Erik Cadet rose from his bed on the second floor of his Little Haiti home just before midnight Wednesday to the crackling sound of gunfire, and to bloodcurdling cries from his little girl. Half-dressed, he raced outside.
With a tight grip on his daughter Erika to keep her from collapsing, Cadet stared down at her boyfriend’s still, bullet-riddled body, on his back in the swale in front of the home. There was nothing he could do. Jarvis Henderson, 16, was dead.
“She kept saying ‘Jarvis please wake up, please don’t die,’” Cadet said. “Daddy, daddy, daddy, they killed Jarvis.”
Who “they” are isn’t exactly clear. Police believe Jarvis’ death may have been a case of mistaken identity. Cadet said that his daughter told him a gold-colored Jeep Cherokee pulled up to the front of the family’s home at 33 NE 59th Ter. and shot at Jarvis.
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In the few seconds it took to shatter the night’s quiet and end Jarvis’ life, Cadet said his daughter told him there was no exchange of words. The vehicle just pulled up and someone started shooting. Jarvis was hit in the head. The gunfire also blew out the back window of the taxi Cadet drives for a living. Erika Cadet, 18, left her cellphone at home after speaking with police and spent the night at a friend’s home a few blocks away.
“Every time I close my eyes I see that boy in my head. My God. He was such a nice quiet boy,” said Erik Cadet.
By all early accounts, Henderson was quiet, unassuming, respectful. He played drums in the band at Edison High School, where he was a junior, and had dreams of attending Florida A&M University and playing in its famed marching band. He studied environmental science, photography and algebra. Jarvis also liked hip hop. Friends filled his Facebook page with love and emotional comments.
Edison High was a grief-stricken place Thursday. Some of its 800 students scrawled messages on a banner in memory of Jarvis. Erika Cadet also attends Edison and is expected to graduate this semester. The principal, Try Diggs, said Jarvis had a “contagious” smile.
“I personally feel like I lost a son,” Diggs said. The students “are struggling today to make sense of something you can’t make sense of.”
By early Thursday the scene outside the Cadet’s two-story stucco-and-wood home was quiet. A Miami police crime-scene officer was back at the home after family members discovered a bullet casing in the swale just outside the chain-link fence. Chickens and a black cat with tuxedo markings roamed the yard. Family and friends milled about.
The teen’s death continued a troubling trend on Miami’s streets that police are having a hard time dealing with: The seemingly senseless murder of children over the past few months.
Just a little over three weeks ago two other popular kids were gunned down in broad daylight. Marlon Eason, a 10-year-old basketball fan with a jokester’s persona was shot and killed as he tried to retrieve a basketball he had dribbled into the front yard of his Overtown home. Just two hours before Marlon’s death, Booker T. Washington football player Richard Hallman lost his life after he was shot only a mile away in Allapattah. Hallman was the younger cousin of Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris.
Neither of those murders has been solved. Police are confounded as to why children are now being gunned down at such an alarming rate.
“It is something we’re trying to wrap our heads around. We’re really trying to figure out what’s happening,” said Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss. “Some in the community know what’s happening and why. Everything we’ve got right now [on Jarvis] is this was a good kid. That even gives us more reason to scratch our heads.”
The killings have sparked community outrage. Police, pastors and other community leaders have walked the streets of Overtown and Liberty City, going door-to-door begging for the public’s help. Prayer and town hall sessions have been organized. Earlier this month on the CBS 4 Sunday news show Facing South Florida, Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes told host Jim DeFede that police and the public know who some of the shooters are, but a lack of evidence and witnesses is hindering prosecution.
“If you understand the level of fear in the community, you can also understand the reluctance,” Llanes said.