For the past 22 years, David Benn has been selling food from the same spot in Britton’s Cross Road, St Michael every Friday and Saturday night.
However, for the first time in over two decades his business fell prey to thieves, who reportedly made off with almost $3,000 in cash, cellphones and jewellery from both the business and less than a dozen patrons, as well as a registered firearm belonging to his brother.
With four of his female relatives living in the adjoining house, including his 97-year-old mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s and is unable to walk, the ‘pigtail boss’, as Benn is affectionately called, was actually stacking his fridge just after 9:30 p.m. when armed men showed up, threatening the lives of everyone there and demanding money.
“I had a few people here and then the rain came down and the others from across the street came over and no sooner than they came over, through the corner of my eye, I saw two guys run from behind the wall there and another three stood in the road.
“All had guns and they said, ‘don’t move, don’t move, pass the cash,’ and everybody raise their hands in the air scared, and I saw one running my way and I push in the fridge door and I run for the gate and I saw the guy aiming the gun at me to shoot me and lining me up and I had to duck,” a still visibly shaken Benn told Barbados TODAY as he recounted the horrific ordeal.
“I managed to get in the backyard and lock the gate and when I lock it I felt a pull and I heard one of them say, ‘he inside there, he inside there, and I can’t get in,’ so I went and also locked the back door and front door,” he said, adding that he watched through the window as the gunmen robbed the patrons who were left with nowhere to run.
However, the business owner, who had been selling food at Brittons Cross Road since 1995, told Barbados TODAY he feared not only for his life, but the lives of everyone present.
“Nothing like this has never happened out here before. This is a respectable establishment in a close-knit community. Not even a fight does happen out here, I don’t even sell rum cause I don’t like how people behave when they drink,” Benn said.
When asked if he would continue on with the business, Benn said he would make a decision in the New Year.
His niece Latoya Bishop, who was at home at the time of the incident, said she had just assisted another uncle in putting her elderly grandmother to bed and was about to turn in for the night when she heard loud and repeated screams of, ‘Oh God, Oh God’ and heard something like chairs rustling.
Immediately, she rushed to the window.
“I came out the bedroom and I peeped through the window and I saw two men dressed in all black. One of them with a ‘Glock’ and the other with a ’32’, but I couldn’t see their faces, only their backs and I saw my mother running towards the [back] gate.
“At that point I ran back inside and I told my sister, ‘Zaria there are men with guns outside and they are coming towards the back door, we need to get out!’, and I ran through the front door thinking she was behind me but she had just woken up and was a bit disoriented,” she recalled, adding that it never crossed her mind that she could be running into danger since she had only seen two of the gunmen.
However, she would soon realize that there were actually five armed attackers.
Nonetheless, the brave young woman would hide behind her car and attempt to alert the authorities.
“The first time I called from my cellphone but I couldn’t get through so I decided to run to my neighbours house but I was fearful that if I had run on the road, when they were trying to get away they would see me, so I ran across the open lot into her gallery and made the call and the police got here in less than six minutes,” she said.
However, by the time they arrived the five gunmen had already fled the scene.
In hindsight, Bishop said: “If I had gotten ahold of them [the police] the first time they would have been able to get here while the robbery was still taking place”.
Though grateful that neither she nor anyone else in her family was seriously injured, Bishop said that in addition to money and other possessions, they had now permanently lost their sense of security.
“This is over 20 years that he [Benn] has been here and we have never had a break in or robbery even generally in this area. This is a very, very quiet area, people call out here Brittons Hill, but this is actually Brittons Cross Road,” the shaken young woman explained.
Terry Benn, who the business originally belonged to before he handed it over to David, told Barbados TODAY that he had just returned to the island today and was deeply saddened by the incident.
“I started this business 25 years ago with just a grill and 25 chicken wings and David was the one who really transformed this place. When I came home a couple years ago and saw what he was doing I was very impressed [but] to come home today and hear about the robbery, it is saddening,” he said.