Gang Tackled

Football star Jarvis Hicks couldn't resist the undertow of gang violence

A harsh turn of the screws. But Jarvis had even bigger troubles. Death seemed to be following him. Two members of his tightknit extended family died of natural causes, including an aunt and the mother of a friend who had helped raise him.

¨It was horrible,¨ Adamson says. ¨He was so torn up, he could hardly function.¨

Over Christmas break, his friend Ozell Jordan was gunned down. The killer got away without being identified. Jarvis came back to school still suffering shell shock from the loss.

Jarvis Hicks runs the ball for Salisbury, with his good friend and roommate Zach Johnson blocking up front.
courtesy of salisbury school courtesy of salisbury
Jarvis Hicks runs the ball for Salisbury, with his good friend and roommate Zach Johnson blocking up front.
Jarvis Hicks
Jarvis Hicks

¨I asked him how his break went, and he told me, Not so well; a friend of mine was killed,´¨ Adamson recalls. ¨You could see the pain on his face and hear it in his voice. That was the thing about Jarvis. He didn´t hide his emotions. You knew how he was doing when you saw him. At times, he grieved so hard that he couldn´t stop crying. He needed counseling to get through the day.¨

The violence in Deerfield didn´t make Jarvis want to escape the town. Quite the opposite. ¨Oddly enough, it made him want to go home more,¨ Brown says. ¨It makes no sense to people who don´t understand it. If any of my friends died, I´d question what the hell I´m doing up there too. You´d want to be home. The loyalty thing overshadowed everything else. I knew he would take his boys´ side over football.¨

¨He couldn´t break away from home,¨ Adamson says. ¨He tried over and over again, and he had the world in his hands. But no matter how big the carrot was out in front, he just could not do it. That was the heartbreaking part for me.¨


After Adamson sent him off at the airport, Jarvis didn´t stay around his father´s house much.

¨He was staying with friends,¨ Jerome Hicks says. ¨I think he was homesick, and he took what he had for granted. I told him that there was nothing here for him.¨

But Jarvis didn´t listen. When spring break ended, he was still in Deerfield. ¨He didn´t want to be around me,¨ Big Shot says. ¨Was I rational? No. Was I upset? Hell, yes. You raise a child from a month old to 18 and then they turn around and throw away everything? You can´t tie him up and make him go back. It was awful. It´s even worse now.¨

Back at Salisbury, Adamson and Ruskin tried to contact Jarvis, but he didn´t return calls. It was if he´d been absorbed by the streets. It wasn´t long before the fight at the market and the Simon shooting sank him in deeper. Then the summer heat kicked in and the conflict intensified.

On August 21, two of Jarvis´ close friends, Elvin Holmes and Kareem Moore, were targeted in a drive-by shooting at Westside Park. Moore was struck in the thigh. A Haitian youth was later charged in the crime.

Then, on September 8, a fight broke out between Haitians and Americans at Jock´s old stomping ground, the Deerfield High football stadium. While the Bucks played Boyd Anderson High School that Friday night, Jarvis was blindsided with a punch, according to his father. Others claim, however, that he was the aggressor.

The next weekend, there would be another drive-by. A bullet would enter the back of a Haitian teenager. Gasping on his hospital bed, the victim claimed to have seen his assailant. He said it was a boy called ¨Jock.¨


Had things gone differently for Jarvis, he might have been playing for UConn against Wake Forest on Saturday, September 16. Instead, he was in Boynton Beach watching little-league football games with Brett Smith; Smith´s mother, Stephanie Young; and several other friends. They left the field in a three or four-car caravan about 10:30 p.m., Young says.

About 45 minutes later, back in Deerfield, Lee Laster III and seven of his Haitian friends were hanging out on SW Tenth Avenue, getting ready to go a party. Laster was on his cell phone when he heard the thumping of a bass. He looked up and saw two cars, what looked like a small blue Saturn and a red Toyota Scion, pulling toward him.

The 25-year-old Laster thought, or at least hoped, it was girls in the two cars. Laster is a veteran of the street war. He was once shot on the sidewalk, and his house has been struck with bullets more than once. That´s all too common in Deerfield, but what sets him apart is that he´s African-American aligned with the Haitian contingency. He says it´s just a matter of geography -- he lives on a predominantly Haitian street.

¨I used to be cool with the guys on the other side until they started beefing with the Haitians over here,¨ he says. ¨It´s really stupid. I´m in the middle of it, and the funny thing about it is that the people that you hang with automatically make you involved with the problems.¨

That night, when those two cars pulled up, he saw a back window go down on the lead blue car. Then a silver revolver jutted out. Bullets started flying, four from the blue car and one from the Scion. Laster ran for cover and then heard the screams of his friend, Jessy Ulcena. He ran to the 16-year-old, who was writhing on the ground. There was a hole where a .380 slug had entered his back.

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