By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Vivian Blake’s peaceful death in a Kingston, Jamaica hospital bed March 21 is a grim contrast to his life steeped in violence – much of it in South Florida.
Blake, formerly of Miramar, was a founder of the “Shower Posse,” a politically connected drug gang that got its name from the bullets it rained down on its enemies.
Despite the dope, death and political muscle that still defines the gang today, Blake died of natural causes at age 53.
Federal authorities on the front lines of the cocaine wars in the 1980s and early 1990s said the Shower Posse and its offshoots murdered about 1,400 people nationwide. That’s more men, women and children than live in the town of Sea Ranch Lakes.
“These guys were ruthless,” said Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, who once served on a federal task force that investigated Blake. “With the Mafia it was a .22 behind the ear, and with the Shower Posse it was indiscriminate shooting with machine guns.”
The Shower Posse doesn’t make U.S. headlines much anymore. But with its deep and perverse ties to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, for whom it gets out the vote, it endures as an international criminal force in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world.
The extent of its power is currently on display in a political tug of war over a U.S. request to Jamaica for the extradition of the man who’s alleged to be the Shower Posse’s current crime boss, Christopher “Duddus” Coke.
Coke is second generation. His father, the late Lester Lloyd Coke – or “Jim Brown” as he preferred to be known, was Blake’s partner in the Shower Posse.
A federal grand jury in New York indicted Coke in August for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine and conspiracy to traffic in firearms. The Department of Justice lists Coke as one of “the world’s most dangerous narcotics kingpins.”
On March 1, a State Department narcotics control strategy report said “pervasive public corruption” on the island was hampering Coke’s extradition.
“Jamaica’s delay in processing the U.S. extradition request for a major suspected drug and firearms trafficker with reported ties to the ruling party highlights the potential depth of corruption in the government,” the report said.
The President of the United States doesn’t make speeches about drug suspects before Congress. But in Jamaica this month, Prime Minister Bruce Golding went to Parliament to say his government won’t extradite Coke because the U.S. used illegally intercepted telephone conversations to build its case, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.
Opposition members, however, questioned why Jamaica’s courts were not allowed to determine the merits of the government’s concerns, the newspaper said.
Meanwhile Vivian Blake’s death serves as a reminder of the posse’s violent past in South Florida, New York and elsewhere.
Blake was indicted in 1988 on 37 counts of racketeering and conspiracy by a Fort Lauderdale federal grand jury. Authorities linked him to eight murders, four attempted murders and said he smuggled more than 1,000 tons of cocaine. The proceeds were used to buy and ship weapons back to his supporters in Jamaica.
After the indictment, Blake fled Broward and returned to Jamaica. He was finally arrested there in 1994, and extradited to the U.S. in 1999. He pleaded guilty a year later to reduced charges and was sentenced to 28 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Norman Roettger.
Blake was paroled and deported to Jamaica in January 2009.
“His crimes occurred prior to the adoption of the sentencing guidelines and as a result he served much less time than he would have had he been sentenced today,” said Lee Stapleton, a Miami lawyer who prosecuted Blake when she was with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“It sounds like a cliché to say this, but he was a very intelligent man and it’s a great pity that he didn’t use his intelligence for a legitimate purpose.”
Blake gained renewed notoriety in 2008 when BET broadcast an episode on the Shower Posse on its popular American Gangster Series.
At the time of his death, Blake was working on a screenplay about his life with an American Gangster producer and the actor and director Nick Cassavetes, according to AllHipHop.com.
Last week’s Associated Press obituary on Blake reported he “had been apparently living quietly” since his return to Jamaica.
Still, violence was a constant in Blake’s life.
The AP reported that Blake’s brother, Paul, was slain in November at his home near Kingston.
And according to AllHipHop.com, an attempt on Vivian Blake’s life was made in September.