The Fast Life and Near Death of Nica

Revered by followers, feared by rivals, and targeted by police, the gang leader known as Nica is alive today because of a brush with death

"They were bound to hit each other sooner or later," Pineda says of the two. "I don't know which one was more crazy."

Gonzalez, now 25 years old and recently out of prison following a gun conviction, says he never wanted to fight Nica. He says he respected the Crips' leader until Nica set out to destroy him. "He wanted to bang me," says Gonzalez, who claims he was never in a gang at all. "But I wouldn't let him bang me."

Nica got his next chance on the night of October 21, 1994, in the parking lot of a Miami Subs restaurant on Davie Boulevard. When Nica challenged Gonzalez to a fight, Gonzalez pulled a blue steel revolver out of his waistband, according to police reports. With the gun aimed at his head, Nica just looked at Gonzalez and said, "I ain't going nowhere." Then Gonzalez handed the gun to another reputed IN/P member, Daniel Sions, but he didn't shoot either, and they left. Gonzalez wouldn't discuss the incident.

A life in pictures (from left): Nica as a boy in Nicaragua, before the war ripped through his town; as snapped by the gang task force not long before the hit-and-run (note the scar over right eye caused by a rival slamming him with a car); near death, after the hit-and-run; Nica with his new face  --  and a new life
Joshua Prezant
A life in pictures (from left): Nica as a boy in Nicaragua, before the war ripped through his town; as snapped by the gang task force not long before the hit-and-run (note the scar over right eye caused by a rival slamming him with a car); near death, after the hit-and-run; Nica with his new face -- and a new life
A life in pictures (from left): Nica as a boy in Nicaragua, before the war ripped through his town; as snapped by the gang task force not long before the hit-and-run (note the scar over right eye caused by a rival slamming him with a car); near death, after the hit-and-run; Nica with his new face  --  and a new life
Joshua Prezant
A life in pictures (from left): Nica as a boy in Nicaragua, before the war ripped through his town; as snapped by the gang task force not long before the hit-and-run (note the scar over right eye caused by a rival slamming him with a car); near death, after the hit-and-run; Nica with his new face -- and a new life

Nica says he wasn't afraid of the gun. He says he wouldn't allow himself to be afraid, because he felt the entire gang relied on him to be fearless. "I was trying to show everybody in the gang how bad you could be," he says. "I wanted to take it high. I wanted to be an example so we could show everybody who we really were. I said to them, 'Y'all should be like me. See how I don't care? You shouldn't care either.' That was the way we had to be, but a lot of them were soft."

Detective Nickerson has known hundreds of gang members, but Nica, he says, was far and away the most impervious to danger. "There was no doubt in my mind that he was willing to die for the cause. I told him, 'You're going to get killed someday.' And he basically agreed with me. But he just seemed to be locked in that persona where he was showing the world he was invincible."

Some of his exploits are documented in police reports, some aren't. But Nickerson says he believes all of them.

A week after the Miami Subs incident, the Crips held a meeting at Little Yankee Park in Fort Lauderdale. It was a full moon -- all the Crips' meetings were held during the full moon. A carload of IN/P members drove into the park. Nica stormed after them. Out of the car came Sions, who pulled a 9 mm pistol and pointed it at Nica's head. "He said, 'I'm gonna kill you,'" Nica recalls. "I said, 'Shoot me, motherfucker.' And then he pulled the trigger, but the gun didn't fire."

A fellow Crip managed to coldcock Sions, and the Crips wound up with the gun. "I thought it must have been a toy gun or something. But it was real. It was on safety. I don't know why, but God saved my life that night."

A month later gunfire exploded at the apartment house where Nica lived, on SE 22nd Street. Bullets shattered the back window of Nica's Cadillac and hit an apartment, missing a mother and her three children inside. This near disaster prompted police to park a mobile police unit right outside Nica's door. For weeks police were stationed there, documenting everyone who came to see him.

Nica simply went elsewhere for trouble. But he still refused to carry a gun. "That's the exception to most gang members," Nickerson says. "Most of them would have started shooting people in the back."

Two weeks after the shooting, he was on University Boulevard, where he found members of La Familia. He and five other Crips got out of his car to fight. A reputed La Familia member named Cesar Guzman stayed in his car, slammed the gas, and made a wild run at the Crips, jumping the median and bashing Nica in the back before smashing into Nica's car. Guzman served a two-year prison sentence for the incident.

Nica suffered a bad gash over his right eye and was taken to the hospital, where he was stitched up. But the injury didn't slow him down. Instead he gathered some Crips together and went looking for Sions, found him, and took him to the ground. He says he slapped Sions' face and threatened to kill him if he didn't talk about the apartment shooting. The terrified Sions admitted he was involved in the shooting. Then Nica went to Nickerson, who was in the mobile unit outside his apartment. "He came in and said, 'Here's who did it. Either you handle it or I will,'" Nickerson recalls. The information helped Nickerson make a criminal case against the IN/P members who allegedly plotted Nica's murder. Sions, who was later identified by police as the gunman in the apartment shooting, is in prison today as a result.

Nica continued to run the streets. On the night of February 19, 1995, gang members opened fire on Nica at a vacant gas station on Oakland Park Boulevard, according to police reports. Again Nica escaped harm. Some of the bullets hit a nearby car, though the car's owner wasn't injured. Police later determined that the gunman was a member of Zulu 6, but Nica declined to press charges.

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