Longform

It Was a Ruthless, Professional Hit, and It Was the Cops Doing the Shooting

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"He's coming," shouted one of Hill's students, bursting through the dojo's doors. "And he's got a gun."

But Hill was packing too. He walked out of the dojo and, he says, fired a single shot into the air. Twin ran off, and Hill thought the incident was over. Then he noticed a boy crumpled on the blacktop, a bloody halo forming on the basketball court. A bullet had struck Andrew in the back of his head.

"I'm not going to say I accidentally shot Antonio," Hill says now, 24 years later. "They don't know who shot him. But I was the only one who turned myself in." Twin wasn't caught. A judge withheld adjudication on negligence charges against Hill and he kept his job at the post office, but he never went back to Sherbondy Park. "That was a dark day," he says.

Andrew never really recovered from that day in the park. The scar left on his skull only hinted at the true damage the bullet had done, and he never received the six-figure settlement he won from Opa-locka. Screwed over by luck and the legal system, Andrew would only make things worse for himself.

"He was a good child until he got shot," says his great-aunt, Johnnie Mae Witherspoon, whose living room wall in Miami Gardens is a patchwork quilt of family photos, including many of Andrew. "That's when his problems started."

After the shooting, Andrew spent a week in Jackson Memorial Hospital. His mother, a pretty woman with pigtails named Carolyn Hill — no relation to Stacey — sat next to him, holding his hand as tubes kept her oldest son alive. The bullet had torn open the side of his head. Doctors told her he might never walk again. Andrew quickly proved them wrong. But his family nonetheless noticed a difference.

"He'd snap real quick," younger sister Jennifer Benbow says. "All of a sudden, he had an anger problem." He would go from laughing to shouting in seconds. And he suffered from terrible headaches after the accident.

"Sometimes he'd call me and say, 'Auntie, my head hurts so bad I can't hardly lift it off the pillow," Johnnie Mae remembers. She helped raise Andrew, who was living with Carolyn and four other kids in a tiny Opa-locka apartment and surviving off food stamps and welfare. Andrew's father, Oscar Andrew, was locked up repeatedly in the '70s and '80s on drug and weapons charges and spent most of Andrew's youth behind bars.

As a teenager, Andrew began disappearing after school. Johnnie Mae and Carolyn began fighting a losing battle to keep him out of trouble. "We would try to talk to him and tell him what to do and what not to do," Johnnie Mae says. "He was so easily impressionable. He would tell me: 'Auntie, I was there, but I didn't do that.' I told him: 'Honey, if you're with the crowd, you're going to get in trouble too.' "

That's what happened January 25, 1992, when 16-year-old Andrew was hanging out with Calvin Dorsett, a 22-year-old who had already been arrested eight times, for car theft and cocaine possession. Dorsett accosted a 69-year-old woman in a parking lot and tore the purse out of her hands. Then he jumped into Andrew's car. Dorsett made off with only $9 but received three years of probation. Charges against Andrew were dismissed.

Andrew was behind the wheel again four months later when an Opa-locka cop clocked his white Chevy at 100 mph on NW 17th Avenue. When officers stopped him, Andrew stepped out of his car but then jumped back in and sped away. A police dog later found him after he ditched the car a few blocks away. The vehicle was stolen. This time, Andrew — still only 17 years old — was sentenced to a year and a day in jail.

When he got out, he met Ladonna Florence, a sassy 15-year-old high school student. The two made an odd couple: Andrew was tall and handsome, while Ladonna was short and curvy, with a sharp wit and sharper tongue. "He was childlike in some ways," she remembers. "He loved playing videogames and basketball. And he would eat cookies and milk for breakfast, lunch, and dinner."

Within a year, Ladonna was pregnant with their first child. But Andrew wasn't ready for the responsibility. Instead of getting an honest job, he stole more cars. In August 1994, he was caught stripping a Jeep Cherokee near Opa-locka Executive Airport. While he was awaiting trial, cops pulled him over for driving a black Chevy without a tag and discovered it too was stolen. Andrew went back to jail for another two years. He missed the birth of his first son, A.J., in 1994. "All he knew how to do was steal cars," Ladonna sighs.

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Michael E. Miller