KINGSTON — Security minister Horace Chang said yesterday that the country’s crime problem has “hit a new low” as he condemned Tuesday night’s massacre by rampaging gunmen that left seven dead and ten injured in this western parish.
However, Dr Chang — just more than one month into the job as security minister — promised an all-out effort to nab the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“It is extremely disturbing to see a 12-year-old and a two-year-old [losing their lives like that]. I can only say we have hit a new low in terms of the brutality of the criminals involved. As a country, we have to take note of that and act on it,” said Dr Chang.
He announced that additional personnel from the security forces ill be deployed on the ground in Westmoreland, which has recorded 57 murders since the start of the year, ten more than the corresponding period last year.
“We are going to protect the citizens of Jamaica and the people of Westmoreland, and we are committed; so, too, are the hard-working members of the security teams to be assigned here by the commanding officers to do the job. It is a very serious matter,” the security minister said during a tour of the area yesterday.
Commissioner of police major general Antony Anderson also promised to go after the culprits.
“We know that there are really some bad persons around, and that they are willing to put themselves to great risk just to carry out reprisals. There is no shortage of guns and they have no shortage of ammunition, and there’s certainly no shortage of will on their part. It means that our response has to have equal resolve. We have to be as agile as they are; we will be conducting a lot of operations to deal with this matter, not just here, but generally in other places across the country,” said the police chief.
The deceased have been identified as: 22-year-old Tristan Brown; 21-year-old Joyan Myrie; Odane Drummond, otherwise called Ziggy; Nadine Rowe, and her 11-year-old child Nicoy Bourne; Sheldon Morgan Sr, and his two-year-old son, Sheldon Morgan Jr.
The police have theorized that a fall-out in the deadly lottery scamming operation was the root cause of the bloody onslaught in four separate gun attacks, in the Sterling, Fullersfield and Top Lincoln sections of Grange Hill on Tuesday.
The look on the faces of residents of the areas in which the shootings took place told a story of grief and fear.
A man who gave his name only as Clayton, brother of Nadine Rowe, lamented that members of his family were not involved in any criminal activities that would cause such a cruel act.
“At this time we are grieved and saddened by what took place last night (Tuesday). We can’t find words to express how we really
feel deep down inside at this point. We are looking for support at this point to see how best we can put back our lives together,” Clayton said.
“This is not something that anyone can really be happy about. But we are trying to take advice to see how best we can get back ourselves together, because this is beyond words can express at this time.”
Rowe and her son were killed at their home by gunmen who posed as policemen.
Meanwhile, Myrie was killed when gunmen pounced upon a group at a shop and opened fire. Members of the group dashed for cover, but Myrie’s body was discovered in nearby bushes early yesterday morning.
The gunmen then torched the shop and three other houses on the premises. They then set fire to a motor car after killing Morgan and his son at their home.
Classes were suspended at all the schools in and around the Grange Hill area yesterday.
Principal of Grange Hill High School Errol Stewart expressed concerns over the threat to the usual preparation of Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) students at a camp on the school.
“I am deeply concerned, in particular with we have CSEC exams coming up in a few days and, at this time, normally we would have intensified final preparations, including camps. At this time we are having discussions with the Member of Parliament [MP] and other stakeholders to see how best we can handle that,” Stewart said.
“I know the parents have been calling and they are extremely worried about their children coming to school, and in particular for the CSEC, special intervention [is required] at this time. The people who have perpetrated this are literally animals. We have to track them find them and get rid of them. I am not saying we are going to kill them; apprehend them, lock them up.”
Dr Wykeham McNeill, the parliamentary representative for the area, promised to make arrangements to set up the camp outside the community.
“We are trying to get a location where we can take some of these children out of Grange Hill to a camp where they can do some special studies and so forth for CSEC exams, because this is going to affect them and may well affect the rest of their lives,” Dr McNeill remarked.
The MP, like the security minister, said the murder of women and children has hit a new low. “It’s a terrible thing!”