Marc Williams has a tragic habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. On April 26, 1992, a 17-year-old Williams joined a couple of teenaged friends in a very sloppy criminal plot to rob a taxi driver. (They claimed a television news segment was their inspiration.) But following a struggle, Williams' 16-year-old friend pulled the trigger, killing the taxi driver. As an accessory to that murder, Williams spent the next 12 years in prison.
So around the age of 30, Williams was set free and had a second chance at being a responsible, productive adult. He got a job with a construction company. He enrolled in college classes at Carlos Albizu University in Miami. He bought a condo in Davie. And a staffer at Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office had helped Williams qualify for the moral waiver necessary for an ex-convict to be accepted into the U.S. Army.
"I didn't want to remain in the criminal mindset," says Williams. "I knew I had to do something good to get rid of this conviction."
All that Williams needed to do to gain entry into the Army was to pass a couple of classes at Broward College. He was already enrolled in them in September 2008 when he had another unfortunate encounter with police.
Williams was driving his red Dodge Charger home from a relative's wake, talking to a Bank of America representative about his account, which was overdrafted. Not wanting to be distracted by the call, he pulled over on NW Eighth Avenue at a park that sits adjacent to Collins Elementary School in Dania Beach.
Suddenly, a swarm of men wearing jackets that said BSO and FBI were on top of him. "They bum-rushed me," says Williams. "They slammed my head into the ground."
As it happened, Broward Sheriff's Office, the Fort Lauderdale police, and the FBI were collaborating on a buy-bust sting in the park. According to the officers' affidavits, an informant was monitoring traffic, looking to pick out for the officers a suspect who was said to be able to order a large shipment of cocaine.
"The informant believed the person driving the red Charger was the target," says the affidavit. "We followed that vehicle south on Northwest 8th Avenue and the vehicle parked exactly where the target of this investigation was supposed to park."
But no sooner did the officers jump on Williams than the informant realized his error and called them off. The actual target was nearby, so the officers who had dragged Williams to the ground scrambled into their cars again; they were gone as quickly as they came.
"They didn't even have the decency to take me to the hospital," says Williams.
In the months to follow, Williams says he suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome, for which he was formally diagnosed by Compass Health Systems last June. The condition, says Williams, made it impossible for him to work in construction, and he ultimately quit that job. Now disabled, Williams no longer qualifies for a position in the military.
He collects $891 in disability pay each month, but it's not much to live on. Thursday, a repo man seized one of the last assets Williams had left: the 2007 Charger.
After filing a claim against Fort Lauderdale police, Williams received a $17,000 settlement. But he feels that it wasn't nearly enough to compensate him for what he lost. This week, he filed suit against BSO and the FBI. Williams is determined to try the cases himself, if need be.
"They destroyed my life," says Williams. "I wasn't no bum on the street. I had a future."