M.O.B. (money over bitches)

Thug life ain't no good life, but it's my life.

For teens looking to prove themselves, gangs are one way to go. "Absolutely unsurprising in the immigrant American experience," comments University of Miami anthropologist J. Bryan Page, chairman of the Center for Haitian Studies. "The pattern is for young people to reject their parents' ways, move into a truculent adolescent mode, and reflect the behavior they see around them. These kids were getting bullied, and they found each other."


After Watson Chery was assassinated, all hell broke loose. On May 24, another 19-year-old with Westside connections, Ralph Altidor, was shot in the arm and lung outside his apartment in North Miami Beach. Five days after that, on May 29, Nathaniel Henry, Jr., also 19, parked his car and started walking down the 400 block of NW 129th Street, heading for the house of a friend. Henry -- also a TJ alum and one of the few non-Haitians among the teenage players -- says he did not see his assailants. But when he awoke in the hospital, he had six bullet wounds, from one shoulder to his legs. When he left the hospital two weeks later, he had a steel rod and two screws in his left leg and a guess about what happened.

Tony Toussaint (top right) opens the repaired front gate busted down by the North Miami SWAT team in a July raid in which his son Edwin was arrested -- cops found these lethal weapons hidden in a crawlspace under the house (top left)
Steve Satterwhite
Tony Toussaint (top right) opens the repaired front gate busted down by the North Miami SWAT team in a July raid in which his son Edwin was arrested -- cops found these lethal weapons hidden in a crawlspace under the house (top left)
Arrested during SWAT team raids on their homes and held on federal weapons and drug charges are three Eastsiders, Max Daniel (top), his brother Richard, and Edwin Toussaint
Arrested during SWAT team raids on their homes and held on federal weapons and drug charges are three Eastsiders, Max Daniel (top), his brother Richard, and Edwin Toussaint

"Middle school shit," supposes Henry, who is African American. "We had a fight in middle school and we thought that was it. I don't chill with them niggas [Watson Chery et al., but since [the shooters] seen me, they said, 'Fuck it, let's get him [too].'"

Then it was Jerry St. Pierre's turn. Like his pal Watson, St. Pierre was a high school dropout who got hung up in the gangsta-style ghetto while trying to figure out his life. To his mother's dismay, he wore his hair in dreadlocks, decorated himself with homemade tats, and prowled around in low-rider pants. When he went out, he snapped gold caps on his front teeth.

His work record was spotty. And he had minor scrapes with the law. But Cecile St. Pierre, 62 years old, says the youngest of her four children was no ogre. "He was my baby," says St. Pierre, who moved her family here from Brooklyn after the death of her husband.

Cecile St. Pierre's baby borrowed his sister Myriam Curry's car one night in June, went out for a while, and when he returned he was shaken. "He was sweating, stressed out," says Curry, 33, a registered nurse and mother of two. "But he wouldn't tell me what was wrong. 'Don't worry,' he said, and patted my head."

The next night, June 27, Jerry St. Pierre was standing outside his house with his older brother Jimmy, age 25, about 11:00 p.m., when a dark blue minivan crept down NW 3rd Court from 137th Street. "I thought it was going to pull into the driveway next door," recalls Jimmy St. Pierre. But just as the van was about to pass their house, it suddenly stopped, the sliding door flew open, and at least three men got out, handguns blazing.

In the instant before his brother pushed him to start running, Jimmy St. Pierre says he looked directly at one of the shooters. "His eyes were glowing, like he was possessed," Jimmy says. "And he looked scared."

Despite taking a bullet in his left foot, Jimmy made it to a friend's house around the corner. But Jerry died right by the front gate.

Although he was an obedient child at home, Cecile St. Pierre says she knows her son had another life outside on the street. "You can't die without God's permission," says St. Pierre, a cafeteria worker at North Miami Elementary School who wears gold-framed glasses and speaks as if she has been struck numb by her loss. "I got respect at home, but when they out, you don't know them business."

From a chair on the front porch she stares at the spot where her son died. "My life now is coffee and cigarettes," she says, dry-eyed. "That's all. I'm the loser. I lost my son, period."


For most area residents and their political leaders, the first few deaths were easy to ignore. With their dreadlocked hair, tattoos, oversized clothes, and underdeveloped work ethic, the teenage casualties were thug-life poster boys. And outside of their families and friends, no one seemed to care that they were gone. Other drive-bys, taking place with increasing frequency, got scant mention in the daily press.

But many in the Haitian-American community had begun to take notice. Along NE 6th Avenue, lined with three- and four-story apartment buildings, people were so afraid of becoming collateral damage that they refused to hang outside and socialize as usual in the evening. Botanicas sold potions designed to keep children from harm. Community leaders such as the Rev. Jean Pierre of St. James Catholic Church warned that parents were failing to discipline their children, were even afraid of them. "It's a very serious situation," says Pierre. "If we don't take drastic measures, we are going to lose our young. The kids are going wild."

Then came the fireworks of the Fourth of July. The big explosion that day was a 70-round volley of gunfire; the drive-by was aimed at a group of teenagers standing in front of an apartment building near Victoria Park in North Miami Beach. Seven people were wounded, including North Miami High School senior Emmanuel Robiou, age 17. He died of his wounds three weeks later.

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