Dead End

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And she knew he was grateful that she allowed him to sleep in her house. Michaud knew that because of his regular refrain: "Thank you, Mommy." A boy of Haitian descent whose parents live in the Bahamas, Cadet was homeless. He'd lived with an uncle in West Palm Beach but, for reasons Michaud never learned, left there and began living on the streets of Deerfield in the Buick.

It was to Michaud's house, the closest place Cadet had to a real home, where he tried to come after he'd been shot near the American Legion Hall on SW First Terrace.

"He come to the yard," says Michaud, who is retired after working for years as a housecleaner. "He couldn't make it."

Deputies haven't made an arrest — and have so little to go on that they have gone door to door passing out fliers and trying to drum up tips. It may be a mystery, but many in Deerfield who have been following the violence suspect that the African-Americans were getting payback for their lost brothers.

Michaud says she has no idea what happened. She just knows that she wishes Cadet hadn't been taken away from her. "He don't drink; he don't smoke," she says. "He a good boy. I miss him."

Cadet left little behind to remember him by. Deputies impounded his car and took his school duffle bag. All that is left, it seems, is a photograph taken this past Thanksgiving weekend. Wearing a white cap and a white shirt, he stands in front of "The Wall of Remembrance," a memorial project that he volunteered to help build. His hand is shaped in what looks like a gang sign, though law enforcement sources and residents say there isn't much organized gang activity in Deerfield, just loosely drawn together youths aligned with their ethnic group.

Among the names scrawled on the wall that day were those of Steven Jennings, Ozell Jordan, and Elvin Holmes. Next year, Cadet's name will surely join them.

The pastor's voice boomed in a meeting room at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church as about 30 men, most of them fellow ministers in Deerfield Beach, listened.

"We know we have a problem," bellowed the Rev. J.W. Ford, who called the meeting on a recent Saturday evening. "Our young people are out of control."

Later, he summed it up: "The enemy is winning the battle for the hearts and minds of our young men."

Ford conceded that there were some youths, the most hardcore of all, who couldn't be helped. "BSO is going to have to deal with them," he said.

But the church leaders in that room needed to mobilize, he said, starting with a focus on the schools. Not just Deerfield High, ground zero for the conflict, but the middle and elementary schools too.

Adams, the community activist who has been warning of the rise in crime since Jennings' murder, stood up.

"We've been on the front lines talking to the Haitian kids..., but I'm about to give up," he said. "I got guys on my street shooting AK-47s. I think this is a little over your head."

Strobridge, who knew the problem better than anyone in the room, stood up to talk.

"I came from that problem," he announced. "It's just passed down through the generations... We also have to deal with the ones on the street, and I'm going to be straight up: They're going to totally disregard what the elders say."

He said it will take other youths, people who truly understand the devastating changes that have occurred during the past few years, to make a real difference. "We just fought," he said. "Now they've got the guns and knives and everything else."

A church elder named Calvin Calcote took the podium and gave a passionate speech.

"It hurts to go to some of these funerals...," he said. "The killing's got to stop!"

Calcote said he was organizing men to march in the community, including Haitian ministers, who would walk side-by-side with them. His words pointed to the glaring absence of Haitian leaders in the room, underscoring the cultural divide.

"I don't care if they got guns," Calcote shouted. "Let them shoot. If I lose my life, I lose my life."

Ford declared that he wasn't sure the men in the room were really ready to tackle the problem. The meeting was a lot of talk with no clear ideas about what to do, others complained. Ford said they would need a top man if they would have any chance at all. He looked at Strobridge, whom he'd never met before that night.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman