By Michael E. Miller
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Danny says the heist was Smith's idea. Danny had told her that he and Wayne had helped their employer, Leonard Firestein, move guns, jewelry, and other valuables from his Hollywood pawnshop to a storage facility on NW 38th Avenue in Lauderhill. She then concocted a plan to steal the guns to raise money to bring her fiancé to South Florida from Argentina, Danny contends. Smith, in her statement to police, put the blame on Danny, claiming he offered her $300 to act as lookout. But numerous discrepancies in her account raise doubts about her veracity.
Wayne had agreed to be the driver, but he was already in bed when Danny told him that night that it was time to go. Wayne, who loves to sleep, refused to get up, Danny says, but Smith began insulting his manhood, and Danny, then only 15 years old, threatened to drive their father's car himself. Wayne, who finally gave in, told NewTimes he was protecting his brother: "He said he'd go without me if I didn't go. The way I see it, blood sticks together." Says Danny: "He never wanted to do it. He's lazy and scared to do anything."
Taking their dad's station wagon, Wayne drove Danny, Smith, and Harris to the unoccupied storage facility. "It felt weird," he says. "I wasn't used to doing stupid shit like that. But I went along." While Wayne and Harris stayed in the car, Danny recalls, he and Smith broke in, unarmed. He cut two padlocks with his father's bolt cutter, then punched through the thin metal sliding door to get inside. He went straight to a hidden spot in the loft where Firestein had told him to put the guns. He and Smith grabbed three duffle bags full of guns, a box of ammunition, and several boxes of wine and cigars.
Ten minutes later Danny, Smith, and Harris loaded the booty into the car while Wayne sat up front. "Wayne was real paranoid," Danny recalls. "He just kept saying, 'Let's go, let's go.'" Wayne insists that he didn't know his brother had planned to steal guns until Danny told him what was in the bags. "He told me he was going to take jewelry," Wayne says.
Returning to the Dagenais residence at about 3 a.m., the four teenagers went to the pool in back of the apartment complex and sorted through the guns, some of which were loaded. Old-fashioned six-shooters were tossed into one bag, and more-valuable modern guns, such as a Ruger .357 and a 9 mm semiautomatic, were thrown in another. After hiding the ammo case and cigars in a nearby wooded area, they drove to the home of Danny's friend, 14-year-old Joey Kerr of Sunrise, to stash the guns. By prearrangement, Danny says, they handed Kerr the bags through a basement window. Wayne told police that he and his brother kept a pearl-handled revolver that Firestein had said belonged to Gen. George Patton. Smith took another gun, and Harris also took "a couple," Danny says. Afterward they went to Smith's place and swilled some of the stolen German wine.
The caper started to crumble the next day. Danny got a call from a friend who said Kerr was flaunting the guns. Danny rang Smith, who arrived by car with a friend to pick Danny up and recover the guns. They retrieved the duffle bags from Kerr, thinking they had all the guns, and dropped them off with several youths whom Danny says were friends of Smith's but whom he didn't know. One was Theresa Brown, of Lauderhill, who later told police that Wayne was not one of the three youths who delivered the guns to her house. Danny says Smith's friends were supposed to find buyers for the guns.
Unknown to the burglars, Kerr still had two of the stolen guns. Ten days after the heist, he and 14-year-old Brian Dagenais, Wayne's and Danny's younger brother who was living with their mother in Sunrise, skipped school. They went to Kerr's house, where Kerr showed off two loaded pistols, a .22 and a .357. While trying to unload the .22, Brian accidentally fired a bullet into Kerr's abdomen, piercing his intestine and liver. Brian fled in terror, and Kerr called for help and was airlifted to Broward General Medical Center, where he fully recuperated. When Sunrise police caught up with Brian later that day, he admitted that the guns at Kerr's house had been stolen by Wayne and Danny.
Sunrise police detectives Debbie Aycock and Dan Liotti, who didn't have arrest or search warrants, promptly drove to the Dagenais apartment in Plantation. When they knocked on the door, they said later in depositions, Wayne opened up and waved them in. Brothers Danny and Michael were also in the apartment, but their father was at work. Aycock said that Wayne stepped out of the apartment, and she questioned him while Liotti went inside and grilled Danny. "We began talking," recalled Aycock. "I explained to him the necessity of trying to locate these weapons. He said he would go with us voluntarily."
The brothers tell a very different story, one that raises questions about the legality of the detectives' actions. Police are not allowed to enter a private residence without being invited in, showing a warrant, having reasonable grounds to believe that a crime is in progress, or seeing something illegal in plain sight. (Sunrise police refused to comment for this article.) The boys insist that Michael answered the door. It would have been hard to mistake him for Wayne, who is four years older and at the time was 200 pounds heavier -- a discrepancy noted in the deposition of Louis Randazzo, another Sunrise cop at the scene. Asked by Wayne's attorney whether the kid talking to Aycock in front of the house looked "like the Pillsbury Doughboy" and was very heavy -- like Wayne -- Randazzo replied: "Not very heavy."