M.O.B. (money over bitches)

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

But a fusillade earlier in the evening claimed a life right on the spot, and it was that killing that finally mobilized the community. Thirteen-year-old Gregory Delphin, who was to be in the seventh grade at North Miami Middle School this year, was riding his bike near the corner of NE 145th Street and 7th Court when he got raked with bullets apparently intended for someone else. "He was an innocent victim," says Stepp, the North Miami assistant chief.

"I will never ever see my brother's smile again," Gregory's sister, Gina Cricout, told a handful of citizens who turned out for a July 19 town meeting on the growing gang war, according to a news report. "I'm just reaching out, asking everybody ... feel my pain, feel my mom's pain!"

Strangely, at that same meeting, Mayor Joe Celestin stepped to the microphone and offered: "We're just trying to make sure it doesn't get out of control." The dead kids' parents looked at him in wonder.

In a home videotape from the funeral, the body of Watson Chery rests in peace. In his bedroom the family keeps a shrine: a teddy bear, a Bible, a glass of water, his favorite Kool-Aid and cologne. Cousin Luke Chery displays a tribute T-shirt
Photos by Steve Satterwhite
In a home videotape from the funeral, the body of Watson Chery rests in peace. In his bedroom the family keeps a shrine: a teddy bear, a Bible, a glass of water, his favorite Kool-Aid and cologne. Cousin Luke Chery displays a tribute T-shirt

Celestin, a 44-year-old Republican, has made no secret of his ambitions. Becoming the first Haitian-American mayor in Miami-Dade County is not the capstone of his political career. He has mentioned the state senate, even the governorship. So an unseemly crime wave is pretty inconvenient.

"We were always so humble, so reluctant to get involved with shootings and guns," rails Celestin. "But these kids, born here, are taking for granted what this country has given them. This is gang rivalry. And we are not going to tolerate that."

Meanwhile the police were scrambling to catch up. Less than three months after starting in North Miami as police chief, Gwendolyn Boyd-Savage found herself hip-deep in a crisis she could not have imagined at one of her previous commands -- in Pritchett, Alabama. "Don't be imprisoned in your home," she pleaded with Haitian parents. "You can't allow criminals to intimidate you. This is not the Mafia we're dealing with. These are children."

The chief ordered a Creole-language telephone hotline to be set up. The department sent out press releases offering a reward of $26,000 for information leading to a conviction in Gregory's death. Boyd-Savage herself went on a Creole radio talk show to beg for information. "We need your help," the chief implored Haitian listeners. "Nou bezwen èd ou," translated Herntz Phanord, host of the program Haiti Antenne Plus on WLQY-AM (1320).

And the results were astounding. Number of calls to the radio station: zero. Number of useful, noncrank calls to the hotline: zero.

"I'm baffled," says Boyd-Savage, a 48-year-old African American. "These are street thugs trying to be gangsters. Why aren't parents outraged?"


As frustrated as they were about getting the silent treatment from the citizenry, police did finally get a break, thanks to a confidential informant (C.I.) and some slick undercover detective work. Apparently not happy with their kill rate, the novice executioners hoped to convert some of their weapons from semiautomatic to full auto, so they'd fire faster. The conversion process involves filing down or removing a sear,a catch in the gunlock. But without any experience in illegal firearm mechanics, the shooters turned to someone who might know. And that guy turned out to be an undercover cop.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court by federal prosecutors, the C.I. and some undercovers were amassing a detailed dossier on other activities, including the sale of crack cocaine, marijuana, and weapons that sounded a lot like those taken in the Broward County theft in March.

Finally the police decided they could wait no longer. On July 25 -- acting on information they gathered on their own, Boyd-Savage emphasizes -- a task force of 60 local, state, and federal cops rose early and strapped on their own heat. Splitting into two teams, the officers conducted simultaneous raids on two dwellings just blocks apart. One was a ground-floor, two-bedroom unit at Casa Blue Apartments, 13695 NE Third Ct. Busting down the door, an ATF SWAT team tossed a concussion grenade inside and rousted from their beds two sleeping brothers: Max Daniel, 19, and Richard, 18. Under Max's mattress officers found a handgun. Nearby were several bags of crack.

The North Miami police SWAT team led the other assault on a neat white brick house at 1450 NW 137th St. At 5:30 a.m. they ripped open a wrought-iron gate to the porch, crashed through the front door, lobbed their own concussion grenade onto the white tiled dining room floor, screamed "On the floor, motherfuckers!" and within seconds had nine members of the vertiginous Toussaint family bound and helpless in plastic handcuffs.

Lucy Toussaint, 21, remembers seeing a masked man with a gun looking down at her, and even with the mask she recognized the face. "Belcher!" she exclaimed, meaning Ofcr. Tim Belcher, who was once the police department's program officer at North Miami Middle School. "What are you doing?"

Belcher and the other raiders were there to arrest Lucy's 20-year-old brother, Edwin Toussaint, an Eastside associate of the Daniel brothers. Edwin's nickname: "Funny E." In the Toussaints' back yard, police removed a single cement block from the entrance to a crawlspace under the house and found six guns, including an assault rifle, which they said was the same type that killed Gregory Delphin.

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