By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
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Paige got away, but not before the officers had cuffed one of his wrists. The handcuffs can be seen in a "Smack" video he made soon after that was later uploaded to YouTube as "Brownsville Brooklyn Crips."
Wielding the handcuff like a badge of honor, Paige can be heard saying, "At the end of the day, we fuckin' B.K. machines. But we straight Crip." For a brief moment, Robert Crawford appears to Paige's right, his face visible just above his shoulder, standing like a brother in arms ready for battle.
Two months after the video was shot, according to court documents, Paige and Crawford headed out to avenge the death of their friend, Teddy McNichols.
On the night before the murder, Paul Wint drove his blue 2001 Chevy Tahoe to the two-story house on Strauss Street. Paige was there that night, distraught because two friends had been murdered.
At trial, Wint claimed not to be a gang member, but his record included two robberies—one in Atlantic City and another in Connecticut for prescription pills, which he planned to sell to an illegal pharmacist in Brooklyn until he was caught.
Over the next day, Wint testified, Paige laid plans to follow Lethania Garcia out of a court appearance, vowing to "get this bitch-ass nigger."
Picking up Crawford and using another accomplice to watch Garcia, Paige and Wint trailed Garcia to Fulton Street and Hanson Place in Fort Greene after his court date. It was about 1 p.m. when Wint pulled up in the Tahoe near the De Lux Natural Hair Salon.
Several people were inside the salon. Two women were getting their hair done: One was a civil rights lawyer, the other was an off-duty cop. The women, ironically, had been chatting with their hairstylists about the actress Jennifer Hudson, saying what a tragedy it was that Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, and Hudson's brother, Jason, had been killed. Their conversation was interrupted when they heard a barrage of gunshots coming from the street.
People instinctively ran toward the back door of the salon, which opened out onto Hanson Place. To do that, they had to pass through a vestibule. On that day, the vestibule door jammed. They were trapped in the salon.
Garcia, meanwhile, burst into the salon, running for his life—and also got stuck in the vestibule.
Paige and Crawford followed him inside, firing at Garcia, prosecutors alleged. When Garcia collapsed on hairstylist Samantha Reed, the gunmen kept shooting. Reed was hit multiple times in the leg. The killers then fled.
In the Tahoe, Wint testified, the men were hyped up and overjoyed that they had killed Garcia. Back at the Strauss Street house, they turned on the television to watch coverage of the murder. Paige made a phone call to Teddy McNichols's mother and asked her to relay a message to Teddy's father, Teddy Sr.: "Tell Teddy I took care of that."
Later, Paige got another ride to downtown Brooklyn: He had to meet with a public defender about an unrelated drug possession case.
Neither Paige nor Crawford testified at their trial this past November. While Wint testified against them, Paige's attorney, Gary Farrell, pointed out the many places where Wint had lied to officials during the various times he recounted the murder. (Wint is charged with hindering prosecution.) The evidence that ultimately led to the men's conviction came from cell phone records—dozens of rapid-fire phone calls between a cell phone Paige appeared to have used that day, a cell phone registered to Crawford, and one of the two that belonged to Wint. Testimony from a T-Mobile employee showed the cell phones moving between downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, and Brownsville. The only time the cell phones were down that day was during a short span at around 1 p.m., the time of the murder.
Paige insists he is innocent, but will not discuss aspects of the case because it is pending appeal.
In Brooklyn's Finest, Man Man is last seen fleeing the scene after murdering Ethan Hawke's corrupt cop. He disappears to an uncertain future.
Zaire Paige's fate is a lot less ambiguous.
"His life is over," says Antoine Fuqua. "Hopefully, he'll see the ugliness and the consequences of doing something like that. You know, it's not pretty, and it's not glamorous, and ultimately he is going to be sentenced alone. All the people he knew growing up, all that street talk, nothing matters."
"It makes me wish now that I kind of picked his brain more; I wish that I had gotten a bit deep with the young dude," says Hassan Johnson. "You have literally your whole life ahead of you—you're just getting to life. You know how in The Matrix, when you swallow the pill, and you get unplugged? He was just coming into the real world, and the real world swallowed him up. I don't know how you make a happy ending out of this one. It's just sad." He adds: "I think that was his test. That was his test right there. That was God's test. And I guess the first half of the exam went well, and the rest—it was all downhill from there."