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.
None of his associates acted as boss, but the business had a tight structure, which Larmond likens to a beehive. "We was in a beehive. You have worker bees, you have soldier bees, you have all kind of bees. And all the bees are working for one queen. But instead of a queen bee, there was like four kings."
Larmond should have noticed that things were getting complicated in 1989, with Chester Brown's arrest and conviction for murder and his own role as a suspect in the case, for which a Dallas County grand jury declined to indict him. Larmond says it was a case of mistaken identity, because everyone knew Uzi by then. "The terms South Dallas and Jamaicans were not mentioned together without my name," he says.
Despite his notoriety, Larmond lived like he'd never get caught. Here was a guy known for wearing white head to toe, and he'd never get a single scuff mark. He spent his time and money strolling through the Galleria, collecting $500 outfits and jewelry for his girl, or visiting Six Flags, where he had a year-round pass and would ride the bumper cars day and night. He had his own technique, so much like his seemingly charmed life: While some kids would ram each other from behind, Larmond would whirl and glide, whirl and glide, gracefully dodging a single touch from his rivals.
South Dallas had a ravenous appetite for his product; why couldn't he do this as long as he wished, till the day he decided for himself that it was time to leave the game? Larmond says he even walked away from a shootout with Dallas police in summer 1989, an incident that is impossible to verify. It happened at a different trap on Park Row, when a Dallas cop came inside and grabbed all the goodies. "He had his gun out of his bag," Larmond says, "and he confiscated everything he saw, drugs and money."
When the cop was leaving, Larmond thought, "To hell with this dude."
"Don't come over here no more," Uzi shouted.
"'You can't stop me,'" Larmond says the officer replied. "'I come over here when I get ready to...'"
Uzi got hot and opened up with his weapon. The cop jumped in the car and took off, pocket stuffed with money and rocks, and Uzi waited.
It's gonna go down, it's gonna go down, he thought. He was waiting for the stampede of squad cars, the chopper overhead. But nothing happened. Absolutely nothing.
No wonder he felt invincible, that he'd get out just in the nick of time. "I was around everything," he says, "[but] my hands would never be off in it." Larmond claims the same is true of his role in the bathtub shooting. He says his statement to police is the only thing that even puts him at the scene of the crime, which, however, isn't true. LaTonya Williams picked him out of a police lineup, and Lizzie Williams and Daryl Oudems identified him in court as one of the attackers. In their confessions, Randy Shawn Brown and Money Mike also place Larmond inside the apartment and giving orders, and Brown says today that Larmond and Edwards were the two triggermen.
Larmond insists that things were never supposed to go down the way they did, that the gunmen were on a reconnaissance mission to a rival trap. "What happened wasn't supposed to happen--not like that," he says.
Larmond says that 10 or more men went to the apartment building, including his best friend, Adrian Latouche, who was never charged. Larmond has a different take on the shooting: Money Mike did it himself. Edwards was carrying a .45, according to Larmond, and all but one piece of ballistics evidence was from a .45.
A little too easy, it seems, to finger the one non-West Indian who happened to cooperate with authorities to save his own hide. Larmond says the prosecution must have had its own doubts, since he claims prosecutor Keith Anderson offered him a plea bargain just before his trial--10 years. Larmond refused it. He was certain he wouldn't get convicted. He was still whirling that bumper car, a few inches beyond anyone's reach. That's what he'd been doing, in fact, in the two weeks between the crime and his arrest at a motel, he says.
It didn't hit him till he heard the words "99 years." His girlfriend rushed outside to call his home in Brooklyn; his mother heard the words and collapsed. The girl came back crying.
Today, Larmond waits hopefully for his parole review in January 2005. He's confident he'll get out; if so, he'll be deported to Jamaica. But even if he doesn't, he's not exactly living the life you'd expect.
A well-groomed female guard walks by. "She's one of the best," Larmond says, nodding at her. The guard smiles ever so slightly and walks away.
"I didn't want to say anything while this chick was there," he says later, "but I've had a relationship with all of them. Oh, yeah. You can ask my mom. I'm supposed to have a son that's 2 years old...I'm not living like them other dudes."
A mystery woman is mentioned by first name in Larmond's statement to police, and even that is misspelled, but it was her apartment on Gould Street, a block away from the Cleveland Street trap, that served as the launching point for the attack. I caught up with the woman, nicknamed "Tree Tree," and she talked about her past. She says she lived on Gould with her mother, a hard-core addict who got hooked on heroin when Tree Tree was 5, then progressed to cheaper crack cocaine.
Tree Tree was at home on that May day in 1990 when the gunmen gathered outside her apartment complex. Oddly enough, she has never been interviewed by police, though she witnessed the events leading up to the shooting and remembers many of the participants and what kind of weapons they were carrying. Tree Tree ended up providing some of the missing pieces in the story of the bathtub shooting.
Her own life story was marked by two events: the day at 12 when she wandered into a fight outside her home and got smacked in the mouth by a broken bottle, an injury that disfigured her and knocked out all but one of her front teeth, and her mother's slide into heavy drug use. That led to a childhood of neglect: She recalls being dirty, unkempt; living in a series of decrepit homes and apartments, often without water or lights. Strange men bedded down in her mother's home, taking advantage of Tree Tree sexually, often leaving amid violence. Tree Tree vividly remembers the crack of her mother's head against a concrete curb when one man kicked her.
Another time, her mother left her and her sisters in a filthy apartment and disappeared for two weeks. The oldest girl was 10. They opened the refrigerator and found layers of slime but not a crumb of food. When her mother finally resurfaced, she brought back a sack of Church's chicken. Tree Tree remembers she and her sisters were so hungry, they devoured everything--including the bones and the greasy box.
That was her world. And she knew enough to attempt an escape when she hit her teens.
At 13, some Jamaican drug dealers made her an offer she couldn't refuse: $1,000 a week to sit in a trap on Elihu, the same street where Daryl Oudems and Juniores Ray Mahan lived. "Can I sell dope?" Tree Tree asked her mom. The answer was yes. Tree Tree's mother, in fact, lived right across the hall from the trap, though the daughter never crossed the line into South Dallas' version of a total reprobate: selling drugs to your own mama.
Tree Tree carried a gun and sat in the trap all day with another woman and a man. She has nothing to show for her easy money today.
One day at 14, she was sitting on the porch with a friend when a crew of handsome Caribbean men walked up. One was Mark Larmond, with his "pretty brown eyes"; the other was a willowy young man with beautiful, soft features. He came up to Tree Tree, held his hand to his chin in a flirty way and said, "I'm Babyface." There was something so different about him: He never said a word about Tree Tree's scarred face, her one lonely front tooth. He didn't even seem to notice.
Of course she fell in love. She found out that his name was Adrian Latouche, raised in England, with family roots in the small island nation of Grenada.
Tree Tree's relationship with Babyface started out as a brotherly thing, with Larmond, Latouche and the other boys protecting her from the mess she always lived in and around, thanks to her mother's vices. Tree Tree still speaks with affection about Babyface, who treated her to gifts of jewelry and clothing.
She remembers the West Indian boys as a tremendously gifted bunch who stood out so starkly from the hopelessness all around her. There was Randy Brown--"Trouble"--a hothead who could ride a dancehall beat as nimbly as anyone when they'd gather in her apartment, smoke weed and "DJ," or rap, over their favorite reggae tracks, like Shabba Ranks' "Mr. Loverman." She remembers Money Mike, another guy with a trigger temper who nonetheless treated her like a sister and put on a fake Brooklyn accent after a few trips to New York with his Jamaican connections.
Then everything fell apart on that night in May 1990, which Tree Tree remembers as "the worst night of my life."
It started with the sudden appearance of a strange man she'd never met before, a Jamaican dude who went by the street name Soldier--or "Solgee," as it sounded in Jamaican patois. Tree Tree says she remembers him like it was yesterday: a short guy with a curl, decked out in slick clothes and carrying a big, cold submachine gun--an Uzi or TEC-9. Money Mike would say in his statement to police that he used to sell drugs for Solgee, and Tree Tree saw that he obviously knew Uzi, Babyface and the other guys from somewhere. But Tree Tree immediately decided she couldn't stand him. "Solgee seemed like the devil to me," she says, shaking her head.
Solgee was on some sort of mission, it seemed. He filled the boys' ears with extravagant talk about the riches in a trap less than a block away on Cleveland Street, where some other Jamaicans had just set up shop. Piles of money, drugs, weapons--and all of it right next door: Solgee's rap incited the two hotheads, Money Mike and Trouble, and eventually persuaded Uzi and the others. Tree Tree especially remembers Money Mike getting all "hyped up," flailing his arms like the caricature of a Brooklyn tough and saying repeatedly, in his phony accent and with a blunt in one hand, "We can do this. We can take that trap." Money Mike later identified Solgee as a Jamaican named Gregory Allen in court testimony and said he was carrying an Uzi, and Larmond would tell police that Soldier went into the crack house carrying "a machine gun with a strap over his shoulder."
Late that night--Tree Tree doesn't remember what time, only that it was dark--the boys, by now a posse of as many as a dozen, left for Cleveland Street. She was the only one who stayed behind. As she revisited that night, she started recalling their names, their clothing, their weapons. Larmond and Latouche were in the group; Babyface was carrying a rifle or shotgun. Trouble was dressed in a black suit; Money Mike was armed with a .45. She identifies other names mentioned later in the statements to police: Trigger and Shawn were cousins from Trinidad, she says. And one name in Larmond's statement that baffled police--"Donavan Quaile"--was none other than her Adrian, who'd made up the name as a joke after watching the movie Young Guns.
She remembers being uneasy about the posse's mission, simply because of a standing rule of the game: You don't mess your own house. Cleveland Street was way too close to home.
Tree Tree never heard any shots or screams. She didn't, in fact, have any idea what was going down in the trap next door. But when Larmond and Latouche returned in the early-morning hours, she knew something had gone wrong. Uzi and Babyface were nervous, unusually quiet. All they'd ever tell her is that things didn't happen the way they were supposed to. Tree Tree would hear from other sources that, No. 1, the trap wasn't full of gold as Solgee had imagined, and No. 2, that it was in fact run by "children." And one was dead. And three others were shot to pieces.
Within a couple of weeks, Larmond was arrested at a motel, along with Money Mike, and Latouche booked a plane home to England, where he stayed for several months with his family while things cooled down in Dallas.
Tree Tree only found out when we talked that one of the victims, Ken Covington, had spoken the name "Babyface" just before he was shot in the head.
For a moment, Tree Tree was overtaken by a terrible thought.
"Did Babyface shoot them?" she asked quietly.
She quickly banished the idea. He wouldn't do that, she said; he could never shoot a child. But wherever Uzi was, she said, Babyface was right there beside him. One fact is on Babyface's side: She remembers clearly that he was the only gunman carrying a long weapon --a rifle or shotgun--and none of the ballistics evidence matched it. Daryl Oudems' account, however, appears to place Babyface inside the apartment. He says a man with a pump-action shotgun held the weapon to his head while he knelt in the bathtub alone.
Larmond and Latouche would later insist to her that they weren't in the apartment when the shooting started, but she wonders why Covington spoke the name "Babyface." She'll never know for sure.
What's certain is that all of their lives went into free fall after that night. Tree Tree missed her Babyface so bad, she convinced him to come back to Dallas. They were soon married: She was 17; he was 19. They had a daughter together, a lovely, quiet girl with a soft face, just like her father.
After their daughter's birth, the two drifted apart. Tree Tree blames herself. Latouche stayed in his daughter's life, but at some point, he slipped back into the game.
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They found his body at 10 a.m. on November 20, 1996, in the building at 2810 Gould where Tree Tree once lived, and where the attack on Cleveland Street had begun. He'd been shot four times in the upper body; he had a knife at his side. The apartment's door was locked, suggesting that he let in the man who killed him.
Dallas police charged a young man named Virgil Standifer in connection with the murder, but the charge was later dropped.
A few days later, Latouche was buried without ceremony in a pauper's grave. Tree Tree doesn't even have a picture of him today; all that's left of him is a watch, two bloodstained rings in a plastic bag and their 12-year-old daughter, who has a single memory of her father. He took her to Bachman Lake one day to feed the ducks, and memorialized their time together with a snapshot.
Tree Tree nearly begins to cry at the memory. Today, she is remarried and preparing to move to another city, but when we spoke her husband wasn't even aware of her past. She told him that night.