"Don't worry about what it is," Tafari orders in his deep, enunciated brogue, which sounds not unlike KRS-One's rapping voice. He smiles, showing the round diamond implanted onto a front gold tooth. "I'm drinking it, aren't I? And if you need to take a drug test, just come see me two days before."
The giant Rastafarian club bouncer is a New Jersey native known almost exclusively as Big Dread. He was busted by Miami-Dade cops selling copious amounts of marijuana in 1996. Since then, he's straightened his life out, and become something of a neighborhood fixture famous for the thriving front-yard garden
he and his wife and two daughters live off.
But he's run into some trouble of late. Near 11:30 PM on February 24, he was driving his 1993 Chevy Blazer on the intersection of Northwest 6th Avenue and 62nd Street when, he says, a coupe side-swiped another vehicle and smashed head-on into his SUV. The two black men inside took off on foot. They were being chased by an undercover police vehicle, says Dread, that took off immediately after the accident.
The bouncer's head broke the Blazer's windshield, he says, and his knees tore through the steering column. He was never treated for the injuries because he doesn't have health insurance. His truck was totaled. City of Miami cops that reported to the scene told Dread, he says, that the undercover cops were from an elite Miami-Dade Police unit specializing in burglary prevention. According to Dread, cops combed the 'hood looking for the suspects, who were driving a stolen car, but never found them.
Dread is peeved. "There is no AK-47s in the car!," he booms in a bitter staccato. "There is no kilos! You going to tear through Miami like that, you better be looking for bricks!"
Worse yet, Miami Police has told Dread to try to get compensated for his vehicle from Miami-Dade, and the county department is dragging its feet. He's had several discouraging conversations with officers at Miami-Dade Police's Risk Management office- which, given Dread's propensity for outbursts laced with Jamaican profanities, Riptide would give ten bucks to have tapes of.
The problem stems from the accident's police report, which makes no mention of a pursuing police vehicle.
So... crazy Rasta, right?
Except for that a City of Miami Police lieutenant, Keith Cunningham, who was monitoring the radio at the time of the crash, confirms Dread's story exactly. "There was a RID-unit vehicle from Miami-Dade Police in pursuit of a suspect," recounts Cunningham to Riptide, explaining that RID is a secretive "Robbery Intervention" squad with boundless jurisdiction throughout the county. "The suspect collided with Dread's vehicle."
Yes, even police lieutenants call him Big Dread. So, we ask the cop, what's up with the false police report? Cunningham says he hasn't seen the report and begs off the phone call.
In the meantime, Dread says, his life has fallen to shit. He had to turn down a job tending to a horse breeder's farm because he had no way to get there. Him and his wife's vegetable-patty delivery business is dead. He's late on his house payments, he says, can't pay his utility bills, and can't even work on his garden because of back-pains stemming from the accident. Indeed, on our latest visit, his little patch of Eden was looking a lot less vibrant than in a visit in 2007. And he can't make the trip to see his daughter graduate from the University of Florida. "I'm not trying to hit them up for 25, 30 thou," he reasons. "Give me eight, nine, ten, thousand. I'm in a bind. I want to be made whole. If I was a white boy, would I be put through this?"
Suddenly, he shifts into full-on Rastafarian curse-be-upon-you mode: "Fire of Babylon! All police are parasite!"
Dread goes on like that for a full minute. He aint the type to sue. Instead, he wields guilt and threatens violence. "If you push a black man with a checkered past, and keep pushing, pushing him," he sings, addressing the police directly now, "He's going to do what he has to to support his family. He's going to start resorting to violence, for real. And that's going to be on your hands. You can't expect me to stop feeding my family. You can't expect my daughters to live under a bridge."