Hudson Valley Sports Report

A YEAR LATER, HONORING CAVAL

As Poughkeepsie boys make their run, they remember their former teammate – but does anybody remember a killer is out there?

By Rich Thomaselli
HVSR Staff

POUGHKEEPSIE – It was a Facebook post written in desperation, and you could practically hear the anguish in Dwayne Douglas’ voice.

Douglas, one of the great mentors and community role models in the city of Poughkeepsie and a recent recipient of a Black Achievers Award, had just dropped off Poughkeepsie High School boys basketball star Caval Haylett at his home on March 9, 2016.

He and Haylett went to Tony’s Pizza Pit on Main Street and Raymond Ave. for a slice to celebrate Haylett’s 21-point performance in the Dutchess County Basketball Coaches Association Exceptional Seniors Game.

“He was just so excited, and he was just hugging his trophy from the game,” Douglas recalled. “We talked about colleges he was interested in, and his future, and making sure applications were completed. He was interested in Pace and SUNY New Paltz. This kid had it all laid out in front of him.”

Hours later, gunshots on Winnikee Ave. in the city.

Two rival groups.

Innocent bystanders in between, including Caval Haylett. A brilliant student who entered his senior year needing only two credits to graduate but still took four classes, didn’t need to be in school until 10 a.m. the next morning. So he was on the street, on the stoops, on the porches, talking with his friends about his big game just hours earlier.

He was shot in the head.

He hung on for half-a-day or so and was pronounced dead the next morning, March 10, another tragic ‘wrong place, wrong time’ incident that always seems to affect the innocent ones.

It stunned more than just a community and a city. It stunned the entire Hudson Valley and beyond.

 

 

Another senseless death due to gun violence.

As we come up on the one-year anniversary on Friday, his former teammates have won the Section 9, Class A championship and play Wednesday night in the first round of the state playoffs.

They remember their fallen friend and have honored him all season.

But does anybody remember there’s still a killer at large?

Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison, who spoke at Haylett’s funeral, vowed to do everything possible.

“This violence, and total lack of respect for human life, has claimed a bright light in Caval,” Rolison said at the funeral.

“We have too much violence in this community,” Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said.

A year later, nothing.

“The investigation has been, and continues to be, very active,” city of Poughkeepsie police Lt. Matthew Clark told HVSR on Monday.

Asked if there were any suspects, any person or persons of interest, or whether police were close to an arrest, Clark said “I would never make that kind of prediction. Let’s just say the investigation remains very active.”

An arrest would certainly soothe a community still looking for answers, but it still won’t change what happened last March. For many close to Haylett, the recollections remain all too vivid even a year later.

Poughkeepsie senior Corey Simmons said he had fallen asleep early on the night of March 9 and never saw the social media chatter about the shooting or see any text messages. He was still sleeping on the morning of March 10 when his mother, Danielle, came into his bedroom well before his alarm was set to go off and sat on the edge of the bed and nudged him.

“It was weird. She never does that. So I was like ‘Hey Mom’ and she said ‘Hey babe,’ ” Simmons said.

And then through tears his mother delivered the news.

“She said ‘Caval got shot last night in the head, he’s in critical condition.’ I was in shock. I thought it was all a dream. All I could do was cry,” Simmons said. “I thought it was a movie. I always thought that only happens in the movies. I just remember walking into school crying. One of my teachers let me and a friend sit in her office and we cried and just prayed he would fight through.”

The next few days were a blur. Coping. A memorial at school. A funeral.

“Caval was a man that always wanted to make you laugh by telling jokes. That’s just the way he was. Everything that happened over those few days made me cry, but I try to remember him laughing,” teammate Mo’Quez Dickens said.

Over the course of the next year, Dickens and Simmons both lost grandparents. Coming back for the season last October, and with new coach Jerome Elting replacing Brian Laffin, it was something of an emotional rollercoaster.

And everyday was a reminder – Haylett’s jersey on the wall.

Tremell Reaves, who joined the Pioneers this season after moving from Philadelphia, never knew Haylett.

But he knew the reality.

“One of my friends was taken from me last year because of gun violence,” Reaves said. “I know what it’s like. I mean, I didn’t know Caval but I heard he was a great player and a great person off the court, too. It’s nice to see his jersey up in the gym. We talk about him a lot. We always say, ‘This one’s for Caval.’ ”

Dickens said Haylett would have gotten a huge kick out of knowing his former teammates won the sectional title on Sunday night and would play Johnson City on Wednesday in the state playoffs.

“He would be proud,” Dickens said. “But he would still be telling jokes.”

 

2 Comments

  1. Matthew Pascale

    March 8, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Excellent article, Rich.

  2. Cliff G

    March 8, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    We think about you every day, you are very much missed. I hope to see you up above when this is over.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *