Elonia and David Reynolds fled crack-flooded Miami Gardens soon after the murder of their daughter. They were afraid-- but not of the drug dealers perched on every corner. It was their own rage that scared them, explains Elonia now: "I felt that I would see young boys on the street and run my car over them. My feeling was, Why are you able to be alive and not my child?"
As Riptide previously reported, the bloody standoff that has paralyzed Jamaica, as reputed drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke resists extradition to the United States, has local roots. In the 80s and 90s, Coke's ultraviolent Shower Posse, then helmed by his father Lester Lloyd Coke, terrified cocaine hub South Florida with the gang's trademark mass shootings.
Hilda LaToy Reynolds, killed by stray gunfire eighteen years ago as she celebrated her seventeenth birthday on a Miami-Dade dance floor, was one of an estimated 1400 people killed by the Shower Posse in the United States during that era.
"I think about LaToy every day," Elonia-- a gravely soft-spoken, strong-boned professional nurse-- tells Riptide in her comfortable Pembroke Pines living room as her husband, also a nurse, sleeps off a night shift in the bedroom. "People say you get over it as time passes. How could I ever get over it?"
Near 4 a.m. on August 15, 1992, aspiring teacher LaToy was at Taste of the Islands, a Caribbean restaurant/nightclub at 20316 NW Second Ave, when gunmen opened fire on the crowded dance floor. They were apparently gunning for a single target, a rival gangbanger, but the shooting left five dead, including LaToy, and seventeen wounded.
One of shooter's guns clicked empty as he pointed it at LaToy's sister Natalie, says Elonia, which is "the only reason we didn't have two caskets."
The slaughter was the deadliest in state history and pure Shower Posse-- the crew that was also implicated in similar mass shootings in crackhouses, in a packed Fireman's Benevolent Hall, in a warehouse in a shootout with cops, and on a soccer pitch where a professional player was left dead.
LaToy's murder tore apart her close-knit, conservative family, immigrants from South Jamaica. Her sister Natalie blamed herself since she had convinced honor student Hilda to go to the club for one dance: "She just couldn't even spell her name right for about a year afterwards," says Elonia.
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The streets solved the murder, she says. While nobody was tried for the Taste of the Islands shootings, all of the players suspected by detectives were eventually either locked up for other crimes or murdered.
The Shower Posse was finally crippled by a RICO prosecution, and Elonia is no longer tempted to use her coupe as a revenge-seeking tank. But she's watched with disgust as "Dudus" Coke has made himself a folk hero in her native country, just as his father Lester Lloyd did-- by plying impoverished Jamaicans with cheap hand-outs of food and cash.
When a photo of 'Dudus' flashes on CNN, Elonia, a firm believer in the death penalty, sees the gangster who stole her daughter's life. "Anybody who has anything to do with the drug trade has blood on their hands," she says. "This boy ["Dudus"] needs to be put on the next boat over here, to face all of the horrors that he wrought."