Chaos broke out as City Christmas shoppers were sent scampering for their lives in bustling Marhill Street – in the shadow of Parliament and within earshot of the Home Affairs Minister – around 6:35 p.m. on Friday after a round of gunshots rang out in the area.
Those stray bullets found pensioner Oscar Hamblin – shot in the head while drinking a beer and liming with friends during a game of dominoes. A nearby doctor rushed to resuscitate Hamblin but he died on the scene.
Hamblin’s is the 28th murder of the year – equalling last year’s death toll, with still another week left in 2018.
A large crowd gathered at the scene as police and ambulance attendants arrrived within minutes to join the doctor in a futile bid to revive the retiree. Gut-wrenching cries echoed throughout the popular liming spot as Hamblin’s family arrived on the scene.
“Them come and deprive people of a father” sobbed one of Hamblin’s daughters as she saw her slain father’s bloodied body on the street.
Hamblin, nicknamed Nard, a member of the dominoes team of cleaning company RM General Services, was playing a game. Team captain David Alleyne, his friend of 42 years, was a mere five steps away from him when the shooting started.
“ I didn’t know where the shooting come from, how it come; all I hear is pax, pax and everybody [started] to scamper.
They say that ‘young boy down ‘pon the ground, somebody like he down ‘pon the ground and shoot that young boy. I say, ‘shoot that young boy?’ I know them sandals and then I realized it was my friend Nard ‘pon the ground with a gunshot to his head,” said Alleyne.
“When I realized the person on the ground was Nard, my immediate reaction was ‘ . . . you mean young boys gone and kill an old man?’,” he added.
Alleyne told reporters Marhill Street was a hive of activity with Christmas shoppers passing to and fro and no one knew where the shots came from or who was responsible.
He described the 83-year-old as a man who wasn’t involved in mischief. Hamblin, who was a staunch supporter of the Democratic Labour Party enjoyed talking politics and playing dominoes.
“I don’t see no 83-year-old man doing nobody nothing. All he does live to do is talk politics and collect his pension,” he said.
Hamblin’s death drew an emotional response from Alleyne who argued that it was time to bring back the ‘cat’o nines’ whip. He strongly suggested that authorities needed to find a solution to curb the gun-related crimes and deaths in the island.
“The criminals now got bigger guns than the police and then a man shoot you today and then next week he back on the streets and before his time is over he shoot somebody else.
“Everybody sitting up there [in prison] sweet and nice and saying [they’re] young – ‘I would go jail spend 20 years and when I come back I’m still a young man’. They got to do something about it, I’m not saying a life for a life… but you got to make a start to make it cool down. Bring back the cat,” he said.
“It don’t make sense you walking the streets of Barbados at this time of your life and you’re frightened,” Alleyne declared.
Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson was a stone’s throw away in the Parliament Building when the fatal shots were fired. The law enforcement minister described the act of violence amid a throng of Christmas shoppers as “appalling” and “disturbing”.
“The notion that someone could come into Bridgetown at peak hours just before Christmas time, the most merry season and time of year, and shoot someone cannot be accepted. You are putting other people’s lives at risk by doing this. This shows a callous disregard for human life,” Hinkson said.
Hinkson assured that the Government will get to the bottom of the importation of illegal weapons and pleaded for citizens to put down the guns.
“This must not happen in our country. Lay down the guns! We as a Government have all intentions of getting to the source of the importation of guns in this country whether it is through the main ports of entry, whether it is through our other borders, the sea boundaries of our country. We have all intentions of accepting the challenge of bringing . . . the perpetrators to a Christian understanding. Whether these crimes are gang-related, whether they are drug-related . . . we have to have a halt to it,” he said.
“We appeal to all Barbadians to cease and settle and to lay down the guns, to lay down the weapons. We call on all Barbados to have zero tolerance for this kind of action. It can’t be excusable because it maybe your close relative who is involved in this criminal activity. You have to cooperate with the police . . . in bringing resolution to this sad situation,” Hinkson urged.
Police Superintendent for the Bridgetown Division, Margaret Stephen, told the media that the investigation was at a “critical” stage and asked the public’s assistance in solving the case. An appeal was made to citizens with any information on the shooting to contact the police hotline 429-8787 or the Criminal Investigations Department at