Dead End

Bullets are flying and young men are dying in Deerfield's street war between Haitians and African-Americans

"After the game, American people want to shoot Haitian people," he told her.

"Why?" she asked.

"I don't know. They just don't like us."

Wayne Adams says shootings are so frequent that he can almost sense them coming.
Wayne Adams says shootings are so frequent that he can almost sense them coming.
Wesly Dorcelus and the young man he's accused of killing, Elvin Holmes (following image)
Wesly Dorcelus and the young man he's accused of killing, Elvin Holmes (following image)

Owens expounds: "Haitian kids are stepkids of this country. That's the way the American kids treat them. They don't realize that the country belongs to us too, to me and to my kids. It's everybody's country."

Butler sounds the same way, only she blames the opposite side.

"The Haitians had him running home from school every day. Kareem would go to a friend's house by Deerfield High because them Haitians would be chasing them with guns. Then I would pick him up. And the school never does anything to stop it. They let the Haitians beat up our boys and then blame our boys for it."

Adding to the similarities, both Butler and Owens have taken their sons out of Deerfield High in an attempt to save their lives.

But that didn't keep Kareem from narrowly escaping another hail of bullets on September 23, the 20th birthday of his friend Elvin Holmes.

Holmes might have thought himself lucky to survive his teen years after getting away unscathed from the gunfire a month earlier at Westside Park. Strobridge, who knew Holmes well, says the boy, like so many youths in Deerfield, was aimed solely at the streets. He'd been busted on heroin charges in early 2006. But last fall, he enrolled at the Youth Automotive Training Center. Strobridge accompanied him to the school.

Holmes was following in Jennings' footsteps.

"He was running with the wrong groups of people," Strobridge says of Holmes. "But he was on track of getting his life together. He stopped smoking; he cut off his dreads. But you know, when you want to do right, it's hard when evil is all around."

Evil found Holmes while he was celebrating his 20 birthday at the La Quinta Inn on Hillsboro Boulevard. And it came in the form of the wrong set of hands gripping a .40-caliber pistol.

Again, Dorcelus, the boy accused in the July 15 shooting, was involved, according to deputies. And again, his older friend, Willy Exhume, was nearby, as were two more cohorts, identified as Herman Jean Jacques and Anderson Metarer. The quartet often hung around the motel with Manoucheka Elie, a cousin of Dorcelus' who was dating Exume and carrying his child, according to police reports.

Elie stayed in Room 133. Holmes and his friends were in Room 328. There was some arguing early in the night between the two groups. A witness later told deputies that while Holmes continued to celebrate, the four young Haitian men were on the third floor passing a .40-caliber handgun from one to the next. According to court records, they talked of killing the birthday boy.

A little after 2 a.m., after Kareem Moore had gone home, Holmes and another friend, Jermaine Paul, walked out of Room 328. That was when deputies say Dorcelus ambushed them with the .40-caliber.

Dorcelus fired at point-blank range, shooting Holmes in the stomach. When he tried to shoot Paul, the boy tried to block the bullet with his hand. It struck his thumb before piercing through the flesh of his left shoulder.

Holmes made it down to the first floor before collapsing on the concrete. He wouldn't survive the wound. Paul, meanwhile, was able to flag down security. While recuperating at the hospital, the younger boy told police that he — like so many other shooting victims — recognized the assailant from his days at Deerfield Beach High.

Exume, Jacques, and Metarer all had an alibi. While their friend was killing Holmes, they were eating at a nearby Denny's Restaurant. None of the three has been charged in the crime.

Dorcelus went on the lam and wasn't found until October 24, when U.S. marshals caught him hiding in a room he rented from a friend. He now sits in the Broward County Jail facing several charges, including second-degree murder.

When Barbara Brown, the tutor who sculpted Jennings' bust, heard about Holmes' shooting, she drove straight to the training center.

"We all cried," she says. "But there was a different feeling with Elvin than with Steven. Now I'm ticked off. This is a horrible problem, and there's not enough being done about it. This needs to be exposed. People need to know that these are not disposable lives."

Now she's dreaming up a way of memorializing Holmes.

"I'm trying to think of something to do with him," she says. "I don't know what it will be, but I want it to be more a social statement of what is going on."

Although both sides had been wildly shooting each other for months, only African-Americans had been killed. Three of them. It wasn't long before a boy on the other side would be added to that dark ledger.

At Mommy's house, there's a bunch of old carpet laid on the ground where the yard is supposed to be, and it leads to a rickety door. That's where she sits in her night dress, knit sweater, and flip-flops, all of them peach-colored.

Inside the old bungalow, she watches TV on a small set that has rabbit ears and a fuzzy picture. Two broken-down refrigerators, with old newspapers rolled up between them, sit next to her. Garden tools are stacked in one corner. On the floor are strewn all sorts of odd half-ruined objects — a rusted space heater, a blender, an old microwave with an iron on top.

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