Dead End

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

Mommy, who came to America from Haiti 25 years ago and whose given name is Anna Marie Michaud, doesn't speak good English, but her eyes communicate well for her. There's a peacefulness about the 67-year-old woman that is endearing, a friendliness that is charming.

Watching her, it's difficult to believe that only a couple of weeks before, 18-year-old Yndry Cadet died of a gunshot wound in her backyard. Now the woman, who has eight grandchildren, is living alone again, without the stray boy whom she befriended and gave shelter.

On the dark and early Saturday morning of January 6, Michaud woke up to a racket outside her house and walked past the red, plastic-lined couch where Cadet usually slept in the backyard. There, she saw that his car had crashed into the back fence on her property.

Elvin Holmes
Elvin Holmes
Houses in Deerfield show the scars of being hit by gunfire. Yndry Cadet (following image) died in a similar backyard.
Houses in Deerfield show the scars of being hit by gunfire. Yndry Cadet (following image) died in a similar backyard.

When she saw the familiar old blue Buick, she yelled Cadet's name. "I see him, I look at him, I call him," she says. "He don't hear me."

He was gone.

Despite her young roommate's death, Michaud says she can still hear him asking, "Mommy, can I have something to eat?" She remembers the way he loved music, how he'd sit in his car for hours listening to songs when he wasn't at school or working at a nearby store. She tells of how polite he was, how quietly he would slip into her house at night and fall asleep on the small couch in the living room next to her collection of glass figurines.

And she knew he was grateful that she allowed him to sleep in her house. Michaud knew that because of his regular refrain: "Thank you, Mommy." A boy of Haitian descent whose parents live in the Bahamas, Cadet was homeless. He'd lived with an uncle in West Palm Beach but, for reasons Michaud never learned, left there and began living on the streets of Deerfield in the Buick.

It was to Michaud's house, the closest place Cadet had to a real home, where he tried to come after he'd been shot near the American Legion Hall on SW First Terrace.

"He come to the yard," says Michaud, who is retired after working for years as a housecleaner. "He couldn't make it."

Deputies haven't made an arrest — and have so little to go on that they have gone door to door passing out fliers and trying to drum up tips. It may be a mystery, but many in Deerfield who have been following the violence suspect that the African-Americans were getting payback for their lost brothers.

Michaud says she has no idea what happened. She just knows that she wishes Cadet hadn't been taken away from her. "He don't drink; he don't smoke," she says. "He a good boy. I miss him."

Cadet left little behind to remember him by. Deputies impounded his car and took his school duffle bag. All that is left, it seems, is a photograph taken this past Thanksgiving weekend. Wearing a white cap and a white shirt, he stands in front of "The Wall of Remembrance," a memorial project that he volunteered to help build. His hand is shaped in what looks like a gang sign, though law enforcement sources and residents say there isn't much organized gang activity in Deerfield, just loosely drawn together youths aligned with their ethnic group.

Among the names scrawled on the wall that day were those of Steven Jennings, Ozell Jordan, and Elvin Holmes. Next year, Cadet's name will surely join them.

The pastor's voice boomed in a meeting room at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church as about 30 men, most of them fellow ministers in Deerfield Beach, listened.

"We know we have a problem," bellowed the Rev. J.W. Ford, who called the meeting on a recent Saturday evening. "Our young people are out of control."

Later, he summed it up: "The enemy is winning the battle for the hearts and minds of our young men."

Ford conceded that there were some youths, the most hardcore of all, who couldn't be helped. "BSO is going to have to deal with them," he said.

But the church leaders in that room needed to mobilize, he said, starting with a focus on the schools. Not just Deerfield High, ground zero for the conflict, but the middle and elementary schools too.

Adams, the community activist who has been warning of the rise in crime since Jennings' murder, stood up.

"We've been on the front lines talking to the Haitian kids..., but I'm about to give up," he said. "I got guys on my street shooting AK-47s. I think this is a little over your head."

Strobridge, who knew the problem better than anyone in the room, stood up to talk.

"I came from that problem," he announced. "It's just passed down through the generations... We also have to deal with the ones on the street, and I'm going to be straight up: They're going to totally disregard what the elders say."

He said it will take other youths, people who truly understand the devastating changes that have occurred during the past few years, to make a real difference. "We just fought," he said. "Now they've got the guns and knives and everything else."

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