Last Step to Redemption

Drug counselor Richard Entriken swam a little too easily in a sea of sharks.

For Entriken's protégés on security detail, it was as if time stood still. Then bullets starting flying. Rounds whizzed past their legs and over their shoulders. Banas dove through a hole in a nearby bush, dirt from the bullets hitting his skin. The assailants fled with the cash.

Entriken was the only man shot. Chris Doherty ran to his friend and cradled his head in his hands. Blood was streaming like water from a hose. A fatal wound. For the several hundred men he had ushered into the fellowship of sobriety, it felt as if their JFK had been assassinated. This man, their leader, had overcome much adversity. He was their hero. Their idol. The man they all tried to emulate.

A few weeks later, police arrested Kino Bartholomew, a 30-year-old former client of 1st Step whom Entriken himself had shepherded to the program from the county courthouse, for allegedly planning the murder.

Richard around the age of 5.
Richard around the age of 5.

For residents, it was the ultimate betrayal: Entriken had persuaded a Broward judge to send Bartholomew his way in lieu of jail time. Courthouse regulars worried that the murder would put an end to the option of diverting nonviolent drug and alcohol offenders to rehab. The witnesses worried they'd be ambushed again, maybe even outside their own homes. The remaining directors at 1st Step worried that all their energy and effort combined could not fill the void created by Entriken's premature departure.

Richard Entriken's beginnings were so far from the vicissitudes of crime and redemption in South Florida that they seemed almost from another dimension. He was born in San Francisco, the youngest of Elizabeth and Robert Entriken's three sons. His father was an insurance executive, his mother a former billboard model. Both parents came from well-to-do families, and the Entriken clan was solidly middle class.

When Richard was 5, his parents divorced and his mother moved to New Jersey, then Manhattan. She would marry twice more. Richard and his brother Edward ("Buck") went to live with their mother, but they returned to California each summer to see their father and older brother Robert ("Rocky").

Buck, who was four years older than Richard, says the marriage split up because he and his baby brother were both abused by an uncle. Their father refused to believe that the uncle, his brother Van, had touched the boys, Buck says, so their mother left. For years, nobody in the family discussed the abuse. "We were in denial," Buck says. "Ricky and I have talked about it over the last ten years. It wasn't until my uncle passed that I realized what a huge injustice we were dealt — given a left curve early on. I don't think Ricky ever smoked marijuana over that, although it's a wonderful medicine for someone trying to forget a wrong."

Rocky, seven years older than Richard, agrees with Buck that Richard always had a sunny disposition. He was the happy baby brother. But underneath he was troubled.

As a teenager living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Richard started smoking weed. He didn't play sports and barely went to school. Buck remembers him befriending young Puerto Ricans like the gang bangers depicted in West Side Story. He dropped out of school in the tenth grade.

At 17, Richard joined the Army. His father, a Navy man, was delighted. Richard wanted to learn how to parachute out of airplanes, so in 1965 he arrived at Fort Campbell, Kentucky — home of the Screaming Eagles — to train with the 101st Airborne Division. Then he shipped out to Vietnam. While in Nam, he picked up two purple hearts, a battered conscience, and an opium habit.

After he returned stateside in 1968, he lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle in Greenwich Village. He grew his hair down to his shoulders, set up a basement space where musicians could jam, and made crazy money dealing drugs. To let potential partiers know he could hook them up, Richard wore a gold charm around his neck the size and shape of an aspirin with the number 714, representing Quaaludes, engraved on it.

Richard may have gotten high with the hardest of the hard drug abusers during the drug revolution of the 1960s and '70s — Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison — but he sure didn't talk much to his brothers about it. "He didn't tell us about anything he was doing when in the company of drug customers," Buck says.

Rocky, a straight arrow, worried more about his baby bro's illicit activities than Buck, who felt like everyone at the time was doing drugs. But Richard was deep into it. He could have been a wiry, white character in the 1972 movie Super Fly. He had made so many trips to Colombia that he had to insert extra pages in his passport to accommodate all the immigration stamps. Soon enough, one of his mules got busted with coke at JFK Airport in New York. Richard was indicted in 1975 for trafficking cocaine. "I thought he was a lost cause," Rocky remembers.

Buck went to Richard's apartment on Bleecker Street hoping to find a way to help his brother get out of jail. At the apartment, Buck got a phone call that put his brother's cocaine cowboy role into perspective. "A Colombian guy, his Bogotá contact, called and said, 'We've got a couple pounds coming. Hope you're ready.' I said, 'Holy mackerel!'"

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help