Gray-brown scars run the length of Randolph Anthony Barnett's face like liquid dribbles of skin. Another Jamaican threw acid on his face in August the way a schoolboy might splash milk on a playground rival.

"Just a simple confrontation" is how Barnett explains away the attack that has left him disfigured. In a lilting cadence, he chooses nearly identical phrases to describe the motives for slayings and shootouts between rival Jamaican drug dealers in the Washington area and across the nation.

Barnett, 28, is in federal custody in Baltimore awaiting the outcome of a deportation appeal hearing for drug convictions in the District of Columbia and Prince George's County.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service began deportation proceedings against Barnett and two of his alleged assailants after the acid attack and a series of shootouts last fall with other Jamaicans who police believe belong to rival drug gangs.

"There are Jamaicans feuding with each other, probably over jokes, over simple confrontations," Barnett said in an interview last month in a holding cell in the federal courthouse in Baltimore.

"To tell you the truth, I cannot understand it myself. If it's not over drugs, it's over some silly confrontation," Barnett said, fingering four twine-covered crosses hanging around his neck.

"You've got a couple posses from Jamaica. You have Jamaicans that might sell crack. You've also got Jamaicans that do business. You have Jamaicans that work," he said. "If one Jamaican do something, they accuse all Jamaicans. It's a big hypocrisy. It's foolishness."

Barnett is known on the streets of the District, Montgomery and Prince George's counties and to police, federal agents and prosecutors as "Al Capone" for his reputation as a posse "hit man." He has been arrested more than a dozen times on assault, attempted murder and other charges.

But only two drug charges -- a 1977 conviction in the District and a 1984 conviction in Prince George's County -- have stuck, because of fear and a code of silence among Jamaican posse members and their victims, according to law enforcement officials.

"He's a major enforcer for Jamaican dealers in that area. A lot of people are afraid of him {and afraid that} if they say anything about him they'll get hurt," said INS Special Agent Russell Spruance.

"He's a gangster," said Prince George's County police Detective Mike McGraw. "Barnett shoots without provocation. It makes about as much sense as Vietnam."

Dressed in charcoal slacks and a sweater, his dreadlocks tucked beneath a cap, Barnett said that he is a musician who also works in construction, not a drug dealer. He was 14 when his family left Jamaica and "came to America for opportunity, to fulfill dreams," he said.

Barnett blames island politicians and police for instilling violence in the Jamaicans of his generation. "Political violence, that's a way of life for some kids in Jamaica," he said. "You cannot blame the average street kid who does not know better. You give a gun to an 18-year-old kid or a 20-year-old kid, what do you think they're going to do with it?"

Barnett laughed at the notion that Jamaican drug dealers are a new breed of organized crime. "You just probably have a group of Jamaicans linked up to sell drugs. The police try to make it look like the Mafia," he said. "They say that to make us look like we're nobody. That's all it is."