By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Then three days later, José Luis Leon Olivera was shot to death during a robbery while he was working as a manager at the Burger King on West Dixie Highway. Police said the two men who killed him with a handgun — 23-year-old Waltaire Choute and 22-year-old James LaPointe — were gang members. Choute killed himself in jail last May, and LaPointe is in jail awaiting trial on first-degree murder and robbery charges.
Three months later, 33-year-old Diego Rojas was shot at 9:30 p.m. The killer drove by, spraying Rojas's NW 125th Street home with 17 high-caliber rounds, barely missing the Argentine native's two-year-old son. Rojas, who worked as a supervisor for a remodeling company, had never been in trouble with the law, and the shooting baffled his family. Police made no arrests.
Over the next few months, crime spiked. Thefts swelled by 19 percent. Robberies were up nearly 30 percent. Cops identified 400 members of seven gangs in the city, including the Zombie Boys and Zoe Pound — groups that use vodou amulets and crosses as silent talismans. During a community meeting on crime, resident Tavia Robb told the Miami Herald that burglars had attempted to break into her home four times. "I can't live like this anymore," she said.
In September, prosecutors announced the arrest and indictment of 17 gang members, including 23-year-old Johnny Charles and 24-year-old Frantzy Jean-Marie, who were alleged ringleaders in the Terrorist Boyz, a deadly group that committed more than a dozen murders throughout Miami-Dade County (at least one was in North Miami) in 2002 and 2003. Police said Charles, who called himself "The Angel of Death," lived in North Miami — and committed many crimes after cutting off a jail electronic ankle monitor.
The violence continued. Nineteen-year-old Gracia Beaugris was shot by Miami-Dade Police during a crime sweep October 26. Officers said he attacked them; the young man had no criminal record and was unarmed. In the wake of the shooting, folks in North Miami — and across the county — held vigils to protest what they said was an unprovoked attack and demanded an investigation.
Beaugris's shooting happened just off West Dixie Highway, across the street from Do's tae kwon do studio.
Ten days later, Jean Etheart, a 37-year-old security guard, was shot while patrolling an apartment complex on NE 18th Avenue, about a mile and a half from Do's studio. No one was arrested.
Finally, on November 10, a 14-year-old named Marc Petit and a buddy tried to rob Knight Auto Repair on NE 121st Street, about two miles from Do's studio. The shop owner confronted the two boys, who were unarmed. Police said the owner felt threatened and took out a handgun, shooting Petit dead.
It all happened as the North Miami Police Department was in turmoil. In late October, Chief Gwendolyn Boyd was fired after months of political skirmishes with Mayor Kevin Burns. She filed a discrimination complaint. Almost immediately after taking office, Interim Chief Clint Shannon organized a violent crime task force.
North Miami officers soon came head up against an entire generation of angry, wayward kids in North Miami — mostly dropouts and second- or third-generation Haitians — who thought crime was the avenue to success. "They say that's the only way they could make a living for their families," says Det. James Mesidor, a Haitian-American who witnessed the birth of gangs such as Zoe Pound and the Zombie Boys while he was a student at Miami Edison Senior High in the late Eighties. "They say job opportunities are scarce, the only way of obtaining money, gaining respect."
As violence surged around the studio, Master Do took advantage of his success. In 2005, the family moved from North Miami to Davie, where they built a house worth a half-million dollars. In 2006, Do and Shin took a vacation to Paris — their first European trip together in 30-plus years of marriage. And the family planned to open a larger studio in North Miami Beach, though zoning issues delayed the project.
Do invested more responsibility in Ricky, who was an accomplished tae kwon do master with a ninth-degree black belt and had a full-time job managing Miami Beach real estate. In his twenties, the younger Do had appeared as an extra in two martial arts movies.
On the Saturday of his shooting, the master planned to wash the Cadillac — his fourth; he loved big American cars — while Ricky and Kathy taught the 11 a.m. class. Then he would play golf before driving to Orlando to assume presidency of the Florida chapter of the Korean-American Association, a group he had been involved with for years.
About 9 a.m. he went to Rapid Oil Change on West Dixie Highway and then stopped by the studio to read the newspaper and chat with Ricky and Kathy. He called Leclerc Prosper, a young-looking 62-year-old Haitian-American with smooth skin and wide brown eyes. "Can you come wash my car?" he asked. Prosper agreed to meet him at noon in the parking lot.
Prosper parked his yellow van in the studio's back lot. He could hear students practicing inside, yelling "Kee-ya" as they kicked heavy bags. Do arrived a few minutes later. A pressure washer was fired up, and Prosper soaped up the black Cadillac while Do cleaned the interior.