By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Just after 1 a.m. September 12, 2008, a security guard heard two gunshots ring out from a parking lot in the southeast corner of campus. From a distance, the guard watched Times stash the rifle under a car.
Times readily admitted to the guard that he "brought the gun to school because he was recently threatened," according to a police report, but he denied firing any shots, and cops never found a witness or a victim. The aspiring embalmer was charged with possession of a weapon on school property. But with his clean criminal record, he was offered a deferred prosecution agreement, and by staying out of trouble for the next year, he would not be prosecuted.
Times was allowed to return to Florida Memorial, where he is currently enrolled. School administrators did not respond to an inquiry about whether they disciplined the vigilante student.
On your average small liberal-arts college campus, a student bringing a hunting rifle to school to wage war on gangbangers might be considered something of an event. But it's nothing extraordinary at FMU.
Since the Miami Gardens Police Department was incorporated in December 2007, its officers have filed 196 police reports for crimes committed on FMU's campus — almost four times the number reported (56) at its close neighbor to the east, St. Thomas University.
None of the reports provided by MGPD concerns drug crimes, infractions that are usually handled by administrative discipline. And for privacy reasons, police did not provide reports that were sexual in nature.
In 22 months, there were four reported shootings, including Theodus Times' alleged warning shots and two other weapons violations. There were two armed carjackings and three reports of cars stolen without violence. There were 28 reported assaults, batteries, and fights.
During that same period, there was a rash of thefts, including 28 burglaries at dorms and school businesses and at least one home invasion and several forced entries. At least four groups of students filed reports that their dorm rooms had been pried open with crowbars and their computers and other valuables pilfered.
In total since 1995, including records provided by the Miami-Dade Police Department, there have been 860 campus crimes reported, including 214 assaults, batteries, and intimidations; 110 burglaries; and 38 cars stolen.
"It gets wild out here; you gotta be able to hold your own," explains Jake, who was charged with battery this fall and asks that his real name not be used. Cops said he and another student began brawling over an unreturned greeting. Charges against both fighters were eventually dropped, and Jake says neither was suspended from school. "You're not going to find most of the fights on no police reports."
If the bulk of the fights seems to occur between students, it's clear that at least in some cases, criminals from outside the school are preying upon students. Around 4 a.m. September 24, 2008, 24-year-old Troy Clayton and his student girlfriend, 20-year-old Diamone Dunnam, were parked in front of the school in his red Chevy Monte Carlo when a silver four-door car squealed to a stop in front of them. Two young masked gunmen jumped out. "You know what this is!" one demanded. "Get out and lay down!"
They snatched Clayton's wallet, his girlfriend's purse, and even the permitted Ruger .45 he kept stashed under the driver's seat. Then one stick-up kid sped off in Clayton's Monte Carlo while the other followed in the silver car. "We both were shocked, like, This is not real," Clayton remembers. "This is not happening in front of the school."
Three security guards sitting at a front-entrance security checkpoint "less than 200 feet away," according to Clayton, didn't learn of the carjacking until the robbed couple informed them of it. "They told me I was the fourth victim of carjackings that had happened in the same way," he recalls. Although some had occurred a couple of blocks from campus, all involved FMU students. Clayton's robbers were never caught, but cops recovered the abandoned Monte Carlo and the handgun.
"It's hard to say for sure how many of these crimes are perpetrated by students and how much is outsiders coming in," says one Miami Gardens detective who also grew up in the town. "It's probably students stealing from each other, because that's just what people do. But most of the violent stuff is likely perpetrators coming from [Miami Gardens] or Opa-locka, looking for easy pickings."
FMU's vice president for administration, Harold R. Clarke Jr., says he's "not going to speculate" on the source of the crime. "Some of it may be coming, as you say, from outside," he allows and then touts security measures the school is in the process of implementing: 20 new surveillance cameras and a $120,000 front-gate system that will access criminal records from the license plates of visitors to campus. Any nonstudents with rap sheets or outstanding warrants will not be allowed in. "We are very concerned about the safety of our students," he says.
If that state-of-the-art gate can help plug the steady stream of security-related litigation that has plagued the university's administration in the past five years, it will have been a bargain.
LAW 404: Litigation Concerning Stalker- or-Attack-Related Injuries
In summer 2002, a Florida Memorial junior and campus resident named Phylise Johnson ended a summer fling with 24-year-old Opa-locka resident Jervon Antonio Smith, who was not a student. She was thoroughly creeped out by the "compulsive liar" who intermittently claimed to be a policeman and a pastor even though he was in fact unemployed, she later explained in a court deposition. He had secretly stalked Johnson since seeing her in an FMU commercial.