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Shot Through the Heart
Doug Most
July 10, 2000
The hoop dreams of four young men were shattered—and the issue of racial profiling was brought into sharp focus—when New Jersey troopers stopped their van and opened fire
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July 10, 2000

Shot Through The Heart

The hoop dreams of four young men were shattered—and the issue of racial profiling was brought into sharp focus—when New Jersey troopers stopped their van and opened fire

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He had interest from Hartford, Marist, Hofstra, South Carolina State and Maryland- Baltimore County, but he thought playing at a junior college would be a surer route to a big basketball school. It wasn't. He bounced from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga., to New York City Technical College to the Puerto Rico league again in 1996, playing, studying and waiting for the Division I offer that would never come. A bone bruise to his left knee in 1997 forced him to rest, and suddenly his future was not so promising. "I knew he probably could have been a better player," says Ralph Menar, who coached Danny as a youngster in the Police Athletic League, "but it's not the first time I saw this happen."

Danny was back at New York City Technical College in April 1998, closing in on his Associate degree in liberal arts, when he decided to give basketball one more try and accompany Keshon south.

After it bumped the cruiser, the van continued rolling backward, and the shooting continued too. Not just from Kenna, but now from Hogan as well. Bullets blasted into the rear driver's side of the minivan, where Rayshawn was cowering in the middle seat and Jarmaine in the rear. One bullet struck Jarmaine's right knee, another hit his ribs, and a third entered his right arm. His wounded leg was pinned beneath the middle seat. "I'm hit, I'm hit!" he screamed.

If raw talent had brought Danny to the van that night, hard work and determination had gotten Leroy Jarmaine Grant there. He and his younger brother and two older sisters were raised in a public housing project in the heart of Harlem, at 129th Street and Seventh Avenue. Jarmaine once watched paramedics carry out of the building a five-year-old girl who had been hit by a stray bullet from the street.

Jarmaine played year-round on the court at the St. Nicholas Playground. When his hands got too cold on winter days, he would bolt into the Laundromat across the street, toss a quarter into a dryer, warm his gloves and run back out to play. "Jarmaine is a basketball fiend," says Pat Mangan, his coach at Rice High, a city basketball power, where Jarmaine led one of the two varsity squads in scoring. "I had to throw him out of the gym."

He graduated in 1993, and when the offers he had hoped for didn't come, he stayed close to home and played at Westchester Community College, where he made a new friend: his roommate, Keshon Moore. Jarmaine became one of the top 50 junior college three-point shooters in the country while earning his two-year degree. He was back in the city in April 1998, living with his mom and thinking about his next move, when Keshon invited him to drive to North Carolina Central.

Rayshawn heard his friends screaming and saw Keshon's legs in the space between the two front seats. He felt the van moving slowly backward and reached to open the sliding door next to him. But just as he grabbed the handle, the van bumped the police cruiser behind it and, as Danny got hold of the steering wheel, veered with its lights out into the dark southbound lanes of the turnpike, directly into the path of a Honda Civic. The collision was fierce. The Honda struck the van, then went left and slammed into the center concrete barrier.

Rayshawn lost his grip on the door handle. He winced in pain as a bullet ripped into his chest from the side, exited and lodged in his right forearm. Danny, jostled by the collision but still frantically reaching for the gearshift, threw the van into drive, causing it to start forward.

The van, now perpendicular to traffic, moved slowly off the highway, across the breakdown lane and toward an embankment. After all the shooting and shouting, there was silence.

The van was almost at a stop near the ditch beside the highway when one last shot rang out. It was from Hogan's Glock. The bullet passed through the rear driver's-side window and the back of the driver's seat, taking some fibers of the seat cushion with it as it tore into Danny's lower back while he lay on his side along the two front seats. The bullet missed his spine by an inch.

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