Update 8/22/16: A jury acquitted Sheriff of attempted murder in the second degree on Aug. 18. Sheriff's attorney, Anthony Robbins, says the jury doubted testimony by Reginald Beauvoir. "We were able to present that the witness statements were inconsistent," Robbins says.
The party was jumping behind the small beige house backed up against I-95 in North Miami. Dance lights flashed on hundreds of liquor bottles behind the makeshift bar. A DJ dropped a bass-heavy mix. And just before midnight, a party bus full of girls rolled up.
It was tough to miss the man of the hour. Corey Liuget, a six-foot-two, 300-pound behemoth who starts at defensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers, towered over the dancing crowd. He'd thrown the January 17 gala as a surprise birthday party for his mom, Lorene, who owns the modest home.
Thirty-two-year-old Reginald Beauvoir had been there for a while when the party bus pulled up. He was buzzing. Suddenly, though, he felt a tap on his shoulder and looked up to see Sleep, one of Liuget's cousins, whose droopy eyes inspired the nickname tattooed on his left arm. "I want to show you something outside," Sleep said.
Beauvoir shrugged and followed.
He barely had time to notice the barrel of a .45-caliber handgun thrust in his face. Then a flash blinded him. His body filled with ripping pain.
Though Beauvoir miraculously survived the shooting, the attack has left his life in disarray. Three months later, he has lost his job, his hearing, part of his left ear, and all sense of safety. Worst of all, he says, a criminal case against the shooter is imperiled because Liuget's extended family has clammed up; none of the scores of partiers there that night has cooperated with police or Beauvoir's attorney. The reason: They want to protect the shooter and shield Liuget's millions.
"I know these guys, and that's why it's so shocking to see them turn their back on me," says Beauvoir, who before the party worked at a produce warehouse with two of Liuget's brothers and several of his cousins. "Right is right, and they're doing me wrong."
Liuget's supporters say he's been a model professional athlete, giving thousands of dollars back to his hometown and staying involved at his alma mater, Hialeah High. They cast doubt on Beauvoir's motives and say whatever happened that night, the star had nothing to do with the violence. "That would be completely out of character," says Len Sanders, Hialeah High's athletic director. "He's one of the best community-involved athletes in the NFL."
Either way, as the NFL wrestles with a new wave of controversy over its players' violent conduct in the aftermath of the Aaron Hernandez trial and several domestic violence arrests, any criminal case involving guns and parties tied to a star is bound to raise ire at league headquarters. The San Diego Chargers and Liuget declined to comment; a spokesman from NFL headquarters didn't return a call.
Liuget's rise to football fame began with a hardscrabble South Florida childhood and an indomitable work ethic. Born in 1990 into a huge family with roots in Haiti and the Caribbean, he spent his early years at his grandparents' small home on the eastern fringes of Hialeah, just off NW 36th Avenue near 95th Street. He was always surrounded by relatives; his grandparents, Lillie Mae and Olden Sheriff, have 16 children and more than 100 grandkids and great-grandkids, according to a May 30, 2011 U-T San Diego profile.
Life was never easy. When Liuget was only 4 years old, his father was killed in an accident while visiting relatives in Haiti. Liuget once had to dive under a van during a drive-by shooting. And when he was 12, he let a friend ink a jailhouse-style arm tattoo that reads, "32 Ave." After his mother remarried, Liuget and four siblings moved to a housing project where they would sell boiled peanuts and conch fritters to help make ends meet, he told U-T San Diego.
He struggled through middle school. Authorities regularly sent him home for fighting and making trouble. Eventually, his mom moved him to Hialeah High, near his grandparents. There, as his already-huge frame filled out, it became obvious he had elite athletic talent.
"You could tell from early on that he had all the tools to make it to the NFL," says Steve Smith, who coached Liuget until his junior year. "It wasn't just the athletic skills. He had a great work ethic too."
Smith remembers Liuget showing up one summer to help renovate the team's locker rooms and weight-training facility. He'd stay from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. painting and moving equipment. During the season, he'd show up before coaches to organize roll call. "Corey is one of those types of kids that, as a parent, you hope your kid grows up to become," Smith says.
On the field, he was a freak. Liuget, who weighed 220 pounds by his junior year, tore through high-school opponents to destroy quarterbacks. He was so nimble that Smith even used him as a quarterback and wide receiver. After high school, Liuget attended the University of Illinois, where he thrived. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2010 before declaring eligibility for the NFL draft. San Diego picked him 18th overall.
But Liuget had one last brush with trouble back home before establishing himself on the West Coast. In December 2011, two months after his rookie season began, an ex-teammate at Hialeah High sued him in Miami-Dade Civil Court. The teammate — a five-foot-ten cornerback named Yvener Lisca — claimed that in May 2010, he'd been hanging out in South Beach when Liuget suddenly punched him in the face, shattering his jaw.
Lisca went on to play at Eastern Arizona College, but in the suit — which has never before been publicly described — he alleges the punch left him with "disability, disfigurement, [and] mental anguish." The pair went to mediation, and Liuget in 2012 agreed to pay Lisca $85,000, without admitting guilt.
Beauvoir is eight years older than Liuget, but his family tale is similar. Born in 1982 to parents who fled Papa Doc's regime in Haiti, Beauvoir grew up in unincorporated Dade County near Opa-locka and graduated from Miami Central Senior High in 2001. Soon afterward, he landed a job at an Associated Grocers of Florida warehouse.
He liked the job and got along well with his co-workers. "We'd be there all day, talking shit and laughing," says Beauvoir, a short man with a round face who punctuates stories with an easy, rolling laugh.
Many of his co-workers were relatives of Liuget's. Two of them, Bernard and Tarvoris Innocent, were the football star's half-brothers. Beauvoir often heard stories of their hulking relative's exploits as he moved up the college ranks and into the pros, but it wasn't until Liuget made his mark as a Charger that Beauvoir began seeing the NFL star's effects on his relatives back home.
"They'd always be inviting me places, like, 'My brother is throwing this big party,'?" he says. "Once, they tried to get me to go to the Dominican Republic. Corey was paying for the trip, they said — 'Just give us your passport.'?"
Beauvoir passed on that trip and usually declined the crew's invitations. But in January, he made an exception. It was Saturday night, and Beauvoir had nothing going on. Plus, the party at Lorene Liuget's house was only a few blocks from his own North Miami home.
He knew the man who shot him in the face that night. Sever Sheriff II — better known as Sleep — had worked with Beauvoir for a few years at the warehouse. Beauvoir, who has no criminal record, knew Sheriff had a criminal record but didn't think there had been anything serious. (In 2008, Sheriff had been charged with felony driving with a suspended license; a judge agreed to withhold adjudication if he completed a year of probation, but just six days later, Sheriff was caught not only driving but also buying weed from a local dealer. He pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony and served 90 days.)
Earlier at the party, Beauvoir had even joked around with Sleep. That's why, as he clutched his face just after midnight and tasted the blood pouring into his mouth, he felt as much shock as confusion. Did Sleep really shoot me in the face? Why?
When he woke up later in a hospital bed, he still had no answers. "The doctor basically told me that one inch over, I'd be dead. That bullet would have been in the back of my brain," Beauvoir says.
Instead, the slug tore an inch-deep trench into his cheek and ripped off the top of his left ear. His hearing was badly damaged by the pressure wave. Doctors left the wound open for weeks because the damage was too deep to use stitches. "You can imagine a month of laying in bed and constantly bleeding," Beauvoir says. "It was horrible."
Beauvoir picked Sleep's mug shot out of a lineup, and two days after the shooting, police arrested him on charges of second-degree attempted murder. Beauvoir's best guess for a motive is that he said something Sleep didn't like. "I don't care how high or drunk he was; he knew what he was doing," Beauvoir says. "He was probably just having a bad day and decided, Whoever pisses me off tonight is gonna get it."
No one answered the door at Lorene Liuget's home when a New Times reporter visited; she hung up when a reporter called. Bernard Innocent says the family won't comment before Sleep's trial.
"We've got court coming up," Innocent says. "We can't talk about anything until we go to court."
Beauvoir's problems were only beginning. Soon after he left the hospital, another of Liuget's relatives left him a threatening voicemail. "He said, "Why'd you do this, Reggie?'?" Beauvoir says. "?'Why'd you bring the police into this? You got about a hundred million ready to jump on you now.'?"
Officially, Beauvoir says, he heard nothing from Liuget's camp. No one offered to help with his medical bills. And after hearing the voicemail, he realized he couldn't go back to the warehouse where he'd worked for 13 years. "I already got this threat. Let's be realistic — I couldn't go back there," he says. "They could fuck me up easily. Anything can happen in a warehouse."
Even worse, Beauvoir says, witnesses soon began clamming up. Detectives told him that Liuget's brothers claimed that he'd shot himself with his own gun and that he was drunk. Then Beauvoir hired a lawyer, who encountered the same uncooperativeness. "I've contacted every witness from the police report," attorney Mishaal Patel says. "None were helpful at all. Some said they didn't even remember being at the party."
Beauvoir believes they've been silenced for two reasons: to protect Sleep and to shield the Chargers' star's cash. But the gunshot victim says he's not out for a payday. He fingers the thick scar gashing his cheek and his mangled ear as he recalls the violent attack. He says he's tried to reach out to Liuget, with no success.
"I just want to tell Corey: 'Look, I'm your brother's friend. You was there. You was the host,'" he says. "He should have taken care of the medical bills, and then I would have been all right. It would be cool with me, and I could have gone back to work. He could have been a man about it. But it's been, Nah, we don't give a fuck about you."
Editor's Note: After publication, Sever Sheriff's attorney, Anthony Robbins sent the following note:
The one thing that is missing in this story is the fact that Mr. Sever Sheriff II is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a jury of his peers. I am confident that my client will be cleared of all charges. Mr. Sheriff despite his criminal past due to traffic violations and petty purchase of weed, I have to speak on Mr. Sheriff behalf that the evidence do not support the claims made by Mr . Reginald Beauvoir, who is making a mockery of the entire judicial system with lies and misconceptions because the story neglect to mention that Reginald Beauvoir despite what has been printed came to the party slurred as the young kids call it in the streets (drunk).
My investigation reveal that Liuget wasn't even in the facinity if the shooting and lacked any knowledge of the shooting which may have been self inflicked by Mr. Beauvoir