By Chuck Strouse
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By Terrence McCoy
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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At some point they were spooked enough, or had had enough thrills, to split. They radioed Garcia, scaled the fence, and all three disappeared into the night. According to Carlos, who claims to have heard a firsthand account of the crime, "There was a little celebrating after that. It was a pretty big deal, yo."
The crime was quickly discovered, probably within minutes of the boys' escape. An officer walked outside and saw one damaged car, then another and another. The lot filled with incredulous cops, frantically checking their own cars. Officers were on their knees peering under vehicles. A few leaped into cars whose tires were still inflated and screeched out of the lot in pursuit of ... anything they could find.
"I don't know if öshocking' is the right word," says Lt. Lino Calvo, commander of the general investigations unit at the Hammocks. "It made me very angry." He glowers. "Very angry."
Initially the police didn't know where to begin. Because the camera monitors carry only live feeds, there was no recording of the break-in. As one officer told New Times: "We had no idea what to look for, other than possibly some guy with balls too big to fit in his pants."
Police vandalism isn't unprecedented. In January 2003, for instance, eight police cars parked in front of homes around the Hammocks and Kendall communities were vandalized in one night, an act that police speculate might have been some kind of gang initiation. To date no one has been arrested for those crimes.
But this had a different feel to it -- not only was it grandiose in both scope and daring, but it happened right on police premises, under the cops' noses. One officer, speaking anonymously, proclaimed that the vandals had become their public enemy number one.
It was the perfect crime, if such can be said of an act of vandalism. There were no prints, no video evidence. The kids had attacked a cop shop and gotten away clean.
Except that they started talking. Immediately.
"Fuck, yo, all I'm saying is two beers," Carlos pleads with the startled black man playing pool with two young kids. "I'm good for it, check it out." He pulls a couple of twenties from the pocket of his baggy jeans and waves them in the older man's face.
"I'm playing pool with my kids here," the man replies, turning away, "and I don't want to hear any more about it."
Carlos is shooting stick at Don Carter's Kendall Lanes, the bowling alley/pool hall/full-service bar where, on a Friday night, it seems half the high schools in West Miami-Dade, along with families, church groups, and singles on the make, have congregated to meld squeals and chatter with the hip-pop pumping from loudspeakers and the incessant din of caroming bowling pins.
Too cool to compete with the noise, Carlos speaks in a low voice and is generally monosyllabic, talking in a throaty, tough-guy drone that far outdoes his five-foot-five, buck-forty frame. A pack of Newports peeks out of one pocket, a cell phone out of the other. His black wallet, attached to a belt loop by a steel chain, looks so oversized it might drag down his sagging pants were they not cinched by a brown belt over his boxers and skintight tank top.
He and his friends, most of whom are juveniles, spoke to New Times on condition their identities not be revealed. His boys -- a revolving crew of fifteen- to eighteen-year-olds -- are generally clad in similar attire, some with green McNabb or black Dwyane Wade jerseys thrown over their T-shirts. Though most are Latino, they speak almost entirely in English, and if they share one personality trait, it would be that they all think they're bad.
This particular set of kids, most of whom live in the Hammocks area, claims allegiance to the notorious Latin Kings, as did the three teens who committed the crime, according to police. This is suggestive in itself: The Kings, if they still exist in South Florida at all, are certainly only a shadow of the feared outlaw gang they once were. Police say the vandals called themselves Latin Kings, though if you look through the literature handed out by schools or community groups about "gang membership warning signs," you won't find much here. No tattoos. No gang colors. No real money circulating. Carlos, who is a senior at Southridge High School, lives in an apartment with his mom. On weekends he buses tables at a Kendall restaurant -- the source, he claims, of the 40 bucks he's trying to buy beer with at Don Carter's. He spends a lot of time on his PlayStation and a lot of time smoking weed.
A black kid with a shaved head approaches the pool table, gives Carlos an awkward half-hug, and asks, "You gots?" Carlos turns to one of his boys: "Yo, play some pool while I take care of this." Then he and the black kid strut off to the parking lot to transact a $50 weed deal as comically grim-faced as a pair of pistoleros headed for a showdown.