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12532: N. Dade plagued by gang violence (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Jul. 14, 2002

N. Dade plagued by gang violence
Authorities assemble task force

One night in May, Kevin Noel answered the phone: Someone had just gunned
down his brother near the James E. Scott housing project in Liberty City.

Noel ran outside. Boom, boom -- he felt a searing pain in his belly and
slumped to the ground, shot twice in the stomach.

These ambushes were part of a simmering Haitian gang war that has since
erupted across northern Miami-Dade County. At least seven teenagers have now
been buried -- including a 13-year-old boy caught in the crossfire on the
Fourth of July as he biked home from a friend's house.

So far, investigators have been stymied.

Trying to reach out to a reticent Haitian community, they have appeared on
Haitian radio. They have hosted forums for Haitian leaders. They have gone
door to door through Haitian neighborhoods.

But few citizens are talking. They are terrified of retaliation from
gun-wielding teenagers. And the gang members -- many of whom are survivors
of earlier shootings -- prefer to mete out justice themselves.

''One of these young men was shot at several times,'' said North Miami Chief
Gwendolyn Boyd-Savage. 'You would think he would have called police and
said, `Someone wants to kill me.' But no. The third time they got him.''

She was referring to Jerry St. Pierre. After spotting gunmen following him
in traffic on one occasion, and evading pistol-wielding rivals on another,
the 19-year-old was finally gunned down in front of his family's house on
June 27.

Police have assembled a task force of more than a half-dozen state and
federal agencies to catch the killers. They are even poised to make a few

But detectives are bracing for more retaliation.

One suspect recently came in for questioning -- while wearing a bulletproof
vest, according to law enforcement sources. And there is talk one of the
gangs has drawn up a ``hit list.''

''It's crazy,'' said one law enforcement source. ``You've got these kids who
barely know how to use guns, and they've gotten ahold of all this firepower.
Sooner or later, some innocent victim's gonna get it.''


One already has. Gregory Delphin, 13, was biking home July 4 from a friend's
house -- where he had played video games and lighted firecrackers -- when
someone in a passing car fired a gun.

''I got shot!'' Gregory hollered. He then crumpled to the pavement and died.

Detectives say they do not believe Gregory was involved with any gangs.

''We're not sure whether he was hit by a stray bullet, or whether it was a
case of mistaken identity,'' said North Miami Assistant Chief Stephen Stepp.
``Either way, he was an innocent victim.''

Gregory's death has generated community concern. On Friday, a small crowd of
his relatives, police officials and fed-up citizens marched through the
streets, handing out fliers asking for information about his death.

But Gregory's killing was just the most recent in a four-month spate of
violence. The origins of this ''war'' may stretch back years, investigators
are slowly learning.

Some of the teenagers involved in the clash attended North Miami Senior High
School, police said. There, one group of teens regularly picked on another,
sources said.

Those two groups now play a central role in the current feud, according to

The northward migration of some drug dealers from the Scott projects --
where Kevin Noel's family once lived and his brother later died -- has also
created hostilities.

Disputes over girlfriends, a scatter of neighborhood ''gangs'' choosing
sides -- all have added to the volatile mix, according to investigators.

But the real war began April 8. That afternoon, Kevin Noel, his brother
McCandy Saintil and a friend were driving through North Miami when someone
fired a burst of shots at them.

A ''long brown car'' was seen screeching away, according to police reports.
No one was hit -- but one bullet punched through a nearby front door and
several more peppered a passing motorist's car, the reports said.

Since then there have been more than 20 shootings throughout the northern
portion of the county east of Interstate 95. Bullets have showered houses,
cars, people.

In some cases, teenagers were wounded:

 Franz Evering, 14, was shot in the leg as he stood on a basketball court
May 18.

 Ralph Altidor, 19, was shot in the arm and lung as he stood outside an
apartment building May 24.

 Henry Nathaniel Jr., 19, was shot in the leg and shoulder as he walked
home May 29.

 Jimmy St. Pierre, 15, was hit in the foot by the same hail of gunfire that
killed his brother June 27.

All told roughly the same story to detectives: They were baffled as to why
anyone would shoot them and didn't know their attackers.

''They know who the offenders are,'' Boyd-Savage countered.``They're just
not talking.''


A growing concern among investigators across northern Miami-Dade County is
that more people will be maimed or killed -- like Gregory Delphin.

Less than an hour after Gregory fell on July 4, gunmen in a passing car
opened fire on a group of eight teenagers hanging out in front an apartment
complex in North Miami Beach. They showered the teens -- who detectives
suspect belong to a notorious Haitian gang -- with more than 70 bullets.

One wounded teenager staggered to a nearby corner and collapsed. Four others
piled into a car and drove to the nearest police station.

Seven teenagers were hit in that drive-by shooting. Two were badly wounded
and are still recuperating at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

A recent influx of guns on the street has also fueled the violence.

''Before all these guns appeared, they didn't have anything to shoot each
other with,'' said one law enforcement source. ``You can't shoot someone
without a gun.''

And detectives say they cannot solve the cases without cooperation. Examples
of reluctance abound.

After the May 18 shooting on the basketball court, North Miami Beach police
rushed to the scene. ''I began trying to get information from people that
witnessed the shooting,'' one officer wrote in a report. ``Most people did
not want to get involved.''

Another example: A loud burst of gunshots erupted between the warring
factions one recent night on a North Miami street. No one was hit -- but no
residents called 911.

It took a passing motorist to alert police that shots had been fired.

To those reluctant to step forward with information, relatives of Gregory
Delphin have a message.

''They have to put themselves in Gregory's mother's shoes,'' said Nubian
Blane, Gregory's cousin.

``I believe that would break the silence. Because the pain a mother feels
when she loses a child is a pain more grievous than pushing that child out
of the womb.''

There is up to $6,000 in reward money for anyone with information leading to
an arrest or conviction; call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Or,
for those who prefer to leave a tip in Creole, they can do so anonymously by
calling 305-893-7633.

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