Gang Tackled

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

¨I covered up his gunshot wounds with my shirt,¨ Laster says. ¨It was crazy, mad. He was screaming. I seen the bullet went straight through.¨

Laster never saw the gunman. But Ulcena, who was critically injured, told BSO Det. Joe Kessling that it was a former football star named Jock, whom he had seen around town. Ulcena also said it was the same person who, in April, shot his ¨cousin,¨ Scott Simon.

The next day, detectives re-interviewed Simon, who again said that it was Jarvis who had shot him, according to reports. Arrest warrants were issued for Jarvis in both the Ulcena and Simon shootings. In his affidavit, Foster wrote that Hicks ¨is known on the streets as a member of the Fantastic Three´... [who] are suspects in numerous shootings throughout the city.¨

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

It´s the only mention of Jarvis being in the ¨Fantastic Three.¨ He had been transformed -- in the public record, at least -- from football star to underworld antihero in the space of six months.

Deputies called Jerome Hicks and told him about the warrants. He got Jarvis on the phone; again, the boy said he never shot anyone.

¨I told him to turn himself in,¨ Big Shot says.

Jarvis followed his dad´s instructions and was booked into jail on two counts of attempted first-degree murder, both carrying a possible life sentence.

Later that night, Jarvis lost another friend. Elvin Holmes, who´d been targeted in a drive-by earlier in the summer, was shot dead by a Haitian rival while he celebrated his 20th birthday at a local motel.

Ulcena´s mother, Rozanne Owens, says the arrest of Jarvis set her mind at ease.

¨They say that Jock shot both Scott [Simon] and Jessy,¨ says Owens, who has sent her recovering son to live out of town because of the violence. ¨They said, Jock did it. Jock did it.´ He can kill anybody the same way. The man is a dangerous man. He has to stay away from people.¨

Five weeks after the arrest, Sheriff Ken Jenne announced the conclusion of a crackdown on violence in Deerfield that yielded dozens of arrests. A Sun-Sentinelarticle, which was published November 1, exactly four years to the day after that big Ely game, named only one arrested African-American youth: Jarvis Hicks. It made no note of his past as a football star.

¨We´ve stopped the shootings,¨ Jenne said.

Just seven days later, the State Attorney´s Office dropped the Simon case because the victim again refused to cooperate. The Ulcena case, meanwhile, is far from open-and-shut. No gun was recovered. Others involved haven´t been named by police.

Court records indicate that the arrest was based solely on Ulcena´s testimony and photo identification. Yet he was running for his life in the near-dark at the time of the shooting and may have had revenge on his mind for the Simon shooting.

Also, Jarvis has an alibi. Young says that caravan from the football game which she insists didn´t include a red Scion or blue Saturn went straight to her house and that Jarvis was there with friends for the rest of the night, playing the Madden football videogame on PlayStation 2.

¨I´m positive he was there,¨ she says. ¨There is no way he could have done that on that particular night. We all left the game and got back to the house at the same time.¨

When his former teacher, Ramer, learned that her former student was in jail, she was incredulous. She says she simply couldn´t imagine the polite and friendly boy she had taught shooting anyone. She sent him a letter to the Broward County Jail that included her phone number. Sure enough, Jarvis called.

¨I´m all right, Ms. Ramer,¨ he told her.

¨He seemed to be bearing it well, and he seemed to be reassuring me that everything was OK instead of the other way around,¨ she says. ¨I thought that was amazingly kind-hearted of him. He´s just the last kid I would ever expect to be in that place.¨

But what about the charges?

¨I´m innocent,¨ Jarvis told her. ¨I have witnesses.¨


UConn football spokesman Lee Torbin says that when he learned Hicks had been jailed, he went straight to Coach Edsall.

¨I walked over to the indoor practice facility and just stood on the sideline,¨ says Torbin, chuckling at the memory. ¨I told him about the charges. He was scared and stunned at once. It was a spectacular reaction. It´s not that unusual for a football player to get arrested, but not for that

No sweat for the university, though. Jarvis´ name was simply taken off the recruit list.

Jarvis´ old friends and instructors at Salisbury are left both mortified and curious. But Ruskin, who was dean of students at inner-city Forest Hills High School in West Palm Beach during the 1990s, says he knows about the conflicts between Haitian- and African-Americans in South Florida all too well.

¨The one thing I can tell you is that you can see a kid with so much potential, and then somehow he gets caught up in their neighborhood, and sometimes kids lose control,¨ he says. ¨It´s a volatile situation.¨

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