SALT SPRING –– The island recorded the first triple murder since the start of the year on Tuesday night, when a group of men wielding high-powered rifles fired what was termed by residents as “an endless amount of bullets” on patrons at a bar at Meghie Top, Salt Spring in St James.
Those brutally cut down have been identified as 18-year-old Sandrea Samuels of a St Elizabeth address, 27-year-old Andrae Barrett and 40-year-old disc jockey, Alphanso Foster, both of Salt Spring, St James addresses.
Another man who was shot during the attack has been admitted to a medical institution in serious, but stable condition.
Reports are that 11 p.m. a group of about men toting M-16 and AK-47 assault rifles and shotguns opened fire on patrons at a bar in the Meghie Top section of Salt Spring. Four persons were rushed to hospital where Samuels, Barrett and Foster were pronounced dead, while another was admitted.
Divisional commander of the St James Police Division, Senior Superintendent Steve McGregor, who revealed that approximately 79 assorted spent shells were recovered from the scene, indicated the brutal attack was gang-related and not political.
“There has been an ongoing feud between Meghie Top down to ‘Supermarket’, Go Peace and the other lane close by. This is what we know. There has always been that feuding. What is ironic though, is that this would have happened right in the midst of a political season which we would not want to dovetail into that. I haven’t gotten any indication at this time that would suggest that this incident is politically linked,” McGregor said.
“In this specific incident we have recovered over 79 assorted spent shells. The approximately 79 spent shells tell us that AK-47s were used, also shotguns, 45s and M-16s.”
The St James police chief, who noted that the identities of persons responsible for the murders of the three would be released soon, threw down the gauntlet to the gunmen who had allegedly claimed they would take on the security forces instead of surrendering to them.
“I want to make these people know that we are going to do what we have to do. We have clear intelligence as to who it is coming from. We are going to put out some names as soon as I clear them with the people in our intelligence unit, as to those that we want to come in.
“We are hearing that men are saying that they are not coming in, that they are prepared to take on the security forces. We are here for them! And that is what we would rather for them to do than to go at innocent people that are not armed. So if that is their intention, we are prepared for them,” McGregor charged.
There was a strong police presence in the community which was clothed with fear and tension when the Jamaica Observer West visited the area yesterday morning.
Foster’s mother Zeenie Edwards said her son who celebrated his birthday on Monday, went to the bar to purchase liquor on consignment for his post-birthday party which was planned for Saturday.
“Him say him was going to keep up something Saturday night. So a go him go over there to get some liquor on consignment when the men [gunmen] walked up,” the bereaved mother bemoaned.
The steps to the bar, which were covered with blood, vividly told the tale of mayhem which took place.
But the visibly shaken residents, who milled around, were tight-lipped.
Members of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) and politicians were early on the scene yesterday morning to offer moral support to the community members.
Member of Parliament for St James North West Dr Horace Chang condemned the incident.
“It is a very sad and tragic moment for the Salt Spring community. I understand there is some tension between two factions in the community, but the reality is this wanton brutal killing taking place is just intolerable,” Chang lamented.
Anthony Henry, the People’s National Party standard-bearer for St James North-West, called for the residents not to consider revenge.
“The entire community is tense and they are grieving. This is satanic behaviour which will not be tolerated. But what I want to do is call upon the people of Salt Spring not to retaliate,” Henry beseeched.
Members of the PMI, who offered counselling to the bereaved residents also appealed to them not to take the law into their own hands.
And Heroy Clarke, the Jamaica Labour Party candidate in St James Central called for a collective effort to put an end to the violence.
“It is something that has to stop. It is going to take the effort of all the persons who have interest in this country; political, church, civic society. We cannot allow the limited minds to behave in a way as if they are a law unto themselves, and therefore we need to sit down to strategise how we reach out to grab them back,” Clarke expressed.
The death of the trio has now pushed the murder tally for St James to 15 since the start of the year. Last year, the parish recorded 215 murders.