ST JOHN’S –– Spent shells, thousands of marijuana plants and several pounds of the cured substance, were among the items the police took away from the scene where Charlesworth Junie Richards was gunned down in the wee hours of yesterday.
The police issued an official statement indicating that the investigators “have so far recovered several spent ammunition shells from the scene. A silver Kia Sportage, believed to have been driven by the deceased was also found in the Orange Valley area and was taken to police headquarters”.
Lawmen also said that 30,938 cannabis plants were found on seven plantations and uprooted while they found a total of 67 and a quarter pounds of cured cannabis at two separate areas of the property. It took lawmen from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Narcotics Department, the K-9 Unit and Liberta, All Saints and Dockyard police stations over five hours to uproot, gather the cannabis and remove it from the scene.
Forty-two-year-old Richards, whose identical twin brother Craig Richards mysteriously disappeared in March, was shot multiple times in the upper body and was pronounced dead on the scene near where the police found the drugs and spent shells from the bullets believed to have killed him.
One relative said he was shot in one of his eyes and another part of the face. The assailants allegedly entered the Estate by jumping a back gate and after demanding money and drugs from the men on the scene, they reportedly fled the scene in Richards’ SUV which they used to ram through the locked wooden gate to escape.
Two close relatives of the deceased who did not want to be named said they received a call about the incident after 3 a.m. Police said the incident occurred at about 2:30 a.m. at the Ras Freeman Estate, in a house on the same compound with the Rastafarian community’s Tabernacle.
One of the dead man’s cousins was among three other men who were on the scene at the time of the incident. That cousin was allegedly beaten in the face by the assailants and had to receive treatment at the hospital.
According to relatives and people who said they spoke with those who survived the attack before the police arrived, the assailants were dressed in blue coveralls similar to those worn by police, but they identified themselves as representatives of the office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP).
The police press statement did not address the issue of what the assailants were allegedly wearing and who they reportedly claimed to be representing.
However, the head of the ONDCP Lieutenant Colonel Edward Croft said his team does not wear blue coveralls and he added that the organisation did not carry out any operation between Tuesday night and yesterday morning.
The senior officer added, “These men and women of the ONDCP come with high integrity, they are dedicated, they are loyal, they are committed. It is very highly unlikely that men and women of the ONDCP would remotely be involved . . . . It is just not the way we do business. We are very professional, we are a professional organisation and rogueness is not a part of our culture . . . we fulfil the obligations as is required by a professional law enforcement entity.”
A number of Rastafarians who were on the scene after the incident, were boisterous in their complaints that the police seemed more focused on removing the marijuana plants than solving the crime.
They accused the lawmen of taking advantage of the community by removing their “sacrament” (marijuana) and said if the police had not been “harassing” them so often, someone would have realised sooner that the incident which ended in Richards’ death, was an unlawful act.