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Nine Blocks From Home

Lifted out of working-class Brooklyn and propelled to Brearley, Wesleyan, Credit Suisse, and Condé Nast, Tiesha Sargeant was supposed to be a model of progressive social mobility. So how did she wind up back in her old neighborhood with a fatal gunshot wound to the head?


Tiesha Sargeant at the age of 5.  

On Friday nights, after another week of working twice as hard as everyone else—after proving yet again that she deserved to be in the position she was in; that, given a chance, she could probably do her job better than anybody else could—Tiesha Sargeant would IM her friends, and off they’d go to Lotus, or Boulevard, or any of the usual places the young and the well-off gather after work.

On this particular Friday, Tiesha and a friend were standing outside NA, the Chelsea nightclub that once was Nell’s. Like many of the people waiting to get in, Tiesha had pristine credentials. She had graduated from Brearley and Wesleyan, and gone on to Wall Street, where at 24 she was just starting out as an executive recruiter at Credit Suisse First Boston. She was beautiful as well as smart, with flawless brown skin, a dancer’s poise, an incandescent smile. But unlike the others in line that December night, Tiesha wasn’t born into this life. She was from a black working-class immigrant family from Crown Heights. At age 10, she had been tapped by Prep for Prep, the New York scholarship foundation that places talented minority students from poor neighborhoods into elite private schools. That, in a sense, is how she came to be here.

NA, it happens, was next door to a club called 2i’s. For all their proximity, the two clubs might as well have been on different planets. NA was mainly for white scenesters, with music you’d hear on TRL, only with bottle service and steep table charges. 2i’s, meanwhile, drew from Tiesha’s old neighborhood; that night, there was a hip-hop and reggae party, with beats from Trinidad and Jamaica as well as Queens. As Tiesha and her friend Natalie Swaby waited in line at NA, a doorman at 2i’s recognized Natalie and called out her name.

Keve Huggins was handsome and broad-shouldered, with a deep, radio-ready voice, long dreadlocks, and a Bob Marley goatee. Two years older than Tiesha, he was from the old neighborhood and knew Natalie from back when. He and Natalie hugged. Keve held out his hand to Tiesha.

Tiesha and Keve didn’t spend much time together that night; the girls went into 2i’s briefly, then went back to NA. But Keve was smitten; if anything, Tiesha was out of his league. And when he spotted her at Flow on Varick Street months later, in May of last year, he made his move. They danced all night, closed the place down, and Keve brought Tiesha back to her place at dawn.

After a summer of almost daily dates and Thanksgiving with Tiesha’s family, the couple moved in together in March, into a cheap second-floor walk-up on Bedford Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, blocks from where they both grew up. Friends wondered what Tiesha, so accomplished and driven, was doing with Keve, who said he designed T-shirts and Web pages for party promoters. But Tiesha said she’d never been happier. She said she was in love.

At 1:30 A.M. on May 14, Keve Huggins called police to say that intruders had broken into the apartment he and Tiesha Sargeant shared. The intruders, police say, had pulled a sheet over her head and bound her and Keve together. Keve—who police would later say had been dealing thousands of dollars in pot out of the house earlier that day—was unhurt. Tiesha, meanwhile, had been shot once in the head. She was dead.

Tiesha Sargeant was supposed to be the living embodiment of class mobility. At Brearley, she’s still talked about as a legend—lovely and brilliant, charming and determined, the beloved overachiever from Brooklyn. At Wesleyan, her friends and professors thought of her as an intellectual powerhouse, part of the next wave of black leadership. At Credit Suisse, and later Condé Nast, it appeared she was becoming just that. At 26, she was emerging not only as a formidable individual but also as the walking affirmation of a cherished New York story—the idea that a talented child of immigrants can, given the chance, become anything she wants to be.

Somewhere along the way the experiment went wrong. To all outward appearances, Tiesha had made it. But privately, she struggled with who she was. Airlifted from one world into another, she wasn’t really at home in either place. There were moments when she seemed to feel the need to reaffirm her connection to the old world, and Keve Huggins was a move in that direction—one that ended in the worst imaginable way. Now Tiesha’s friends and family are left wondering how someone so promising and self-assured ended up with a two-bit party promoter who, according to police, had a sideline in drug dealing. How did the girl who could have gone anywhere with her life end up shot dead nine blocks from home?


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