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Friday, 26 March 2010

Vivian Blake former top leader of the Jamaican Shower Posse died in Jamaica.

07:45 |

Vivian Blake, a former top leader of the Jamaican Shower Posse, which United States prosecutors say was responsible for more than 1,400 drug-related killings in this country in the 1980s, died Sunday night in Kingston, Jamaica. He was 54. Blake died after being brought to the University Hospital of the West Indies complaining of breathing problems, said Ruel Rainford, the senior director of administration and operations. He said an autopsy was planned. Mr. Blake’s daughter, Dominique Blake, said he had been suffering from kidney failure and diabetes. Since his release from prison in the United States 14 months ago, Mr. Blake had been living in Jamaica and writing a screenplay about his life, said his lawyer, George Soutar. Mr. Blake, who grew up in poverty in West Kingston, earned a scholarship to St. George’s College, a private high school in Jamaica. He first traveled to New York as part of a cricket team in 1973, and stayed there, establishing the American affiliate of the Shower Posse in Brooklyn. There are differing accounts of how the gang got its name. Many believe it was derived from a 1980 campaign speech by Edward Seaga of the Jamaican Labor Party, who promised “showers of blessings” in economic opportunity for Jamaicans. The gang was widely seen as aligned with Mr. Seaga’s party. Another version contends that the name came from the way the gang would spray its victims with bullets. In the United States, Mr. Blake developed a marijuana and cocaine distribution network that spanned major cities from Miami to New York to Los Angeles and even reached as far as Anchorage. A warrant for his arrest was first issued in 1988 after he and other members of the gang were accused in the November 1984 killing of five people in a Miami crack house. Mr. Blake escaped arrest by hopping on a cruise ship in Miami bound for Jamaica, according to a 2008 profile of the Shower Posse on the BET series “American Gangster.” While fighting extradition in Jamaica, Mr. Blake established a nightclub, motorbike rental agency and a loan company. Another arrest warrant was issued, and in 1999, he was extradited to Miami. As part of a deal to avoid trial, he pleaded guilty to racketeering, criminal conspiracy and drug possession while admitting his leadership role in the gang.

“But what he never admitted to was his responsibility in personally killing anybody,” said his lawyer at the time, David Rowe. “I think he always felt above the fray.” Ms. Blake said her father had shielded her and her older brother, Duane, from his activities. “It wasn’t until a couple years back that I started to learn things in detail,” she said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “There was not one day in my life I did not speak to him,” said Ms. Blake, who won an N.C.A.A. title in the 4-x-400-meter relay while attending Pennsylvania State University and who now directs Black Knight Investments, the loan company modeled after the one her father started, while training to make the Jamaican Olympic team. Her brother chronicled their father’s life in a 2003 book, “Shower Posse: The Most Notorious Jamaican Crime Organization.” “We are definitely saddened, as with any death,” said Dr. Peter Phillips, a former Jamaican minister of national security, “but I think it would do Jamaica well to examine his own admissions in his establishment of high-level criminal organizations in Jamaica.” Federal prosecutors in New York are seeking the extradition of Christopher Coke, the current Shower Posse leader, on charges of drug distribution and firearms trafficking. Besides his two children, Mr. Blake is survived by his wife, Valerie, and four grandchildren

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