Special to South Florida Times
Miami Dolphins cornerback Benny Sapp first heard on television about the tragedy of a mother shot to death in North Miami Beach the week before Thanksgiving in front of one of her young children.
“I immediately knew that those boys and their sister’s lives would change forever,” Sapp said in a phone interview.
He was right. On the night of Nov. 20, according to police, Mark Glinton, 37, boyfriend of their mother, 32-year-old Evelina “Lina” Jack, also shot nearly all her children before killing himself. Quentin Jack, 13, was shot twice and is now paralyzed from the waist down. He stepped in front of his 2-year old brother Kristian, shielding him from the bullets. His brother Xavier, 9, was struck several times but managed to run to a neighbor’s home for help. Their sister Ashleigh, 14, was also shot several times and witnessed Glinton shooting himself. She was able to call 911. North Miami Beach Police Detective Michael Stein said Glinton opened fire after the couple argued over Glinton’s talking to another woman on the telephone.
Stein said Glinton had been married and his wife had previously warned Jack that her husband was dangerous. Glinton had a history of domestic violence, said Stein, though none had been documented with Jack, whose funeral was held Dec. 18 in Miami.
“It’s a terrible story. It was one of the most vicious scenes, just savage,” Stein said in a phone interview. “These kids now have a life sentence on earth because of this animal.”
All the children have been released from the hospital except Quentin, who remains at the Jackson Rehabilitation Center. The emotional scars will likely last a lifetime, but there are those who are trying to help them cope.
Sapp is one of them. The Fort Lauderdale native knows about the permanent scars. The tragedy resonated with him because it brought back painful memories of losing a loved one to gun violence.
When Sapp was 5, his father was shot and killed in Fort Lauderdale and the incident still haunts him.
“I know exactly what they’re going through,” he said. “It just took me back to what I went through. It was life-changing for me,” said Sapp, 29. “I know what these kids are going to have to go through in life.”
Sapp said he spent many years angry and bitter, something these young victims may also experience as they try to cope with the tragedy. “I had to learn that everybody’s not like [the killers] and I was able to go on and become who I am today.”
On a recent Tuesday, the players’ day off, Sapp and teammates Austin Spitler, Nate Ness and A.J. Edds, along with some Dolphins cheerleaders, former players and Dolphins officials were visiting sick children at the Holtz Children’s Hospital on the campus of Jackson Memorial Medical Center, when they learned the young victims of the North Miami Beach tragedy were at Jackson across the street.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Sapp said. “I told the detective I’d seen them on TV. I got a chance to go over and try to cheer them up.”
Ilona Wolpin, the Dolphins’ senior director of community relations, and Jeanette Sparano, wife of Head Coach Tony Sparano, were leading the Dolphins group that day at the hospital. “I decided to invite them to our ‘Fins and Kids Holiday Toy Event’ the following week,” Wolpin said. “We thought that would be something nice for the kids to do.”
So, on Dec. 14, all the children, except Ashleigh, who remained hospitalized at that time, attended the event at the Dolphins Training Facility in Davie.
The event, which featured Dolphins players, cheerleaders, wives and other personnel, invited children from Miami-Dade and Broward public schools, along with foster kids and those from charities, to the facility for a large holiday party and Toy Give-Away. The children got gifts of their choice, provided by players and coaches.
The young survivors of the shooting joined in the fun and excitedly unwrapped big boxes containing an array of gifts. And while players Lousaka Polite and Jake Long emceed a dance contest for the children, Sapp was in a corner cradling 2-year-old Kristian in his arms while the boy’s father, Ricardo Fils-Aime, looked on.
“These young kids – their situation makes me feel real bad inside,” said Sapp, who spent the better part of the afternoon with the child attached to his hip.
“Just to be out here and put a smile on their face makes me feel real good.”
Stein said Sapp’s compassion impressed him from the start. “Benny Sapp is an awesome guy. He was phenomenal in the hospital,” he said. “He’s just a special person.”
Daphne Taylor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Luby/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES. EASING THE GRIEF: Miami Dolphins cornerback Benny Sapp is all smiles as he holds 2-year-old Kristian Jack at the Dolphins’ ‘Fins and Kids Holiday Toy Event’ held Dec. 14 at the team’s training facility in Davie. Kristian and his siblings were invited to the event after their mother was shot and killed by her boyfriend in a murder/suicide on Nov. 20 in North Miami Beach.
You Can Help:
If you’d like to donate to the children affected by the shooting, mail donations to: North Miami Beach Police Department, 16901 NE 19th Ave., North Miami Beach, FL 33162. Checks should note the family’s name.