Real Name: Jayson Artis (pictured)
Nicknames/Alias: No Known Nicknames
Location of incident: Tijuana, Mexico
Date of incident: August 1, 1998
TIJUANA, NEW MEXICO —
Twenty-year-old Jayson Artis and Michael Justin were both friends who attended the same college in Los Angeles, California. On August 1, 1988 the two decided to travel to Tijuana, Mexico for a party, along with Jayson’s younger brother Steve Thomas. They decided to go to Tijuana because it is one of Mexico’s most popular border towns for college students looking for fun at bargain rates.
But apparently a good time here can cost you your life.
About 9:00 pm, the three of them started hitting places that offered all you could drink for less than $5.00. Jayson was usually friendly, but he had a reputation as a rowdy drinker. That night, he was already a little intoxicated and didn’t realize that tequila cost extra—$6.00 a shot. Jason’s friend, Michael Justin, says that Jason got into an argument with the tequila vendor:
“Jayson didn’t want to give up the money, so I just said, ‘Jayson, give him the money. Just give him the money and let’s get out of here.’”
Jayson and Steven left Michael at the bar and went back to the strip. Steven recalls what happened next:
“My strategy was to hurry up and find the car so we can go sit down. We’re kind of drunk, you know what I’m saying? Walking around Tijuana. We were walking down the street, and that’s when my brother accidentally bumped into a female officer.”
The officer seemed to be offended and made Jayson get on his knees. Eventually, the police let him go. Steven says he tried to get his brother to move on as quickly as possible:
“I told him, ‘Walk behind me. Come on. Let’s hurry up and try to find this car.’ He was, like, three or four yards behind me at first. That’s when I walked up some more to another block. I looked to the right, and I looked behind me and my brother wasn’t there. My first reaction was probably that he’s sitting down on a curb somewhere or sitting up against a building, anything like that…”
At approximately 1:30 a.m. Steven was looking for Jayson in the crowds of other partiers. They had become separated while heading back to their car.
“I thought he was just sitting down somewhere, resting. Or that maybe he turned down a different street,” recalls Thomas, who was 16 at the time. “All of us were finished, but he was past drunk. I was very worried that he probably went to jail.”
Soon after Steven lost sight of Jayson, Michael claims that he spotted him in the back of a police car:
“I looked, and I said, ‘What is he doing in the back of a police car?’ They were the last people I saw Jayson with. I saw Jayson with my own eyes in the back of a police car, like I know my hand.”
That would be the last time either of the two would see Jayson alive.
Jayson was found, but not by Thomas. In the early hour Morning of August 2, 1998, at approximately 3a.m., a policeman discovered his bruised and bloodied body in an alley in Tijuana’s rundown “Zona Norte” section. His head was heavily damaged, and his chest bore bruises and broken ribs.
The American consulate sent word that he was located deceased. Tijuana Police told Jayson’s family that he must have gotten lost trying to get back to the border. They called it a ‘‘tragic hit-and-run accident.’‘ But Steven doubts that story:
“I believe that it had something to do with the police. I feel that for a fact. After Michael told me that he’d seen my brother in the back of a police car, there’s gotta be something up there.”
Infact all Jayson’s whole family believed that story didn’t add up.
“I really believe it in my heart that the police killed my son,” said Rose Arrington, Jayson’s mother. “There’s no doubt in my mind. And for somebody to beat somebody like that they had to be so angry.”
Arrington has mulled these facts every day since her son’s death: Jayson was prone to belligerence when under the influence, and was extremely intoxicated that evening. He had already had two run-ins with the police that night, and was last seen in a patrol car with four officers. Official explanation notwithstanding. His autopsy report showed that his lower body was almost entirely unscathed — injuries that many agree are inconsistent with a hit-and-run.
The dust long ago settled in the Tijuana alley where Jayson was found, a barren strip of dirt connecting two rows of car repair shops and abandoned buildings. And an investigation into his death stalled in 2000. But many years later, Jayson’s family and loved ones fear that the real story has been covered up by the Tijuana police department, and sloughed off in the shuffle of diplomacy by the American consulate.
For more of a detailed description on what happened that night, click: Answers to American’s death in Tijuana remain elusive.