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On a clear, warm August night, Dwayne Henry made a last-minute decision to pull into a Walgreens parking lot on South Pompano Parkway in Pompano Beach. Before turning, the handsome Jamaican-born 26-year-old bickered with his pregnant girlfriend, Francine, about whether to pick up her prenatal vitamins. It was 1 a.m. and they were tired after working the same late shift at a nearby cell phone company.
In the parking lot, Francine (not her real name) sat behind the wheel as Henry sifted through some hip-hop songs on his cell phone. Then it happened. They heard what sounded like firecrackers and saw a whirl of police lights.
Henry looked out the car window and saw sparks coming from a 9mm handgun. As he ducked, he spotted the profile of a light-skinned man who jumped into a white sedan, hit the gas, and sped off. The man had just shot and killed beloved Broward Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Reyka.
"I wanted to get the hell out of there," Henry remembers. "But I stayed."
That was a big mistake. Henry, whom police just a few months ago termed a "vital witness in the homicide death of Christopher Reyka," sits in a crowded, dorm-style room at Krome Detention Center. A deportation order was issued April 10.
His lawyer, Regina Morales, says the Broward Sheriff's Office, with the federal government 's help, is short-circuiting the still-incomplete investigation into Reyka's murder, perhaps the most highly publicized cop shooting in recent South Florida history — and one of its greatest mysteries. She's taking on the case pro bono.
Henry, who has a lengthy rap sheet, told police the shooter was white or light-skinned Hispanic. For months detectives have been pointing fingers at a group of black men arrested soon after Reyka's death for a series of drugstore robberies. So far they have not been charged.
"If the federal government is trying to pin the murder on these other individuals, my client is an important witness for the defense," says Morales. "He was five or six feet away from the murder scene. He saw Sergeant Reyka bleeding."
Dwayne Henry was born in Kingston and came to South Florida with his father, Leopold, on a three-month tourist visa when he was eight years old. His mother stayed behind. At first, the boy was an outcast, but soon Leopold enrolled him in school. Through sports such as football and baseball, he made friends. And he quickly picked up the saxophone and the clarinet.
As a teen, he often stuck up for the underdog, remembers Anthony Stewart, Henry's best friend. Stewart remembers his buddy protecting a small boy who had been tromped by a larger player during a pick-up football game. "He was always the defender," Stewart says. "He was honest — maybe too honest."
David Hall, his band teacher at Boyd H. Anderson High School, says Henry was on track back then. "He made good grades — As and Bs in my class. And I expected a lot of my students," Hall explains.
When Henry was 15 years old, he was busted trying to steal a T-shirt from a mall and sentenced to community service. Aside from that, he was too busy to cause much trouble. As a high school junior, he was a star pitcher for Anderson High. In 1998, the Sun-Sentinel named him a "top player" in "the most competitive" district in the county. During his senior year, Henry says, he was offered a scholarship to play ball at Florida State University. But then he learned — because he had never been granted residency or citizenship — he couldn't accept the scholarship. "I was depressed," Henry says. "I was trying to cope."
In the years that followed, he found work doing telemarketing and other low-end jobs — but had repeated run-ins with police, court records show. Among them:
• In 2001, he pleaded no contest to buying a $20 bag of pot from an undercover cop on NW 19th Terrace in Fort Lauderdale. A year later, he was arrested for having a small amount of marijuana.
• In September 2002, he was collared for a stealing a cell phone out of a car, pleaded no contest, and paid a fine.
• A year later, a girlfriend, Jennifer Sharkey, claimed he beat her up. He was charged with battery, but the case was dismissed.
• In late November 2003, he was pulled over by an officer but then fled. He was found guilty of driving with a suspended license, trespassing, and resisting arrest without violence, and sentenced to a year. He served about eight months.
• Between 2001 and 2003, he was pulled over eight times for a variety of reasons — from operating an unregistered vehicle to driving without a license. In most cases, he paid fines.
Henry attributes most of his legal problems to two things: (1) his immigration status — after September 11, it became more difficult for immigrants to obtain licenses — and (2) seizures he suffered in high school that were eased by smoking pot. In those years, he had a difficult time keeping a job, but finally in 2006, he took a customer service position at a Pompano cell phone company. There he met Francine. Eric Roundtree, who hired him, says Henry had a solid work ethic. "He never missed a day of work."
Then he pulled into the Walgreens parking lot that night, and everything changed. He and Francine, who now lives in Miami Gardens, decided not to leave the scene because "I wanted to help," Henry says. They spent four hours with detectives, explaining what they saw and answering questions about why they were there.
Fearing he'd be turned over to immigration officials, Henry gave a fake name — and at first didn't mention he'd seen the killer. He says he was hesitant to get involved because he was intimidated by the police.
But then in the weeks following the murder, his conscience got to him and he decided to describe the killer. He says he met twice with detectives. That's when, Francine says, the feds and Det. Dave Nicholson offered a deal: "They told him if he was willing to help, they would turn a blind eye to his [fake] name." Then, 10 days after Reyka's murder, Henry was called to a meeting with Nicholson and FBI agents at the Broward Sheriff's Office.
He repeated again and again what he had seen: the shooter's profile and skin color. He was sure the culprit was either white or Hispanic.
After the meeting, Nicholson penned a note "to whom it may concern," explaining Henry was "a cooperating witness in this investigation" and that he was at "the Broward Sheriff's Office, Homicide Office, from 13:00 to 22:00 hrs and was required to miss work."
In the meantime, a buzz was building about Reyka's murder. A reward of $267,000 was offered for help in finding the killer. More than 1,200 people called in with tips.
Three witnesses called 911 the night of the murder to describe the gunshots and the car. But only Henry caught a glimpse of the killer.
By the middle of September, for some reason, Nicholson's opinion of Henry changed.
"When they couldn't find the guy, they arrested me," Henry says.
Morales says she thinks Henry angered the detective when he lied to him about his name the night of the murder. "I believe that may have peeved Mr. Nicholson," she says.
Indeed, this past September 19, Nicholson filed an affidavit charging Henry with applying for a driver's license with a fake name. He spent five days in jail and was released on bail. The detective had already called immigration officials and suggested they take him in upon release, Morales contends.
Nicholson would say only that Henry is "a desperate man," and declined to comment about Morales's claim. "Be careful about printing what he has to say," he warned New Times before hanging up.
About three months after Henry was taken to Krome, police arrested Timothy Johnson, a 34-year-old black man, whom they have since termed "a person of interest" in the murder. He has a history of holding up all-night drugstores. Officers, who have yet to find a murder weapon, said Johnson's sister, Consuela Jones, had attempted to hide four of his firearms.
This past March 1, America's Most Wanted broadcast a segment about Reyka's killing. There was no mention of Henry.
After eight months at Krome, Henry is ready to leave. "It's horrible in here," he says.
Francine miscarried their baby, and stress has taken a toll on her health. "Whoever killed the cop is still out there," she says.
Chances are that Henry will be sent back to Jamaica in three to eleven weeks. Law enforcement agencies could intervene but likely won't, says Morales. They won't even return her phone calls. "They think he's not telling the whole truth," she explains.
But Morales and her husband, Kevin Millan — a traffic homicide investigator for the Miami Beach Police Department — are vouching for Henry. "I believe him, and my husband believes him," Morales says. "His story hasn't changed."