The Murder of Master Do

Ten murders and Haitian gangs roil the quiet town of North Miami.

The two were friends. "Okay, take a break now," Prosper joked to Do after just a few minutes of work. Then he turned his attention to the left front tire.

Suddenly gunfire sounded. "I was scared," says Prosper, who speaks English with a thick Kreyol accent. "That's a gunshot. I didn't look. I just kept putting water on the tire. I didn't want the guy to see me."

But out of the corner of his eye, Prosper glimpsed the man in a white shirt and dark, baggy shorts. He was about 20 feet away, holding a long brown rifle in both hands. "I swear to the Lord, I didn't see his face," Prosper says. However, he did see Do lying on the ground near the Cadillac. The shooter took a couple of steps toward Prosper and aimed at his legs. One bullet barreled through his left calf, the other through his right.

Do (right) with Peter Cruz, one of his first students, who is now a North Miami Police sergeant.
Courtesy of the Do family
Do (right) with Peter Cruz, one of his first students, who is now a North Miami Police sergeant.

Prosper lay on the ground, bleeding and in excruciating pain. He looked down and saw the exposed bone of his left shin; then he spotted the shooter running from the parking lot and toward a black Mercedes waiting at a nearby Farm Stores market. A religious man, he closed his eyes and prayed as the Mercedes peeled off. God give me life, he thought.

Patrol officers soon arrived, and one of them called Sgt. Peter Cruz — Do's longtime student and a North Miami police veteran — at home. Cruz, who is 47 years old and looks a bit like a tougher Russell Crowe, was preparing to attend a baptism with his family. "When I arrived at the studio, rescue had taken Master away to be airlifted to Jackson," Cruz says slowly. "I heard he had been shot several times. I should have known it was over, but I was in denial."

Sgt. Scott Croye, a North Miami Police homicide detective, went to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he spoke to Ricky and Prosper; they didn't know anything about the shooter. Then crime scene technicians found five shells at the scene. Later Croye spoke to employees at the shops nearby — a beauty salon, a Haitian notary, a cell phone store — but they claimed not to have seen or heard anything. Frustrated, Croye watched a surveillance video from the Farm Stores market. The camera had captured the Mercedes, but the license plate wasn't visible.

Over at Jackson, Do clung to life. Students gathered outside as surgeons operated. At one point, a doctor emerged to talk to Ricky. "He lost a lot of blood," the doctor said. "I don't know how he's still alive." As Sunday dawned, the family had some hope. Do was hooked up to a breathing machine and nodded his head when people spoke to him. The surgeons operated three more times, but on Monday his prognosis was even worse. Around noon, he was taken off the ventilator, and the family prepared to watch him die. But Do lived for five more hours — long enough for nearly 600 students to pass his bed and say goodbye.

Ricky watched his father take his final breath. "I reassured him that everything was going to be okay," he recalls.

When the heart monitor flat-lined, Ricky walked out of the room and down the hospital corridor. Tears welled in his eyes. This is not for real, he thought. It's a bad dream.

Just then, a yellow beam began pulsing toward him. "It was the most beautiful light I'd ever seen," Ricky recalls. He rubbed his eyes, but it didn't go away. "It made me feel so calm. I think that was my father speaking to me, telling me right then that everything was going to be all right."

Three days later, the family buried Do. Nearly 2,000 people attended the funeral — including Mayor Burns, Police Chief Shannon (who was promoted), and countless students. In Korean tradition, the body was driven past the place where Do spent the most time — the tae kwon do studio — so his spirit could say goodbye. Scores of students laid flowers and tributes at the door. "Thank you," wrote members of a black-belt class from some years back, "for your patience and wisdom in helping us achieve the understanding of the night."

Ricky opened the studio a week after his father died. During the first class after the shooting, he says, "people didn't know what to say. I couldn't stop looking at the back door, looking at the parking lot. I was waiting for my father to show up."

In the following weeks, 27 tips poured into the North Miami Police station. Sergeant Croye identified several suspects — but none panned out. Meanwhile, violence in North Miami raged on. Three people were killed over the next three weeks, less than a mile and a half from where Do was gunned down.

Six days after the Do shooting, 16-year-old Bunky Telys was murdered by another teenager. Both were gang members, police said. On December 3, Victor Manuel Guzman Lopez was discovered dead in a closet inside his home. Police suspected foul play but made no arrests.

And on December 14, Pedro Fernandez Moreno, age 43, was shot and killed in his Nissan Altima while he was parked outside a strip mall less than a half-mile from the tae kwon do studio. This killing echoed the Do tragedy — it happened in broad daylight on a weekend.

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