Zaire Paige Not Only Played a Movie Killer, He Became One in Real Life.

This is how he squandered his big chance to go straight.

Paige was familiar to the police officers of the 73rd Precinct. He had two felony convictions and a misdemeanor possession charge on the books before the murder, and possibly more that's now buried in sealed records. (He's currently facing charges for another drug and gun possession case and for his involvement in a Rikers Island riot.)

Bettie says she was terrified about what was happening to her grandson. "I had issues with all his friends," she says. At the time, she wasn't getting along with her daughter, and even though Zaire was living with Ayeni, Bettie registered her grandson as a runaway. He was sent to a group home upstate as a lesson, Bettie says. "I was hoping to scare him," she explains, "To threaten him with the loss of family."

But things only got worse when Paige returned to his mother's house in Brownsville. In 2004, his friend, Michael Atkins, was murdered within footsteps of his apartment. Paige says he remembers first identifying his friend by his shoes. "All I see is the sneakers. And once I see the sneakers, my heart starts bumping," he says, beating his chest repeatedly. "As I got closer, I just seen him—my friend." Paige was 17 at the time.

Director Antoine Fuqua prepares Paige for a scene.
Overture Films
Director Antoine Fuqua prepares Paige for a scene.
De Lux Natural Hair Gallery, the site of the shooting.
De Lux Natural Hair Gallery, the site of the shooting.

That death was followed by other murders, including the killing of his friend, Teddy McNichols, in 2006. Seven of his friends were killed during his adolescence and early twenties. "All my good friends passed away or are incarcerated," he says.

But it was the McNichols murder that particularly devastated him, Paige says. And according to a source in the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, the prime suspect in the killing was a man named Lethania Garcia, or "Fifty."

After consulting Eastman, Antoine Fuqua decided to use the Van Dyke Houses, a 22-building public housing complex in Brownsville, for the backdrop of Brooklyn's Finest and the place where the three major plotlines involving Richard Gere's cynical and retirement-obsessed patrolman, Don Cheadle's undercover cop, and Ethan Hawke's corrupt narcotics officer all converge at the end of the film.

Paige didn't live at Van Dyke, but the project was a short walk away from the places where he spent most his time—his mother's apartment on Riverdale Avenue, his own apartment on Union Street, and the Strauss House, a two-story house on Strauss Street that was home to a revolving group of friends and a couple of Rottweilers in the basement. The house belonged to the Gravenhise Family. Paige's girlfriend, Sade Gravenhise, with whom he has a daughter, stayed there sometimes.

The film set was also close to the bodega on Legion and Riverdale—Paige's longtime hangout and the site of numerous encounters with police.

Fuqua was drawn to Paige's authenticity, but he had concerns about whether he could be counted on for such a big job. "I told him, in this business, you can't be late. You can't not show up if I got an actor here who was counting on you," he says. "If I had Don Cheadle showing up on time, then you have to be there."

Just to be safe, the director tried to slate Paige's scenes to occur early in the film's schedule. And he asked Eastman to check on the young man from time to time. If something happened to Paige, Fuqua worried, he'd have to shoot the part all over again.

But Paige kept his word—showing up on time and never missing a day of shooting during the summer of 2008. "He had the charisma," Fuqua says. "He had the discipline." Paige approached his new job with utter seriousness; he understood that Brooklyn's Finest was the best thing that had ever happened to him. "The life that he was introduced to was even more captivating than the life he was living," Eastman says.

A month before shooting began, Fuqua had come up to Brownsville to get to know the neighborhood; Paige showed him around, and explained which areas were controlled by which groups. "I said to him, 'Do you think you can help with some of the stuff, and help me navigate some of the street politics?" Fuqua says. "He was like, 'No doubt.' This is my home, this is my world, and invited me up there with open arms." He continues: "I watched him closely, and talked to him a lot. I saw the respect that he commanded there. To be that young, he lived a life of a general. He seemed to have the respect and the fear of a lot of people there."

There were times when Paige would show up early to the set and sit quietly on a bench as if he were merely a bystander. "I would look around, and he would be there. And I would say, 'C'mon! You're in it!' " recalls the director. Paige says Fuqua took his advice to rework a buy-and-bust scene to make it more authentic, but the scene never made it into the movie.

On set, Paige easily took up with a group of veteran black actors. The Voice talked to many people who worked on the movie that summer—everyone who met him said they took to him right away. "He had the ability to draw people. If the right people had their hands on him, he was going places," says Hassan Johnson, who plays the drug dealer "Beamer" in the movie. "I didn't get mentorship like that, coming into the game, and doing some of my first films with Spike Lee and Harrison Ford. He had it at his disposal—heartfelt one-on-ones with famous actors. He could get that while we were around."

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94 comments
OnQue
OnQue

What the story doesn't tell was that Lethania Garcia was a hit man that killed a lot of people. It may not have been the right course of action but Ziare did what LAW ENFORCEMENT didn't do! The bogus ass cops knew all about what the lil bastard was doing but they didn't care.... The lowlife deserved every bullet that went into his body...

 Brooklyn22
Brooklyn22

Smh yall ppl always takin crazy like really..what if it was one of ya ppls!!!Hold ya head ^^ boy

Dvs
Dvs

A well written story that tells the facts in fluid fassion about lost opportunities. Hang in there little brotha "Zaire", be a force for positive Change.

Stephanieayeni
Stephanieayeni

4 all u haters talkin bout gud 4 him did u ever think t wat u c on tv is real. maybe a dirty ass cop framed him?

Eve
Eve

I love you Zaire you'll always hold a special place in my heart hold your head and have faith........ FUCK ALL YOU HATING ASS BITCHES!!!!

Wwwt
Wwwt

disrespectful are you serious? nigs are ruining this whole fuckin country, thats whats disrespectful jackass

Dulcelanthony
Dulcelanthony

Damnnn. dat was my nigga..I knew Z since elmentary..dats fuked up.

Dert
Dert

fuck that nig nog, he was given a oppertunity that he didnt deserve and he fucked it up like a typical scumbag nigger

SpkTruth2Pwr
SpkTruth2Pwr

Very good article written on unfortunately sad circumstances. I am a bit perturbed by the ignorance with which some people are commenting on this entry. Its clear the young man missed an opportunity to get out of a destructive life style - but calling him dumb or a monkey is unnecessary and disrespectful.

whiteyshardwork
whiteyshardwork

not only did zaire play a dumb nigger in the movies but he was one in real life too

mr y t
mr y t

another monkey headed to the zoo

Mischa
Mischa

excellent and well-researched article. i love how it didn't try to draw big generalized conclusions about street life or gangs, or pretend to have the space to adequately deal with the drug war, or youth in america's cities, or any number of large, abstract themes. it told a story, a poignant story, and it told it honestly, neither sugar coating nor demonizing. bravo.

Jesusiscoming
Jesusiscoming

Funny how loads of people take pride in showing there TRUE racism based on this article!! That is why I am SOOOOOOOOOO HAPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPYYYY that this world is going to hell!!! Because ALL You who think you are BETTER than this dude, will be burning right alongside of him in HELLL!!!! Believe That!!!!! Trust me...It IS COMING! Judgement Day!!! And it's About time For ALL You HaTting SATAN Worshipers!!! Because he is the FATHER of ALL Evil, all sin and ALL THINGS HATE!!! MAY YOU ALL GO TO HELL WITH HIM!!!

AFFF
AFFF

ONCE A NIG NOG ALWAYS A NIG NOG

OG
OG

Jail is easy!!!! As you could see life is hard on the streets, not in jail!!!! It obvious this dude gave up a long time ago with his loyalty to a street gang and not to his seed!!! He was to blinded to see the blessing in front of him and not wise enough to walk the path of a man! Eff going back to B-Ville for the true story! Eff the background and all the problems!!! I grew up in Fort Greene when Myrtle ave was called Murder Ave! Don't believe me lets go back 25 years when they were busting off every night!!! You don't see me blaming anyone or making excuses. I do cuss my own people for being Ignorant!! Enough let's get back on target!!!! His next film should be Brooklyns Dumbest because he was dumb enough to fall to the ignorance of the street !!!!

Ffff
Ffff

just another nickle and dime bootlip gone to prison

Ssss
Ssss

who cares? just another dirty little nig nog shooting another dirty nig nog. good riddence

Babbabooey
Babbabooey

we all just laugh when one nig nog kills another nig nog tommorow will be funny in some citie im sure

Dgoodine4
Dgoodine4

That just part of the story village voice you need to come back to brownsville and get all.

Fort Greene
Fort Greene

Great article.

His grandmother's refusal to acknowledge his guilt is heart-breaking. I wonder about his 5 siblings and his own child. Such a sad story, such a sad reality. Whenever I see defendants' families in court with matching t-shirts and vocal protestations of innocence, I wonder where they were while the defendant started on the very long road to the final crime that got them put on trial.

I remember the day of this shooting, as I live two blocks away. I am glad that he got a 107-year sentence. He truly is a danger to all civilized members of society as his judge said.

Alex Pilewski
Alex Pilewski

I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

nigs get a life
nigs get a life

nobody cares about nigs killing nigs dont you people get it?

Snnn
Snnn

whats funny is that every time one of thease blacks kill each other ,no one even cares, we just throw them in the garbage like a little chimpmunk or something . only chimpmunks are actually cute, people like chipmunks, people dont like niggers, ha ha ha

Hurdgurdydude
Hurdgurdydude

Another retarted lack of research by the village v. Where can I find the 74th precinct? Anyone? Idiots

Dass
Dass

What a typical dumb nigger

cobbster
cobbster

It is all too bad .......... in the end one crazy decision chooses are next path. Salvation is always at the door ........ what we do next chooses are destination.

Wwwy
Wwwy

just another dirtbag nig nog

Eve
Eve

SHUT THE FUCK UP BITCH YOU SOUND STUPID

goham.mj
goham.mj

hay im in los angeles im from criminal gangster crip in brooklyn .i lost contact with my east coast niggas but i know za.my name  is L.A. if any one from da set get at me ......jigga b. maino. havoc . holla at ya  boy

 

Smacked out here in the ville
Smacked out here in the ville

thas my godbro.. i havent seen him in 3 years and now this happens fuck the police u heard im gonna see this nikka in like a week

ask your mom b otch
ask your mom b otch

i guess you is a dumb knickle dragger too if dat be yo nigga yo, silly monkey

Dert
Dert

fuck you too monkey

Ohyeu
Ohyeu

good, ill be toasting marshmellows on the flames bitch, bababooey bababooey howard sterns penis

Sdf
Sdf

SPOKEN LIKE A TRUE RACIST....AYMAY OUYAY IEDAY onEday!!!

CCB
CCB

OG, I know what you talking about... I grew up in Marcy Projects and I remember when Myrtle Avenue was called "Murder Avenue" I remember going to Cumberland Hospital before they finally closed it view the body of a friend shot in Fort Greene park. I remember my cousins telling me not walk back to Marcy on Myrtle Avenue. Walk on Park Avenue... I feel for this guy... He has know idea what a blessing he has blown... It will all come to him when he gets older and he realizes that his life was worth more than what it has become. I am really praying for this brother... What a waste...

SpkTruth2Pwr
SpkTruth2Pwr

I'm crying over here. Yawn. A pre-schooler has more insight and better remarks. But thank you for your thoughtlessness.

Ohyea
Ohyea

your mother likes this cracker especially when her welfare check runs out and i bring her newports and 40s

AAA
AAA

you must be a useless jungle creature too.

 
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