By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The road to Tennessee Colony passes through rich farmland and acres of spreading trees; it's some of the prettiest scenery in Texas, but Mark Anthony Larmond has never seen it. Sentenced to 99 years in one of Tennessee Colony's maximum-security state prison units, the stiffest sentence of the Cleveland Street gunmen, Larmond is doing triggerman time for a crime in which the prosecution was never certain he fired a shot. But he was there, and he admits it, though he insists he was outside the apartment when the shooting actually started, the same excuse offered by his co-defendants, Randy Shawn Brown and "Money Mike" Edwards.
He's been in prison for 13 years, the price he's paid to date for three wild, jam-packed years in the gangsta life, ranging around the country with his three childhood friends from Brooklyn to Philadelphia, Richmond, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Miami and finally Dallas--which he doesn't care if he ever sees again.
Looking back at those three years, Larmond says in his soft voice, which still bears a trace of his Jamaican upbringing, "I don't pretty much regret anything."
There's something so unfair about the sight of this robust, intelligent and still-young man. He seems above it all, worlds away from the legions of crackheads who walk like the dead along the streets where he was known simply as "Uzi." He never really understood the South Dallas boys and girls, who stuck close to their crummy neighborhoods and did little with their lives, "like they scared of the light," he says.
He never mentions that he might have played a role in that.
Sometimes it seems like Uzi is resurrected, a quietly cocksure man with what looks like a Nike swoosh drawn in marker on his low-slung prison whites. "Every time they came to that area," he says about the police in South Dallas, "it was this name that they called. It was my name... Uzi's over there. When anything happened, especially in that area, that's when they came and got Uzi.
"Did you see Scarface?" he asks. "Scarface is like the Jamaicans in Dallas."
Larmond spent his earliest years in Jamaica, drawing water in buckets, playing in the ocean and living simply in city and country. When he was 10, he came to Brooklyn with his family. His mother worked in a hotel, keeping a tenuous grasp on her American Dream, which soon centered on the future of her ambitious younger son.
Larmond knew exactly what he wanted to be: an Air Force test pilot. "I like the rush of flying," says Larmond, who, with an instructor, has handled the controls in a small plane. After seeing the movie Top Gun, he enrolled in the aviation program at Park West High School in Manhattan and imagined his name etched on the side of a shimmering F-16.
Then, at 16, along came an older girl and impatience with his mother's slow, slow train to prosperity. "I was in Brooklyn, New York, during the height of Reaganomics, that's what happened," Larmond says. Soon he was out of school and teamed up with three boys from his neighborhood of Flatbush. There was Chester Brown and a boy named "Slim," both fellow Jamaicans, and Larmond's best friend, born in England of West Indian ancestry, Adrian Lucas Latouche.
Larmond is vague about how he got started in the crack business, but one of his first stops was Miami. "When you're going back and forth, you get wrapped up in all types of stuff," he says cryptically. "It was addictive--the traveling, the freedom."
Another early stop was Philadelphia, where he sat in a row-house trap dispensing dope under the door for $1,000 a week, along with Chester and Adrian. "When you first come up in the game, you gonna be in a dope house," he says. But while others were content to pocket a few hundred dollars doing low-level work, Larmond was thinking big: He could do this himself. "I'm not gonna keep sittin' in there," he thought, "and this dude come in and get $10,000 and give me $200.
"You have two types of people in this world," he adds, "those that lead and those that follow. I was never those that followed."
Again, Larmond is vague on the particulars, but he and his buddies set up shop in a succession of cities, along the way acquiring a stylish wardrobe--nine leather suits with Adidas logos on the backs, in every color but pink, plus girlfriends, weapons and fancy cars. When things got "complicated," Larmond would skip town, leaving everything behind. "Whenever I left," Larmond says, "I would never go back. Whatever is there, I'm leaving it."
It was a personal rule he stuck to everywhere but Dallas.
Larmond testified in the sentencing phase of his trial that he first came to Dallas in 1989. At some point, he and his associates set up a crack house in an apartment at Holmes and Park Row in South Dallas that pulled in $15,000 on an average day, $20,000 when things were popping. Larmond didn't even work in the trap itself; he'd simply show up once a day and pick up the proceeds from a shift, $5,000 on a typical stop.