Longform

Backbreaker

On April 1, as dusk settled on Bal Harbour, Dr. David Goroway parked his white Toyota Tundra on Collins Avenue. Only a few years ago, when he lived with his wife, a former model, in a mansion in Southwest Ranches, a trip to Bal Harbour might have meant a day of shopping or a night on the town. Back then, he was a dashing young chiropractor who had earned millions helping his colleagues wring extra bucks out of insurance carriers. But his businesses gradually failed. His marriage imploded. And he found himself mired in a sweeping lawsuit filed by insurance giant State Farm. According to police, Goroway arrived in Bal Harbour on the night in question with a very different agenda: to buy half a kilo of cocaine. He had come, more specifically, to Haulover Park, to the parking lot that borders the Intracoastal Waterway. Goroway's contact asked to see the money, and Goroway showed him 90 $100 bills.

Goroway's hair was thick, short, and jet-black. He wore designer jeans with a white-and-blue long-sleeved shirt. He was 43 but looked more like an undergrad with rich parents as he waited by his truck. The other man opened the trunk of his car and returned with a half-kilo of cocaine, which he allegedly handed to Goroway. Goroway climbed back into his pickup and drove south on Collins, slowing as he approached a red light. He was waiting to make a U-turn that would bring him north, in the direction of his Hollywood home, when he heard a sound behind him. It came from an unmarked police cruiser.

No one but Goroway knows what flashed through his mind in the moments that followed. Maybe he was in a state of disbelief. Maybe he went into an adrenaline-fueled panic. Or maybe, in those moments, as two Bal Harbour cops in SWAT gear approached his truck, guns raised, David Goroway simply decided he would rather die on that spot than find out what would happen next.

All that's known for sure about those next few seconds is that they produced three gunshots — and a whole lot of blood.


Goroway detailed much of his life story in a wide-ranging 2005 deposition for the State Farm lawsuit. He was born in East Brunswick, a New Jersey city of about 50,000 that today serves as a bedroom community for those who make the hourlong commute to Manhattan. Goroway's mother, Betty, worked as a nurse. After she divorced his father, that nurse's salary was the family's primary income. Goroway and his four siblings weren't poor, but in a city where today the median income is about $90,000, they ranked at the low end of the working class.

Goroway was ambitious if unfocused. While his friends wanted to buy a Camaro Z28, Goroway dreamed of a Corvette. He just had to figure out exactly how to make his fortune. He dreamed of a career in acting, but in his success-minded Jewish family, that didn't sound practical. Better to channel his talents into law or medicine.

A doctor's work — orthopedic surgery, maybe — interested Goroway, but medical school held little appeal in the months after he graduated high school. His passion was playing middle linebacker. They didn't have a team at his first school, Middlesex County College in nearby Edison. He then transferred after a semester to East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, where he hoped to walk onto the team.

While lifting weights, Goroway injured his back. Before Goroway went in for surgery, he decided to visit a chiropractor. The treatment worked, and Goroway — who had returned to his hometown to attend Rutgers University — decided he'd make chiropractic his career.

Considered a form of alternative health care, chiropractic focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system that cause pain in the joints, back, and neck, treating them through an array of physical adjustments to the spinal column — never through prescription drugs.

Goroway was 23 when he enrolled at Life Chiropractic College, an alternative-health school in Atlanta. He roomed with a swarthy, mischievous fellow named Markell Boulis. "I was a young, crazy, skirt-chasing, going-out-at-night kind of guy — and so was he," Goroway noted in his deposition. "He was fun, and he was charismatic and charming, and so we were friends." On nights when he wasn't partying with Boulis, Goroway was tending bar or working as a bouncer to pay his tuition.

In 1991, he graduated with a degree as a doctor of chiropractic. He packed his life's possessions into a U-Haul and drove south. Goroway didn't know a soul in Florida. "I liked the sun, and I didn't like New Jersey weather," he said.

As he neared Miami, Goroway left the freeway and went cruising on the side streets for chiropractic clinics. Finding one, he'd walk into the office and offer his services as an intern. The first to accept was the South Florida Center of Chiropractic Medicine on East Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach. Goroway would be paid $150 a week.

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Thomas Francis