running down the street wild. He didn't have any clothes on. Snatched a phone out of a neighbor's house when I tried to use it. . . . He picked up his nephew and body-slammed him, and the boy's just 4 years old. Things that he wouldn't do if he was, you know, in the normal mind." She said, "He's going to hurt somebody." Dawson said he could do nothing. "The boy is going to violently hurt somebody," she warned again. "I'm not disputing that," the judge replied. But he said, "I can't do anything else." The hearing was 21/2 years ago, and she didn't see her son again. He kept buying and selling cars and helping out at the cemetery, where Skip's son is now the caretaker. The two of them dug a grave on the afternoon of April 6. "The sun was getting ready to set," Skip's son recalled. They put down their shovels, and Hansberry got into his pickup, amid a transient's mess: dirty clothes, scattered tools, loose trash, old blankets, spoiled food. The truck was unregistered, titled to some woman, its plates unassigned to any vehicle. "He seemed relaxed," Skip's son said. He may have been headed to Sandra Taylor's home. He had his kids for the weekend and had left them with Taylor in Forestville. "He beeped his horn and said, 'See you tomorrow,' " Skip's son recalled. About 20 minutes later, he was speeding east on Marlboro Pike toward Larchmont, stoned on PCP.Passing Larchmont in his Blazer, Clifton Stokes was pointed toward home, his newspaper beside him, his black leather ball cap resting atop it, his wooden cane on the front passenger floor, leaning against the seat. His wife planned to draw a bath for him when he got back to the townhouse. Since suffering two minor strokes last summer, he was chronically weak and bothered by persistent pain in his legs. Beverly Stokes had bought bath salts that weekend, hoping they would ease his soreness. She knew he felt another kind of pain, as well, a kind she couldn't soothe with hot water and salts. She knew her husband had his own way of quelling that ache, and it worried her deeply. He was hastening his slide toward an early grave, and she had begun to picture herself a widow. "He was really depressed by the fact that he couldn't work and he couldn't do much anymore," Beverly Stokes said. "Getting up and going to work gave him a purpose." She's 48, a teacher's aide at an elementary school. It's just she and their daughter, Allison, 13, in the townhouse now, along with a modest man who resides in memory. He's there in the wedding portrait in the living room; he's there in his collection of German beer steins in the basement den; he's there in a wicker basket filled with matchbooks from restaurants and tourist traps he visited. "He was not perfect," she said. "He had his faults like everybody. But he was, overall, a good man." Clifton Stokes grew up near Raleigh, N.C., and after a stint in the Army, with a unit in Europe, he settled in the Washington area in 1973. He took a job at the Giant Food warehouse in Landover that year, on the overnight shift, and worked there for nearly three decades on that shift until the strokes forced him to retire in August. "He had all those friends at Giant," his wife said. "It was a big part of him and his life. And he just really missed it." They met in 1988. The wedding was two years later, and like most married lives, theirs took on a rhythm. They bought the townhouse in 1992. He'd come home from work in the mornings with his Post, they'd sit over coffee, and he'd browse through the paper, commenting on the news. "It was always the local news first," she said. "He loved reading about his community." Then she'd leave for work. He'd mind Allison during the day, and when she was old enough to go to school, he'd drive her. He drove scared, for all the years his wife knew him. He drove as if he were expecting to be blindsided at every corner, which amused and annoyed her. "We were Speedy and Slowpoke," said Beverly Stokes, who wasn't cautious enough at the wheel in her husband's opinion. Yet she rarely let him drive when they were together because he was maddening. Hearing other motorists honk at him, he'd get exasperated. "Why do people have to drive so fast?" he'd say. "If they want to go that fast, they can go around me!" "Oh, they will," she would reply.
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 2:38:16 PM EDT
Stokes generally took life at a slow pace, which was why he liked the overnight shift, his wife said. He worked his way up to supervisor at the warehouse. After he fell ill with a pulmonary infection in 1992 and surgeons implanted two artificial heart valves, he was off the job for only a month. After he took classes in personnel management and loading-dock safety and his bosses gave him certificates, he framed them and hung them in the den near his mantel of beer steins. He got a letter from Giant in 1993 congratulating him on 20 years of employment, and he hung that in a frame in the den, too. If he hadn't retired, he would have received a 30-year letter last month. "It made him an old man before he was really ready," Stokes said of her husband's idleness. The depression it caused "really tore him down," she said. Because climbing stairs was a chore for him, she'd load a cooler with juices and fruit and leave it on the second floor before going to work, and he'd spend his days up there, watching TV news and reading the newspaper. He didn't want the paper dropped on his doorstep every morning. Before settling in upstairs, he'd get in the Blazer and drive to a store. It was a chance for him to do something with the little energy he had. "That was his thing," Stokes said. "Going out for the paper." And she knew what else he did when he was alone. He retrieved the cognac bottles that he kept in drawers and cabinets and deadened his sadness that way. "He was an alcoholic," she said. "It was not a secret in this house." His taste for booze went back to before they met. He was a quiet drinker, she said, rarely imbibing in front of his family. He was never ornery, never mawkish. And he held an even temper. "He wasn't the type to raise his hand or his voice," his wife said. At some point, she said, she resigned herself to his liquor habit. It became a problem they kept in a closet and seldom acknowledged. But his drinking got much heavier after he had to quit working, she said. His doctor told them his liver was in terrible shape. "We talked about him going to rehab," she said, but nothing came of it. His body was conditioned to booze, and he could function, impaired but on his feet, with a blood-alcohol level high enough to render a normal man unconscious. His wife said it was sometimes hard to know when he was drunk. She said he downed a lot of liquor the last weekend of his life, while they were in Hampton, Va., celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of an aunt and uncle of his. A few minutes after they got home Sunday night, he told her that he was going out for a paper. "I looked up at the clock and it was 7:15," she recalled. She watched him limp out the door toward his Blazer. The legal blood-alcohol limit for Maryland drivers is 0.08 percent. His was more than twice that. Watching in Disbelief "Why did this end up like this?" Because a powerful man was zonked on a hallucinogen and raging out of control; because another man, sad and sickly, was anesthetized by alcohol and virtually defenseless. They happened to converge on a Sunday evening. Hansberry marches up to Stokes and punches him. Tracy Parker stabs at the buttons of her cell phone, trying to reach her husband from the driver's seat of her Camry, but she can't get a signal and she looks back up. "He punched him like maybe two or three more times. The poor man's head went limp. And he kicked him in the stomach. And then he picked him up by the crotch and by the neck of his clothes, like he was a rag doll, and he pounded his head into the concrete. . . . "He did it repeatedly. He did it about four or five times. That's when I left, because I thought, 'Oh my God! This man is dead!' " Backed-up motorists are out of their cars now, and Parker turns and runs for help toward a fire station a few blocks away. Others move closer -- but stop short when they see a slightly built fellow on the ground, his head in the grip of a larger man who is straddling him. One woman, still watching through her windshield, blurts, "Oh my goodness!" She's on her cell phone with a 911 operator and doesn't give her name. Her voice is steady but urgent. "He keeps banging, breaking. . . . He's banging his head up against the street. . . . Up and down." Hattie Sweet, a grandmother of 11, gets out of her Chevy Blazer and strides toward the commotion. "The person appeared to be so small, I thought it was a woman. . . . My mind-set was, this gentleman, he's beating a lady. And I thought maybe if he could look upon me, maybe he could see his mom or grandmama or somebody. Maybe if he heard me tell him to stop, reality would set in on him. But when I got there and I saw what he was doing, I couldn't say anything. Words could not come out my mouth." Horns blare. The woman who reached 911 from her driver's seat has children with her, and they cry as her voice pitches higher. "Now he's dragging him up and down the street, sir. Can you hurry up and send somebody? Please! . . . He's breaking his leg off, sir. . . . The man had an accident with him. He's bending the guy's leg all up, sir." "What does the guy look like that's beating him?" the operator asks. "He's tall, he's got a black shirt, got cornrows and got on some blue jeans and some black shoes. He bent the man's leg all up." Sweet sees Hansberry standing over Stokes now, twisting his right foot. "Oh, he was lifeless. And this man was wringing his leg like you would wring a chicken's neck . . . "Everyone was hollering, 'Leave him alone!' 'Don't do it!' And this man was consumed. I don't believe he could have really heard anyone, the way he was acting. To me, it appeared the man was deranged, like he was fighting a bear or something." No one in the crowd steps forward, no one rushes Hansberry, until one man races up. "Someone pushed him off!" the 911 caller says. His name is William James, and he just got off duty. He's 37, an undercover vice officer with the D.C. police, and he's on his way home. He worked in uniform today, and he's still wearing it: dark blue pants and a light blue shirt, the shirt untucked, the shirttail covering the 9mm Glock in his waistband holster. He comes from 100 yards back in traffic, grabs Hansberry and shoves him away from Stokes. Later, he'll sit in a police car nearby, shaken, telling Silvers, the detective, it all happened fast and he did what he had to. Sweet sees James push Hansberry. "He said, 'Get off him!' And when he flung him off, it moved the man back a couple of feet. He stumbled back. And the police officer, he points a finger at him and says, 'You stay there! I'm a police officer!' And this guy, he started toward the officer. And that's when the police officer reaches in and gets his gun." Fifteen years on the force. He's never fired his weapon at anybody. The muzzle of the Glock is aimed at Hansberry's chest as he moves toward James, a few paces away. "There's a gun out!" the 911 caller says, and she yells at the children with her. "Roll your window back up, Greg! Roll your window up! Don't you look!" Screams from the crowd, and Sweet gasps. "It was like something off the TV." James pulls the trigger. Sweet winces. "It was boom-boom. And thank the Lord he did it, because I believe that man was so deranged, he would have taken that gun and killed that police officer right there on Marlboro Pike." Hansberry collapses, two small holes in the left side of his chest. "He shot him," the 911 caller says. Now he's bleeding on the street, sprawled beside Stokes. Hansberry is still breathing. He'll go to Prince George's Hospital Center and flat-line on a heart monitor soon after he arrives. His official death will be declared later. But everyone realizes that it's over for him, too. "He shot him dead in his shoes, sir," says the 911 caller. "B
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 2:57:11 PM EDT
Too long......[sleep] CHRIS
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 2:58:57 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Cixelsyd: Too long......[sleep] CHRIS
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It was a good read. Glad that the psycho was shot and killed. That had to of saved some taxpayer dollars. No nuse to purchse.
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 3:08:48 PM EDT
Just playing jrzy. I'll get back to it later. CHRIS
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 3:11:49 PM EDT
"There's a gun out!" the 911 caller says, and she yells at the children with her. "Roll your window back up, Greg! Roll your window up! Don't you look!"
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Very telling. Glass will protect you from bullets and look away (and you won't get hurt). [rolleyes] Having been in some critical stress situations in my life, it's amazing how most people think, or rather stop thinking when the shit hits the fan. Thank God I'm one of those that gets real focused on the problem at hand and my brain keeps working. A good read and once again telling proof that violence can strike anywhere at anytime. The difference between a survivor and a corpse is awareness, how you react and what tools you have available to you.
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 3:35:38 PM EDT
I know it was long but there was no link to it and if I gave the link out where it came from you guys would kill my friends bandwidth on his small board, not intentionally but dead none the less, LOL
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 3:42:41 PM EDT
Link Posted: 5/28/2003 7:15:38 PM EDT
And here I thought that this was going to be an anouncement about "The Savage Nation" getting canceled...
Link Posted: 5/29/2003 4:46:46 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Cixelsyd: Just playing jrzy. I'll get back to it later. CHRIS
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There's a pop quiz on this later, LOL
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