MIAMI—In the wee hours of June 18, 2020, a steady thunderclap of gunfire reverberated through Miami Shores, a sleepy incorporated village just north of this city’s Little Haiti neighborhood. Amanda Caldwell remembers chatting on FaceTime with a friend who lives about four blocks away from the shooting.
“We were talking and then all we heard was nothing but gunshots,” Caldwell told The Daily Beast. “It sounded like they emptied the whole clip. I was like, ‘I hope it’s not anyone we know.'”
Shortly before 2 a.m., homicide investigators from the Miami-Dade Police Department, which handles murder investigations in Miami Shores, combed a grisly scene outside a home at 10334 North Miami Ave. Inside a Nissan Altima with the back windshield blown out by bullets, Miami Shores patrol officers had found the lifeless body of Precious Paraison, a 20-year-old single mom who was a childhood friend of Caldwell’s.
“I woke up to a news article about [her] death,” Caldwell said. “I still can’t believe it."
Early last month, Caldwell was among a dozen people who reposted a Miami-Dade Crimestoppers bulletin seeking information on Paraison’s killers shortly before the one-year anniversary of her death. The 21-year-old, who said she knew Paraison since kindergarten, told The Daily Beast that whoever killed her ripped apart the lives of her loved ones.
“She was such a beautiful light,” Caldwell said, crying. “There are so many people who are hurting. I know she’s walking the streets of heaven.”
While no one has been charged in Paraison’s killing, the recent bust of a Miami teen by federal agents appears to have provided investigators with their biggest break in the case. It also offers a rare window into the workings of inner-city gangs from the Miami area fomenting wanton acts of gun violence that have exploded into public view over the past year.
According to a June 25, 2021, criminal complaint, 19-year-old Kenny Terlent has been charged with four federal felony counts: aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, possession of 15 or more access devices to commit fraud, and possession of an illegal machine gun. The feds say Terlent is an alleged member of 77th Street, a violent gang that has been engaged in a deadly feud with a rival organization called Little Haiti Vultures since 2018. An escalation in hostilities last year resulted in the brutal slaying of an innocent 20-year-old woman identified in the complaint only as “P.P.”
Homicide detectives recovered at least 60 shell casings at the grisly crime scene, including some that are the same caliber ammunition for a Glock 19 with a fully automatic switch found in Terlent’s home when he was arrested two weeks ago.
Marlene Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to comment on the probe, including the identity of the woman referred to as “P.P.” Miami-Dade Police spokesman Det. Lee Cowart declined to comment on the details of the case, citing an active investigation, but he did confirm that the only person killed in Miami Shores on the same date and at the same address identified in the federal complaint was Paraison.
Terlent has not been charged with Paraison’s death. Steven Haugel, his defense attorney, did not respond to a detailed request for comment for this story.
In a recent phone interview, the slain woman’s father, Dimy Paraison, said he had not received any updates from detectives since his daughter was killed. She was just one of dozens of innocent bystanders who have been caught in the crossfire of neighborhood crews of young men warring with each other in recent years, he noted, a trend that has been inescapable this spring and summer.
Between May 30 and June 6 of this year, there were two mass shootings in Miami-Dade that killed six people and left another 36 injured. One incident occurred outside a banquet hall hosting a rap concert, the other at a hookah lounge shortly after a graduation party.
“My daughter had no involvement in street life,” Dimy Paraison told The Daily Beast. “She was a good young woman. It’s just senseless what’s going on with all these killings.”
Often, the bloody mayhem is carried out by cherub-faced teens who flaunt their illegal get-rich-or-die-trying schemes on social media and drop rap disses against rivals that result in indiscriminate retaliatory shootings, according to community and street activists.
“Back in the day, gangs had a street code that you don’t shoot women and kids,” Tangela Sears, leader of a group of Miami-Dade parents whose children have been killed by gun violence, told The Daily Beast. “These gangs today don’t care about life. They don’t talk about having a future. They all need to be in jail.”
Sears, whose adult son was murdered in 2015, said 77th Street and Little Haiti Vultures are among dozens of neighborhood gangs throughout Miami-Dade that engage in fraud to make money and then use their illegal proceeds to buy guns in the black market. “The sad part is that they are beefing over nothing,” Sears said. “Now, they shoot you just because they don’t like you.”
Munch, a 31-year-old street activist who asked his real name not be used because he doesn’t want gang members knowing his true identity, said there are several factions in Little Haiti. Those include Little Haiti Vultures and 77th Street, which is also known by the monikers “Uptown” and “Every Body Eats,” according to federal court documents.
“You also got a group who call themselves The Zombies,” Munch told The Daily Beast. “Miami was built off cliques. They may have grown up in the same hood or went to school together. Then someone does something to somebody else and guys start picking sides.”
Like Sears, Munch believes that modern-day Miami gangbangers don’t have any compassion for who gets caught between them and their targets.
“Lately, if you are in the same space as the person they are trying to hit, ain’t nobody safe,” Munch said. “They’ve grown up seeing murders since they were 5 years old, so they are [desensitized] to it.”
A month before Terlent’s arrest, FBI and Secret Service agents raided the apartment of an alleged Bloods gang member named Ty’ree Dixon, who was criminally charged with possession of a firearm by a felon on May 18.
According to Dixon’s criminal complaint, he waived his Miranda rights and admitted to being an associate of 77th Street gangbangers—copping to serving as a sort of one-man armory in exchange for cash. He also allegedly said he supplied those suspected of involvement in the “P.P.” shooting with guns on the night it took place. According to the complaint, Dixon and a gang member exchanged texts on June 18, 2020, in which they discussed the address at which “P.P.” was slain shortly before the incident.
Terlent, meanwhile, allegedly texted the address of the shooting to a gang associate about an hour before it took place.
Dixon has pleaded not guilty to the firearm charge, according to court records, and, like Terlent, he has not been charged for Paraison’s death. The two federal public defenders representing him did not respond to calls and emails with detailed questions about their clients’ potential connection to an innocent young woman’s demise.
But according to the feds, the man’s confession to supplying weapons and other circumstantial evidence are further backed up by one of Terlent’s affiliates, who appears to have turned on him. A 77th Street member, who is not identified in the complaints, went to the FBI in July of last year, a month after the shooting, and provided a voluntary statement.
According to the informant, the shooting that took the 20-year-old woman’s life was supposed to be a retaliatory hit against a Little Haiti Vultures gangbanger members of 77th Street believed was a “Big Fish”—and who they believed was involved in the murder of one of their own. The informant told special agents that he believed Terlent and three other gang members had talked about going to the Miami Shores address, where they would take out their rival. The quartet had “all dropped their cellphones at a shared location prior to the shooting to avoid detection,” the informant recalled.
Terlent’s criminal complaint says the woman who died that day was a friend of a Little Haiti Vultures gangbanger and was waiting outside his house in her car when the shooters pulled up. However, she was not involved with either gang. In fact, the 77th Street informant told the feds, she was “an innocent victim who had been shot in error.”
Of course, the internal logic or dubious rationales offered by the gangs the feds have apparently tied to Paraison’s slaying may not do much for her loved ones, for whom the pain of her death is still raw a year later.
Caldwell could not hold back tears when remembering her friend.
“One of my biggest memories of Precious was walking home from elementary school with her grandmother and her brother,” Caldwell told The Daily Beast. “And when she had her baby, she was so happy about her little girl. She did everything by herself for her daughter.”
Paraison’s Facebook account is populated with photos of the young woman cuddling with her baby. She graduated from Miami Edison Senior High School in Little Haiti, and was working at TGI Fridays and Haagen Dazs, according to her profile.
“They try to paint Miami as this pretty city, but there is so much gun violence,” Caldwell added. “As African Americans, we have so much more to worry about than killing each other and innocent people. That’s how I feel about it.”