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

Gang Tackled

It was just another Wednesday evening when Jerome Hicks got word that his son was targeted for death. The news came from an old friend on the phone.

¨The Haitians are saying that your son shot someone,¨ said Wayne Adams, a classmate at Deerfield High back in the early 1980s. ¨Watch yourself. These Haitians are talking about shooting up your house.¨

¨What?¨ Hicks returned. ¨I don´t need this kind of foolishness at my house.¨


Jarvis Hicks

His head reeled. It wasn´t supposed to happen like this. Not for him or for his youngest son, Jarvis. He was a good boy. Strangers would come up to him in restaurants and trains and tell him what a wonderfully behaved boy he was. Jarvis was loved by his teachers and fellow students at every school he´d ever attended.

Jarvis wasn´t a thug; he was a star. Aptly nicknamed Jock as a baby, he was one of the best football players ever to come out of Deerfield Beach High School. The University of Connecticut signed him to play in the Big East. Just a month before that phone call, the kid was attending a $40,000-a-year New England boarding school for free. That´s how much people believed in Jarvis.

But his father, a former Deerfield basketball star himself known around town as ¨Big Shot,¨ couldn´t escape this fact: Jarvis was sinking into the street war. He was being pulled between two poles, college football and gang fighting. And the dark side was winning.

If he´d kept up his grades or scored better on the SAT, maybe this wouldn´t be happening. If only football-worshiping Deerfield High had treated him like a student who needed to learn instead of a gridiron god who had to be pushed along. Jarvis was an academic mess, but the administration and teachers pushed him forward anyway, from test to test and grade to grade. It appeared that someone even arranged for him to cheat on the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test, the all-or-nothing test for Florida high school seniors.

But Jarvis´ problems now were more about blood than books. Two of his friends had already been buried in the shooting war raging in Deerfield between African-American youths like Jarvis and their Haitian counterparts. The violence was pulling him in; his sense of neighborhood loyalty was taking over.

And now, he was being targeted by the so-called ¨Haitian Mafia¨ gang. Adams, who made the phone call to Big Shot, had seen it with his own eyes earlier that day. Three carloads of Haitian youths, several of them hanging out of the vehicles with guns in full view, had driven down his Deerfield Beach street. They had stared out of the cars with lethal glares, seemingly ready to shoot anybody and anything. They were looking for revenge.

They were looking for Jarvis.

The boy called Jock picked a bad time to walk out on his future. It was springtime 2006, the threshold of the bloodiest period in Deerfield´s history. Some people, including the sheriff of Broward County, would later put part of the blame for the bloodshed on Jarvis himself.

The kid first registered on the sheriff´s radar on April 26 of that year, the day his dad got that phone call. It was just seven weeks after Chris Adamson, his coach at the elite Salisbury School in Connecticut, drove him to Hartford International Airport and made him promise he would come back after spring break. UConn still wanted him. He just needed get the grades and the SAT scores up to become eligible to play.

After Jarvis promised with a smile that he´d return, Adamson gave him a hug and $50 for travel expenses and watched him get on the plane.

It was the last he saw of him.

Back in Deerfield, Stephanie Young, the mother of one of Jarvis´ friends, remembers his immersion back into the neighborhood.

¨I was thinking he was going to pursue his football career,¨ says the 33-year-old Young. ¨I asked him, What´s going on?´ He never answered my questions. He´s a quiet boy, and I thought he was very good in school. That´s why I didn´t understand why he was at home.¨

She knew there wasn´t much hope in that town for Jarvis. Or for her own son, Brett Smith, for that matter. Brett had been expelled from Deerfield High School after getting into fights with Haitian teens. There´s a note of desperation in her voice as she talks about the expulsion, which she says killed most hope for her son´s future.

¨These Haitian boys come onto our street and show guns and have everybody running,¨ Young says. ¨Most American boys that live over here have been kicked out of Deerfield High School. That school shouldn´t have kicked my son out. They ruined our lives by doing that.¨

Now it´s the fear her son will be shot down on the street that keeps her awake nights, especially after a friend was shot in front of her house in December.

¨I can´t lay down in my house until all my kids are safe in bed,¨ she says. ¨It scares me; it terrifies me. I´m trying to move out of Deerfield. Deerfield has become like the wild wild West.¨

Jarvis fled right into the heart of it. And even as Young denounces the violence, she almost mythologizes Jarvis for his street exploits after leaving Salisbury. Like the time he fought in front of a local market.

¨They jumped him, three of them,¨ she says. ¨He beat all three of them up. They couldn´t beat him. That´s why they were after him.¨

That fight is documented in sheriff´s reports. It occurred on that fateful day, April 26, in front of the Ali Market on Dixie Highway, not far from where Jarvis´ friend Steven Jennings was gunned down in 2004. Reports differ on how it began and who was involved, but what is known is that three Haitian teens were indeed beaten up during a melee.

One of the Haitian victims was 20-year-old Kevin Artelus, who was rendered unconscious during the fight. Artelus´ next-door neighbor is Wayne Adams, the old friend of Jerome Hicks. Adams watched from his yard as the vanquished Haitian contingency brought Artelus home in a car.

¨He was knocked out cold,¨ Adams says of his young neighbor. ¨He wasn´t moving. When they carried him inside, I thought he was dead.¨

Artelus is no stranger to the street war either. His house on SW Fifth Terrace has been shot up with bullets. A friend was shot in the buttocks in his front yard. Though Artelus was reluctant to talk about the fight at the store, he indicated that Jarvis was there at the time he was beaten, but he said the boy he knows as Jock wasn´t the one who actually hit him.

Whoever was responsible, emotions ran amok that day. Artelus´ street swarmed with Haitian kids who wanted to even the score. And Adams was told who they were blaming: Jock Hicks. As it happened, Jarvis´ older brother, John, with whom he was very close, happened to be on the street at the time visiting a neighbor. Adams watched as two Haitian youths ran after John Hicks, who´d been sitting in a car. One of their shirts came up, and Adams saw a blue steel gun in the waistband that looked like a 9mm. John fled into his friend´s house.

¨They said they were going to shoot him,¨ Adams recounts. ¨That´s when the police were called.¨

Deputies arrived at the scene and left without making an arrest.

Soon after, the street again was swarming.

¨The Haitians started coming from all corners,¨ Adams says. ¨There was ten out there; then there was 40. They were screaming, talking, walking in circles. They were so mad and angry that day. They jumped in two or three cars, and they were hanging out the windows. There were pistols, sawed-off shotguns. I saw what looked like an Uzi. I thought they would shoot anybody they didn´t like. I thought they might even shoot me.¨

Jarvis, at that time, was at Westside Park, the American stronghold near Stanley Terrace Apartments. One witness at the park would later report to deputies that three carloads of Haitians began ¨scouting¨ the area. Then one of the cars stopped and two occupants got out and pointed guns at the witness.

About that time, a gunman approached one of the Haitians´ cars parked near the apartment complex and opened fire. Glass shattered, and bullets struck Scott Simon, a Haitian teen sitting in the car´s rear passenger seat, ripping through his shoulder and arm.

With a bullet still lodged in his arm, Simon told sheriff´s Det. Walt Foster in the hospital that ¨Jock Hicks¨ was the person who shot him. Simon´s friends offered the detective little more than stony silence.

It was later that night that Jerome Hicks spoke with Adams. Then he called Jarvis.

¨I didn´t shoot nobody, Dad,¨ Jarvis told him. ¨I was there when it happened, but I didn´t shoot anyone.¨

The father listened and he believed his son.

But would anybody else?

When Jerome Hicks dubbed his youngest son ¨Jock,¨ he had no idea whether the boy would be a great athlete. The nickname wasn´t really about sports or stardom. It just sprang from his lips as he played with his beautiful baby son.

There was no mother there to call him by his given name. She left town, leaving Big Shot to raise Jock, his older brother John, and their sisters on his own. It was a group effort, really, with their grandmother and family friends playing the collective maternal role.

The father, who had been an all-county basketball player as a senior, worked too hard at a moving company every day to think much about athletic greatness anymore. He was too busy paying the mortgage on the 1,579-square-foot bungalow on SW 15th Court he bought in 1995 for $86,200.

He says he always felt blessed to have Jarvis. Not because he could play football but simply because he was a good son. But football was what distinguished Jarvis from just about everybody else in town.

Always big for his age, he started playing in grade school, initially on the line, in the trenches. He was solid, but it wasn´t until he played for the Bucks of Deerfield High that he showed just how good he was.

As just a sophomore in the fall of 2002, he won a starting job in the defensive backfield. On November 1 of that year, Jock had a life-changing game under the lights.

The Bucks were playing nationally ranked and undefeated Ely High School. Starring for Ely was phenomenal running back Tyrone Moss, Broward´s all-time leading rusher and a recent University of Miami Hurricane.

Big Shot watched in the stands as his son showed the drive and heart that would distinguish his play throughout high school. The boy always seemed to find the ball and had excellent speed for his six-foot-one, 190-pound frame. That night, he made a sack on the quarterback and tackled Moss for a loss during what was one of the great games of the year.

Deerfield handed Ely, the eventual state champion, its only loss of the season. ¨That was the day my son became Jarvis Hicks,¨ says his dad, the pride still there. ¨That was when he made a name for himself.¨

Soon after the Ely game, the University of Florida´s head coach, Ron Zook, took an interest. Recruiting letters, along with free tickets to games at the Swamp in Gainesville, began arriving at the Hicks house in central Deerfield. Auburn also wanted him, as did West Virginia, Indiana, the University of Connecticut, and a slew of other schools.

During his junior season, Hicks was integral to Deerfield´s post-season charge to the state semifinals, making honorable mention on the All-County team. Before his senior season began, the Sentinel named Hicks one of the county´s ¨Super Eleven¨ players and among the ¨Best in Broward.¨ He told the newspaper that his favorite food was baked chicken and that Lil Wayne songs were in his CD player.

Jarvis also named Ice Cube´s Friday After Next as his favorite movie. No wonder, as Fridays continued to be very good to him. Deerfield went undefeated that season, ending the regular season ranked number one in the state and 14th in the country. The team lost a last-minute heartbreaker in the playoffs in a game still remembered as one of the best in the school´s history. Jarvis was the class of the team, earning second-team All-State and first-team All-County honors.

But outside of the public eye, his life was a bit more complicated. He fathered three children with his girlfriend during his high school years. The children were cared for by the mother´s side of the family. Jarvis was a presence in their lives, but he was more football player than father, hoping his play would ultimately make it possible to support them financially.

As his star rose, central Deerfield, where he lived between two sets of railroad tracks, fell deeper into ethnic conflict. The long-simmering tensions between African-Americans and Haitians began boiling over. Fights disrupted the school. Friends like Brett Smith were expelled.

In the middle of that great senior season, his friend Jennings -- who once defiantly burned a Haitian flag in the Deerfield Beach parking lot on the anniversary of the island nation´s independence -- was shot dead in the street.

Around the same time, Jarvis suffered a serious blow to his football career. His dream of playing at Florida ended when Zook left the school and new coach Urban Meyer took him off the recruiting list. But he still had plenty of options. After visiting several schools, he decided to sign a letter of intent to play for UConn. Not only was he looking at receiving an education at the top public university in New England but professional scouts were dubbing him a future star. The NFL didn´t seem so far away.

There was a problem, though. His SAT scores didn´t meet Division 1A standards. While Deerfield High excelled at exploiting the kid´s football prowess, what about the mundane task of giving him a proper education?

Jessica Ramer, a math teacher at Deerfield High, knew in her gut something was very wrong. When she saw the scores on Jarvis Hicks´ standardized state test, the FCAT, she suspected the worst.

It was the fall of 2004, when Jarvis was a senior and already what she calls a ¨football god¨ at the school. Not that the 48-year-old Ramer had any grudges against star athletes. She was, in fact, especially fond of Jarvis and had developed a quiet bond with him. When he signed the letter of intent to attend UConn, she had a little party with doughnuts for him in her Algebra II classroom.

¨He was one of those students you feel pleased to see,¨ she recalls. ¨He was always very kind in a low-key way to me. There was never anything remiss with him. I never heard a single negative word about Jarvis Hicks, ever.¨

She wonders if he wasn´t in some way set up for failure at Deerfield High. During a recent phone conversation with Jarvis, she asked him, ¨Didn´t Deerfield prepare you for the university?¨

¨Something like that,¨ he said.

Ramer didn´t push the issue. ¨I didn´t want to pry into something that was so difficult,¨ she explains.

Difficult doesn´t begin to describe the nightmare Jarvis had with schoolwork. He struggled mightily in math, yet Ramer admits that she, like so many teachers, passed him anyway.

¨I was the most lenient grader in the world,¨ she concedes. ¨Some of the star athletes would get in my class, and they couldn´t even multiply whole numbers. But I just felt like I couldn´t pull the rug out from under them. You felt like with all the problems happening at Deerfield, all the fighting, that football was the thing that held everything together.¨

Ramer wonders how far some of the faculty might have gone in that regard. Especially when it came to the most pressure-filled test of all. If Hicks didn´t pass the FCAT, he couldn´t graduate. And when he took the test that fall, he failed the verbal section of the test with a one, the lowest score possible.

Four months later, he took the test again with hundreds of other Deerfield students. Miraculously, his score jumped up to a five, the top score possible, achieved by only about 10 percent of students. Jarvis was suddenly an elite student.

Ramer didn´t buy it. Adding to the mystery, another college-bound football star (now playing junior-college ball) made a similar leap, from a two to a five. That student scored a lowly 450 on the verbal section of his SAT -- seeming to contradict the outstanding score on the FCAT, according to school board records obtained by New Times.

The teacher didn´t think Jarvis would cheat on his own. He wasn´t that kind of kid. But perhaps a proctor, scheming to protect prized athletic prospects, had orchestrated it. Ramer says other students told her that they were aware of the cheating but were afraid to come forward.

Ramer reported what she knew about the anomalies to the school´s administration, specifically to assistant principals Colleen Stearn and Antonio Womack. ¨I never heard anything about it,¨ she says. (Neither Stearn, Womack, nor Principal Kathleen Martinez returned phone calls for comment.)

Early last year, after Ramer had left the school, she contacted then-Superintendent Frank Till with her concerns. Till initiated an investigation that, before its quick termination, uncovered some scintillating facts.

After confirming that Ramer´s information was correct, research specialist David Geneiveve interviewed Principal Martinez, who told him that the state´s Department of Education had also detected suspicious scores after the October 2004 Deerfield Beach test, which involved 21 proctors. The state withheld the tests of eight students based on anomalies, though for some reason, Jarvis´ test wasn´t one of them.

Since he found no ¨concrete evidence¨ of cheating, Geneiveve closed the case without interviewing Jarvis or the proctors. He concedes now, though, that Jarvis´ test improvement represented ¨a huge leap¨ that he has no way to explain.

Because Jarvis had a respectable -- and very likely inflated -- 2.3 GPA, he needed only a 900 on the SAT to qualify academically to play football at UConn. The average score in Florida is about 1,000.

His score was in the low 700s, showing just how unlikely that five score was.

He didn´t qualify to play, but Jarvis was too big a star to go down easily. UConn´s head football coach, Randy Edsall, recommended him for a spot at Salisbury School in Connecticut´s bucolic Northwest Corner. He´d forgo graduating from Deerfield and spend a year at the prep school to get the academic help he needed.

The Hicks´ family wouldn´t have to pay a dime of the $40,000 annual cost. But he´d get no free ride in the classroom.

Esse quam videri.

Translated from Latin, the Salisbury School´s rather philosophical motto is: ¨To be, rather than to seem to be.¨

Salisbury football coach Adamson now wonders: Was Jarvis Hicks ever really there? Or did he just seem to be?

Of course, he was there physically. And he was known as a good kid. But like most kids shipped to Salisbury -- most of them the sons of old New England wealth -- he carried home with him everywhere he went.

Jarvis could hardly have been further from home. When Jerome Hicks visited his son at the school in the fall of 2005, he recalls the meticulous grounds, the Colonial-style buildings, the sprawling woods around the regal campus. Jarvis wasn´t in Deerfield anymore.

¨They had the ties, the blazers, everything,¨ says Hicks, who noticed that his son was one of very few black students in the school, which enrolls about 290 boys each year. ¨He lived in a big room with two other players. They had their own desks, beds, computers. It was nice. And everybody there loved him, just loved him.¨

¨Jarvis was just a sweet kid, kind soul, good heart,¨ Adamson says.

The coach, living in a home that connected to the dorm, would visit Jarvis and his roommates with his 2-year-old son, Luke, on a near-daily basis. ¨My son just adored Jarvis,¨ Adamson says. ¨We´d go to his room after study hall. He was one of my favorite people at the school. They´d be playing videogames, and Jarvis was always really nice to Luke. Luke grew to love him. Every football doll he has, he still names Jarvis.´¨

Adamson played the role of Jarvis´ ¨dorm parent,¨ helping him in both the academic and football fields. He says he never worked more with a kid than he did with Jarvis. And he would need all the help he could get in Salisbury´s demanding environment.

Jeff Ruskin, who served as Salisbury´s dean of students last year, says the students have about 1,300 ¨commitments¨ -- meaning required classes, athletic activities, Episcopalian services, and other functions -- to attend during each typical school year.

¨We demand a lot from our kids, and as dean of students, he wasn´t on my radar at all,¨ says Ruskin, who is now a math teacher and head basketball coach at the school. ¨He was definitely not a problem kid. He seemed to buy into everything that we asked of him.¨

The truth, however, was that Jarvis was a reluctant Salisbury resident. Fellow football player, roommate, and friend Zachary Brown says most of the boys, in fact, wished they were elsewhere.

¨We spent most of our time reminiscing about what we thought was our better life at home,¨ says Brown, who is now playing football at Arizona State. ¨Jock felt like he belonged in Deerfield with his boys. We´re 18, 19. There are no girls, no cell phones. The things we value aren´t getting the good grades and getting to college. It´s what we´re missing back home with our friends.¨

Brown, whose family in Dallas has millions, says Jarvis usually had to count on others to pay for extra meals and nights away from the school. When it got cold, Brown told his parents he needed two coats, secretly giving one to Jarvis.

¨People liked Jock, so they´d always take care of him,¨ Brown says. ¨He´s a good person. The way he adapted to a different lifestyle so fast was amazing. He keeps you laughing. He´s pretty goofy. All he wanted to watch was the Cartoon Network. Not a lot really bothered him. He was never angry, ever.¨

His favorite cartoon character was Stewie, the sophisticated and diabolical baby from Family Guy. ¨He would get a picture off the Internet of Stewie and then make him black and put guns and blunts in his hand,¨ Brown recalls. ¨He had a fascination with guns.¨

Brown says he knew that Deerfield was a dangerous place and that Jarvis had ties to its underside: ¨You got the vibe that it was violent there. He talked about Haitians sometimes, said he didn´t like them. He told me he got into a fight with them over a girl once.¨

He even carried his Deerfield neighborhood with him on the football field. After spending the previous summer with his hometown friends, he arrived at Salisbury in poor condition. On the first day of workouts, he wound up so wracked with full-body cramps that he had to be carried by his teammates into the dining hall for hydration.

But he would go on to play both sides of the ball, at running back and linebacker. He led the team in rushing, had a couple of interceptions, and ended the season the fourth-leading tackler. That would be a highly successful year for most players, but not for the UConn-bound star. Adamson noticed the boy´s heart didn´t seem to be in it, and his lackluster performance showed in the team´s 3-5 record against other boarding schools like Hotchkiss and Cushing.

One game in which Hicks really excelled was telling. It occurred on October 29, 2005, the weekend his dad and brother were visiting. The foe that day was New Hampton, and Jarvis ran for 100 yards on 20 carries and had three solo tackles in a 28-21 victory. Having his family, a little bit of home, in the bleachers obviously motivated him, Adamson says.

The talent was still there, though. UConn signed Hicks to a second letter of intent for a scholarship to play football on February 1, 2006. But Jarvis knew there was a good chance it wouldn´t happen. He scored in the low 700s again on the SAT. Salisbury´s first-rate education didn´t seem to be taking hold.

Brown, who scored a 1310 on the SAT, began tutoring Jarvis on the test, determined to lift the grade above 1000.

¨We worked hard,¨ Brown says. Again, though, Jarvis scored in the 700s, which was extremely disappointing to them both. And he was failing a couple of courses.

¨At the faculty meeting, Jarvis came up every week,¨ Adamson says. ¨I wonder how many times he really had F´s but got C´s at Deerfield, because he didn´t have much basis for anything academically.¨

When UConn´s coach Edsall learned of Hicks´ scholastic troubles, he met the boy in Adamson´s office and told him he had to pick up his academic work.

¨[Edsall] laid out for Jarvis what he needed to get done,¨ says Adamson, who sat in on the meeting. ¨He told him that if he didn´t pick it up, then other students like him wouldn´t be able to attend Salisbury. If he kept falling down, that wouldn´t happen ever again.¨

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.

¨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.

¨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.¨

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-Sentinel article, 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.¨

When Coach Adamson heard the news, he thought of the deaths Jarvis suffered through. ¨The first thing that crossed my mind was that it must be something to do with a friend of his that got killed or something to do with his family,¨ he says. ¨I can´t see him randomly shooting anybody. But he´s an emotional kid, and he´s a very loyal kid.¨

No matter how bleak it may seem, Big Shot says he believes his son is innocent and will be absolved. Once freed, he´ll get his life together. Then Jarvis might even play his way back into football.

Big Shot believes he can do it. Because his son is good.

¨He told me he would never shoot anyone, and I believe he´s telling the truth, because of his character,¨ his father says. ¨Was he hanging around with the wrong people? Yes. But I just don´t think it´s possible he would do something like that. That´s just not Jarvis.¨


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