Lelieth Campbell (left) is being console by a relative Old Harbour News Photo
Three men and a teenage boy were shot dead in Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine in what the police are saying was a shootout with men who were conducting transactions involving illegal guns.
The incident took place approximately 3:00 pm today at the Black Shadow 876 Sports Bar and Restaurant which is undergoing renovation.
All three men are from the Old Harbour Bay community and have been identified by relatives and friends as Jermaine O’Connor, 30; Delano ‘Kimo’ Sterling, 22 and Kemar ‘Kwefa’ Frazer, 26. The boy, whose name remains unknown, is said to be 16 years old and recently migrated from Kingston to live in the Old Harbour area.
The names of the deceased are yet to be confirmed by the police however. But an officer close to the investigation told Old Harbour News that one man has escaped.
Acting upon intelligence the police say a team of officers went to the location in a section of the community called ‘Thirteen’ where men were engaged in a gun transaction.
According to the police a shootout ensued thereafter and arising from the alleged gun battle, four males were killed while three firearms – one 357 magnum and two .38 revolvers – were recovered from the scene in addition to over $40,000 in Jamaican currency.
But the residents are refuting the police’s version of the events, claiming that the deceased were killed in cold blood.
One man, speaking aloud and claiming to be an eyewitness, said the men were shot after responding to the call of “police” from outside the high-rise wall.
“One a di yute dem come at the gate after dem (the police) come de and call ‘police’… And as di yute open di gate so, di police shoot him and kick him back inside. Den you just hear pure shot a fire inside,” he said angrily. “A nuh my family dem but mi feel it to me heart. Di police dem wicked. How people can trust police now.”
Other residents say the three men from the community were innocent people and their suspicion of the police’s account is further heightened by the swift removal of the bodies.
A swat of police and soldiers were quickly called in as tensions flared between residents and officers. A parked vehicle was set afire by residents forcing the police to summoned the fire brigade.
Supt. Leighton Gray of the St Catherine South Police Command did his best calm situation by engaging the outraged residents of roughly 500 to a dialogue, advising them of the various channels available in order to ensure that proper justice is served.
Over an hour later the first investigator from the Independent Commission (INDECOM) – the state agency mandated to investigate police shootings – arrived on the scene before other INDECOM investigators joined in analyzing the area.
The crowd got bigger as the news about the deaths of the men spread quickly.
Lelieth Campbell, mother of Jermaine O’Connor, was of those persons who got to the scene as fast as she could. Overwhelmed with emotion, she broke down immediately as residents confirmed the heart wrenching news.
“From this mawnin mi feel a death feeling and fi the whole day a so mi feel. And mi se Lord if anything bad ago happen to mi or Jermaine mi a beg you cover mi under the blood of Jesus. And little after that mi get a call se Jermaine dead,” said the weeping mother as a family members try their best consoling her.
“Lawd Jesus mi belly, mi belly,” she cried.
According to Campbell it was only four months ago Jermaine, her only child, was held up by unknown assailants in a vehicle in the community and shot several times.
While the investigation is ongoing the police will be maintaining a strong presence in the community which is also classified as a major transshipment point in the guns for drugs trade between Jamaica and Haiti.
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