Cop Of The Week

by Paul Bass | May 5, 2006 12:46 PM |

A 16 year-old boy brought a sawed-off shotgun to Hillhouse High School. He didn’t get a chance to shoot anybody. Thank Officer Marcus Tavares.

Tavares (in photo), who’s 37, grew up in Brookside, attended Hillhouse, where he played starting running back for the Academics three years in a row. He joined the force 15 years ago after finishing college. These days he’s back at Hillhouse as a beat cop. He has an Officer Friendly manner that could qualify him for a walking beat on Sesame Street.

Tavares had more serious matters to attend to around 1 p.m. Monday. He was standing inside the Hillhouse back door, when he saw the 16 year-old boy approach the door and try to get in.

Tavares recognized the boy. His name is Javon. Hillhouse expelled Javon last year for fighting. He kept showing up back at his old school recently; Tavares had arrested him once before for criminal trespass.

The back door was locked. Tavares took a look at Javon through the door window. He remembered a recent bulletin about a heavyset young black male from Newhallville who’d been carrying a shotgun. Tavares thought this could be the kid.

So Tavares went outside and followed Javon and Javon’s friend as they walked away. Javon wore a long camouflage jacket — on a warm day. Something visibly protruded from the jacket’s left pocket. Javon walked with his arm pressed tight against his left side. Tavares had more than a hunch Javon was indeed armed.

He decided not to stop Javon yet. Too many other kids around outside the school. “I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.,” he recalls in an interview. “That’s my job.” So he radioed for backup and kept following.

Javon walked over to Goffe and Crescent and entered the anonymous convenience store on the corner, the store that has no sign or name outside. Tavares chatted up the friend, who remained outside. Two back-up officers arrived. Tavares went inside the store.

Seeing Tavares, Javon spun around to his right, concealing his left side.

“You OK?” Tavares asked.


“Javon, what are you doing here? You know you don’t go here. You know I’m going to arrest you for trespassing.”

Javon fled the store, Tavares in tow. Tavares still didn’t want to grab him, because small kids were out on the street. He feared that Javon would pull out the gun and shoot.

Fortunately, Javon hurried up the block and turned left onto Sherman Avenue, where no one else was standing nearby. School was still in session. As an officer drove up beside Javon, Tavares cut across a grassy field on foot and closed in. Javon saw the police car, then turned to find Tavares running up to him. Javon panicked. “Javon!” Tavares called. “Just put your hands up.”

He did. He didn’t reach for the gun. The police arrested him; according to Tavares, they found the loaded sawed-off 20-gauge shotgun as well as extra rounds in Javon’s jeans pocket. Javon was charged with criminal trespass, carrying a weapon on school grounds, and possession of a sawed-off shotgun.

Tavares’ supervisor, Sgt. Rick Rodriguez, said Tavares may very well have prevented a violent incident in the school. Rodriguez doesn’t know for sure; he said Javon hasn’t been forthcoming with police about why he went to Hillhouse with the gun.

Tavares, meanwhile, appreciates the chance to spend his days at his alma mater. He likes to talk to kids growing up in circumstances like his own. He advises them to study instead of being influenced by troublemakers in the ‘hood. “Just because you grow up in that environment,” he tells them, “doesn’t mean you have to stay in that environment.” He tells them they can succeed in life. The way he did.

(To read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

(To suggest an officer to be featured, click here.)

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