July 25, 2006
by DARRAN SIMON, JENNIFER MOONEY PIEDRA, ROBIN PEGUERO
The Miami Herald
The four teenagers were on their way home after a Friday night of video games and Taco Bell.
Moments later, just blocks from their home, they were forced off the road by four men wearing ski masks. The men, armed with assault rifles, ordered them out of their car.
Cosmo Hill Jr., 17, the kind of kid who usually smiled more than he talked, told them he had nothing to give as the gunmen put him up against the car and went through his pockets.
He then tried to walk away, and the robbers shot him in the chest and fled. He died at
Plantation General Hospital.
On Saturday, as a family buried a 14-year-old who was gunned down 12 days ago, and police continued to search for the killer of a second, yet another teenager was slain in South Florida.
They died before they could attend their high school proms or legally vote.
Cosmo, a student at South Plantation High, is among dozens of South Florida teenagers who have been murdered over the past year – and one of seven teens murdered in South Florida since the beginning of the year.
“I really want to find out why it happened,” said Cosmo’s mother, Jacqueline Ferguson, who lives in Melrose Park near where her son was slain, on Southwest 35th Avenue, south of Broward Boulevard. “Why does it happen? To shoot another person – a kid?”
At the same time, just a few miles away in Fort Lauderdale, another family was burying their child. Fourteen-year-old Markese Wiggins was gunned down July 3 in Lauderhill as he and his brother were walking home from a convenience store.
At Fort Lauderdale New Testament Church of God, hundreds of teenagers wept as they passed Markese’s white coffin.
Some of them also knew Cosmo and Sharod Donte Smith, a 15-year-old who was shot to death Thursday night in Roosevelt Gardens, just west of Fort Lauderdale in unincorporated Broward County.
“Cosmo is dead. No way,” said Masud Headen, 12, who attended Saturday’s funeral.
Masud also knew Sharod, who was shot during a brawl that erupted into rock pelting and gunshots.
“I guess I have to go to another funeral,” Masud said.
Fort Lauderdale Detective Kathy Collins said they will work with other agencies to catch the killers. For now, the cases appear to be unrelated – but authorities are joining forces to help solve the murders.
“We’re definitely going to be thinking with the other agencies, if we aren’t already, and trying to see if there are similarities,” Collins said.
On his myspace.com Web page, Cosmo included photographs of himself and his brother and another of himself as a baby holding a teddy bear. His user name: “DontBeAH8tr.”
His family said he spent a lot of time in front of the computer and loved watching action flicks, listening to rap and reggae music and spending time with his brother, Jason, 21.
“I’m just numb right now,” his mother said, shaking her head.
“He loved the computer. He could do anything on the computer – he could split it up and put it back together again.”
A trail of cars were parked outside the family home Saturday afternoon.
Thelma Baker’s son, Timothy “Troy” Baker was with Cosmo and others when the gunmen confronted them. The boys had just had dinner at Taco Bell and were headed back to Baker’s home, where earlier they had been playing video games. “When he was going through their pockets, he was resisting them,” Baker said. “That’s when they held him and they shot him.”
At first, Troy thought the bullet had missed him, she said.
“[Cosmo] started running and when Troy looked, he saw him fall and heard him screaming.”
Baker said her son, Cosmo’s best friend and classmate is “devasted.”
“He’s been screaming – hysterical – just screaming . . . saying, `Not Cosmo,’ ” she said.
By all accounts, Cosmo was a “good kid that didn’t get into trouble and appears to be a victim of robbery,” Collins said, adding that the victims were all too traumatized after the shooting to give police a lot of details.
The lives of Markese, Sharod and Cosmo are linked not only by the way that they died: They were all young, black men who lived in struggling neighborhoods.
Jeffrey A. Butts, a national crime expert and research fellow at the University of Chicago, says that crime is now on an upswing after 10 years of decline.
Places such as New Orleans, Washington and Miami-Dade are experiencing crime waves, particularly in poorer neighborhoods.
“We are seeing the behavior of 13- and 14-year-olds who have been living in impoverished conditions for the past three to five years,” Butts said.
“And their behavior has started to emerge,” Butts said.
Some of the teenagers mourning the loss of their friends in South Florida worry that they, too, may not live long enough to graduate from high school.
“It’s scary. I felt it could have been me,” said Tremaine Goodrum, 16, who was with Cosmo on Thursday night, listening to music in Cosmo’s white Toyota.
Bishop Tommy Troutman, who preaches on local radio stations and gave the eulogy at Markese’s funeral, said he is troubled by the recent string of fatal shootings.
Troutman said he plans to form a team of clergy from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties to meet with city and county leaders and law enforcement agencies to brainstorm on how to intervene and put a stop to teen violence.
“If we don’t do something about this, it’s going to continue and continue,” he said. “And it’s not going to stop until we get on the job.”
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