Ice-T’s career trajectory is anything but conventional. Many folks know him for his role on Law & Order: SVU, but he’s been a robber, pimp, rapper, and actor, with more than 30 years’ worth of credits in front of the camera.
In his youth, he did a stint in the military that changed his life in more ways than one. But while there, he got into some trouble over a rug.
Ice-T joined the military as a teen
Before he was Ice-T or Detective Fin Tutola, he was Tracy Marrow, a kid who lived in the New Jersey suburbs with his parents. At age 12, he moved to Los Angeles following his father’s death—five years after his mother died.
There, he learned to adapt to an environment where gangs existed and wound up attending Crenshaw High. During his senior year, Marrow became a teen father and decided to enlist in the Army. He figured it would help him provide for his child.
During a 2011 interview with NPR, Ice-T explained his thought process behind the move while discussing his memoir, Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption from South Central to Hollywood.
“And when I had my daughter I was like, man, I’m going to go to jail, I got to do something, and I went to an enlistment office,” he said. “Next thing you know I’m in the military, four years infantry. I’m in Tropic Lightning Schofield Barracks, you know. I tried to do it so I mean I’m in there making efforts to try to do right.”
Ice-T caught stealing in the military
As a young infantryman, Ice-T said he and his group were under the influence of his commanding officer.
When speaking with Howard Stern in 2017, he shared that his sergeant recognized some of his recruits had “special skills” or street smarts. The man had a penchant for things he didn’t own or things that didn’t belong to him.
Ice-T told Stern that he started asking for stuff. “And me and a couple of guys would go around the post and steal the s*it and put it up in our area, and he thought it was cool,” he said.
He said the sergeant got cocky and stated he wanted an infantry blue rug in his office. Ice-T knew where one was located so he and his crew stole it by cutting it out with a box cutter. After being abandoned by their getaway driver, they called a cab, and the driver is who told on them.
He was sent to military jail for burglary.
Ice-T broke out of jail, but then turned things around
He discussed escaping the jail in his memoir. “I figured out a way to make the top window come down a few inches. Just enough for a skinny dude to squeeze through,” wrote Ice-T. “I went up to the top bunk and managed to wriggle my a*s out of the top window. I had to time my escape so that the guards at the gates wouldn’t see me. It was just like breaking out of prison.”
He later decided against staying AWOL and turned himself in. Rather than risk true prison time for his actions, he went back and received an Article 15 from the commander. Ice-T/Marrow finished out his tenure with the Army.
After coming home, he resorted to a life of crime with his friends but getting into hip-hop—and eventually acting—changed things for him. And Ice-T managed to avoid ever going back to jail again.
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