Vivian Blake, a former top leader of Jamaica's "Shower Posse," which US prosecutors say was responsible for more than 1,400 drug-related killings within the United States in the 1980s, died March 20 in Kingston. Blake, 54, was rushed to an emergency room with breathing problems before he died. His daughter, Dominique Blake, said he had been suffering from kidney failure and diabetes.
Blake, who grew up in poverty in West Kingston, first traveled to New York as part of a cricket team in 1973, and stayed there, establishing the US affiliate of the Shower Posse in Brooklyn. According to one account, the gang took its name 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 Seaga’s party. However, another version holds the name came from the way the gang sprayed its victims with bullets.
In the US, Mr. Blake developed a marijuana and cocaine distribution network that spanned from Miami to New York to Los Angeles. 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. 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, Blake established a nightclub, motorbike rental agency and a loan company. 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, and admitted his leadership role in the gang. However, he denied responsibility for any killings. Since his release from prison in the US 14 months ago, Blake had been living in Jamaica and writing a screenplay about his life. (NYT, March 26)