By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Today Pagett imagines himself being stopped by a cop. Although the hypothetical scenario is about the wrong the officer has done to him, Pagett's true fantasy is about him avenging "da murdah" of Patrick Dorismond. "Man, if I got a gun on me and police confront me, I'd just let off, man," he says. "It goes like this: You get searched, police pull their gun, you back up and touch 'em and suddenly it's justifiable homicide. You know what I mean? You had a gun on you and you reached for it. But you really didn't have no gun. I would run and make sure I can get it off on you or somethin'. I'm sayin' that it's either kill or be killed on the streetsto hell with them dudes."
Pagett's anxiety builds when the sentencing is delayed for another four hours. "Oh, Lord," he sighs. He'd stayed up the night before reshooting some scenes for "Brooklyn," and gotten bombed on Hennessy cognac, his favorite liquor high, as the hour of his surrender drew closer. "I was just drinkin'," he says slouching on a bench outside of the courtroom. "I think that's what got me here right now. I drank some this morning, too. I'm just tryin' to enjoy what's left of the freedom I agreed to give up. Shit, I did the crime."
Larry Pagett's crime started out as a robbery around 2:30 a.m. on May 22, 1999, outside of the Trinity nightclub at the corner of Clarkson and New York avenues in Flatbush. According to court papers, Pagett pounced on Ravon Andrew and Gary James. The gangsta rapper stuck a .357 Magnum in James's back and announced, "Give me your shit!" He then yanked a $700 gold chain from James's neck and began to run.
"I didn't know who it was, whose chain I took," Pagett recalled in a handwritten statement he would later give to detectives from the 67th Precinct station house. "I didn't know that I knew the guy and the guy knew me. When I was running and they were chasing me, is when I realized I knew the guy, and I threw back the chain. I was drunk and was bugging out and thought they were coming to kill me. Everything was like one big rush because I drank a whole big thing of Hennessy. I didn't have the gun that long, maybe only a week. I really don't want to say where I got it. I didn't know someone got shot. I didn't really bust shots to hit anyone. I was really only busting shots in the air to scare the people who were chasing me. I knew they knew me because just before I bust the shots I heard them calling me. They were calling, 'Biz! Biz!' They were people I used to hang with back in the days."
One of two rounds Pagett had fired hit bystander Jorge Cuebas in an arm. Pagett ditched the gun as he fled. He was arrested shortly after at the corner of Linden Boulevard and New York Avenue. A grand jury indicted Pagett on several charges, including attempted murder, robbery, grand larceny, criminal possession of a weapon, assault, reckless endangerment, menacing, petty larceny, and criminal possession of stolen property. "Right now, I'm about to go do five years, nigga," says Pagett resignedly, referring to the sweetheart deal that former Abner Louima attorney Carl W. Thomas had negotiated for him. "I feel messed up, just wanna git it over with so I can get back in the world an' git ma money, man."
The gangsta world lured Larry Pagett when he was only 12 and was bouncing back and forth between his mother, who lived in New York City, and his father, who resided in Los Angeles. In L.A., Pagett lived in South Central, which was known as America's gangsta capital. Home was a single-family house at the corner of West 81st Street and Normandie Avenue in a depressed working-class area under the control of the Crips gang. The 'hood erupted almost daily in turf wars triggered by druglords in the rival Bloods gang, who are as numerous as the Crips, but more powerful and more central to L.A.'s soaring crime problem. Young wannabes like Pagett drew inspiration from movies and music videos about the Crips, Bloods, and other gangs in cities like Chicago. "I was livin' with ma pops, ma cousins, ma uncles and aunts," he says fondly. "Ma whole family Crip'. All ma li'l cousins Crip'. All ma big cousins Crip'."
But a desperate Myrna Pagett, an immigrant from Belize, wanted to keep her son away from the Cripsthe people who'd brainwashed him into thinking that they were his true blood, his real "family." When Pagett turned 13 in 1991, she snatched him from his South Central "family" and brought him back to live with her in Flatbush. Pagett landed in the midst of an immigrant middle-class neighborhood that was going through its own changes, nurtured by social conditions and police indifference. In Flatbush, youngsters like Pagett were even more dazzled by jewelry, cars, and fat cat crack dealers. At the time Pagett returned to Brooklyn, the Crips and Bloods were still an L.A. phenomenon. Then some Bloods sets began forming inside the Rikers Island jail system. In Flatbush, Pagett was disturbed by media reports of Crips and Bloods engaged in drug enterprises and other criminal alliances. "In New York, I'd heard about Bloods and Crips hangin' with each other, but it ain't supposed to be like that, it should be like when [the rivalry] first jumped off." Pagett, who vowed to show these amateurs "what gangsta is about," became a Crips pioneer of sorts in Brooklyn. (Some of Pagett's "family" from Belize already had established Crips affiliated gangs like Harlem Mafia and Roaming '30s in Harlem.) He went into Brownsville and recruited some street toughs who later took on monikers such as Pana Loc, Excite Bike, Frenzy, Nut Loc, Franzy Face Loc, and Burger. They called themselves Eight Deuce Tray, but as the gang began to expand they became known as G-Storm, then Eight Tray Killa Gangsta Crips, and later as Killa Gangsta Crips. "It was only right," Pagett says. "Ya couldn't just come and do what the Bloods do. We showed them what it is."