A knock had come at his apartment window just before midnight, Smart said. It was the same window from which his longtime best friend and roommate, Jonathan Volcy, sold drugs. Volcy, a Haitian orphan whose only family was a nearby sister, was on the phone with his girlfriend. Neither Volcy nor 14-year-old Raynathan Ray, who'd recently run away from his El Portal home after saying he wanted to be a gangster, wanted to answer the knock. So Smart opened the window. "There was this one dude who was all mumbly and nervous," Smart told the couple. Smart said he couldn't make out the man's face. "All he was saying was, 'Gimme sumthin'. Gimme sumthin'.

In Detroit, city police shot a 7-year-old girl in the head in a botched attempt to catch a suspect sought on The First 48.

"So I said, 'Give you what?' "

A second person then appeared before the window. He held a black 9mm Luger. From within him came a deep voice: "What now, nigga? What now?" Smart dove out of the way as bullets filled the room, striking the freezer, the entertainment center, the walls. When the shooting subsided, Smart said, he sprinted out the back door, yelling for help.

Smart told investigators the killer had shot into the apartment from outside. Police found the window opened six inches.
Courtesy of Joe Klock
Smart told investigators the killer had shot into the apartment from outside. Police found the window opened six inches.
Smart called police to talk about the murders. When they met, detectives arrested him.
Photo still from A&E's "The First 48"
Smart called police to talk about the murders. When they met, detectives arrested him.

As the couple listened, suspicion germinated. First, there were Smart's feet. They looked auburn, like he'd stepped in something red. Was it blood? Then, Smart's story seemed to defy reason. "With what happened to the other two, how's he going to come out without a scratch?" Rivera asked the cops. "It's common sense."    

"I think he killed them," Fernandez later told investigators. "When he was in my house, he looked nervous, then he was OK, then he would cry, then he was fine. He knew his buddies were dead before the police got there."

Their doubts about Smart were confirmed, they said, when he departed their house and found a phone at another neighbor's. The youth placed at least 20 calls but none to police. Would an innocent man not call the cops?

Smart walked out of the neighborhood the next morning at 5, mulling the same question. He knew the police were looking for him but vacillated about whether to call them. "The way I grew up," he now tells New Times, "snitches get stitches. That's just how it is."

At a friend's place in North Miami, Smart took a call from his mom, Flora Smart. She's a rounded woman with a lazy eye who bounced in and out of homelessness with Taiwan during his childhood. While she looked for work in those days, the boy was often left alone or in the care of others. When he was only 6, she recalls, Taiwan's uncle forced him to smoke marijuana laced with cocaine multiple times before she discovered it. So in the shelters and unemployment lines, Flora and Taiwan had forged a fierce, determined relationship: They'd been through shit before, and they'd make it through again.

"Mom, my friends been shot!" Smart wept into the phone. "And people think I did it!"

"Taiwan," she recalls whispering into the phone, "the police are looking for you." In fact, she told her son, a thick man named Detective Fabio Sanchez had already arrived at her apartment to see if Smart was hiding there. He had a manicured widow's peak and a harried camera crew in tow. "The police says the killer's out there looking for you," she continued. "You need to talk with them. They can protect you."

But if interviews with the woman who discovered the bodies are any indication, police had different intentions. Around the same time Smart hung up the phone, Ciara Armbrister emerged from a soundproof room at the Miami Police Department that detectives call "the box." She'd been in there for hours, telling and retelling how she'd found the bodies and what had happened before the murders. The transcript of the interview reads like something out of Waiting for Godot, as detectives repeat the same question over and over. They wanted to know if Smart had argued with his roommates before the murders.

As Armbrister affirmed seven times in the interview, there had been an argument before the murders, but it hadn't involved Smart and the victims. It had been between Smart and an unnamed "Spanish guy."

Q: Was there any time that Taiwan argued with [victim Volcy]?

A: No.

Q: The argument was not towards each other?

A: Uh-huh.

Q: Was there a time when Taiwan was arguing with [victim Ray]?

A: No.

Q: So the argument was strictly with the Spanish guy?

A: Uh-huh.

This information, however, was disregarded in The First 48­­­, in which the narrator growls, "The man the witness says the victims had argued with is named Taiwan." The police report likewise misrepresented her statement: "According to the witness," Detective Fabio Sanchez later wrote, "the defendant was involved in a violent argument with the victims over money and narcotics."

Armbrister eventually signed an affidavit stating that Smart had argued with the victims in Creole over money — despite the fact that neither she nor Smart speak Creole. Reached by New Times, Armbrister expressed outrage at the cops' treatment of her during that interview. "They made what I said into something entirely different," she says.

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9 comments
frankeshoemaker
frankeshoemaker

I have fond memories of this neighborhood before the street trash took over. My grandmother lived on the block of 79th & Biscayne Blvd. back in the 70's.


Bottom line, it's the TV show's fault for street trash committing murder and for an under staffed homicide department pressured to close cases. Geniuses! All you NIMBY's cracked the case. Your prize? A challenge. I challenge you to move into this neighborhood, become a communist...uh hum...I mean..."community orgranizer" and work to "change" this neighborhood. 

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

.......................not that a DRUG ADDICTED "witness" won't rat out whomever is convenient and give FALSE testimony against someone just to get their own a$$ out of trouble - the police simply have pressure to bring someone in to be charged for the crime = period

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

.............................from my general observation of police investigations historically the problem is the theory that even IF the wrong guy gets the sentence that guy was going to EVENTUALLY do something to put him in jail anyway..........so whatever the evidence shows for any particular crime as long as someone gets convicted and put away the streets are safer and the community can rest comfortably knowing the criminals are being locked away...........so fifty years later we can now look back and see this got us deeper into it = period

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...........................the show doesn't "imprison" anyone, either innocent or guilty,  it just video tapes and then airs the events = period

the judicial system IMPRISONs, defendants as represented by their counsel, who lose their trials and hearings in front of a jury and or judge and the court process determines who get IMPRISONed = period

to blame the show for bad police investigations or errors in the justice system or just poverty and drugs and dishonest people involved in a very bad situation isn't because of a show - it happens all the time with or without TV cameras

smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

@frankd4Your missing the point of the article.  Its the fact that they RUSHED the investigations and forced the evidence to conform to what the idea they had in the show in order to put the wrong guy in prison, or shoot up the wrong house in the sake of "good tv".

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

......................coincidental and circumstantial JUST like the evidence and processing of the crime IN WHICH CASE the verdict should have been appealed by the defendants attorney and errors made continue to be made with or without TV cameras (the BEST example is when a BLACK harvard professor was arrested in boston for "breaking into" his own house despite the boston police having the professor positively identified and his story corroborated and verified by HARVARD)

it was the judge who decided on the sentence AND it was the commander who picked the wrong house - with or without TV rushing them

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@smdrpepper @frankd4 


...................i agree he wasn't going to be represented by an OJ-caliber "dream team" but he did get his "day" in court (and eventually was acquitted and released) = but my observation is that his problems weren't because of a TV show = period = they are because he is BLACK and haitian and poor and in a very bad community of drugs and criminals and bad people

smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

@frankd4And I doubt this kid could even dream of affording an good attorney to fight this.  At best he had a public defender which likely did not remember his name.

 
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