“Please don’t shoot! Please don’t shoot! Two children are in the car!”
That was the desperate cry of a woman, pleading with brazen shooters to have mercy as they carried out an ambush in broad daylight along Taylor Road, Weston, in St James on Thursday.
But those pleas fell on deaf ears as gunmen planted half a dozen bullets into a white Toyota Corolla in which she and two children were seated, just meters away from the St Alban’s Primary School.
Thirty-seven-year-old Marlon Holder, the driver, was shot multiple times. His attempts to escape on foot were also short-lived and he collapsed just a stone’s throw away as the passengers, including his six-year-old son looked on in disbelief.
“He wasn’t hit in his stomach, his chest or his head but he got a lot of shots and he lost a lot of blood,” recalled an eyewitness and first responder.
Despite the desperate efforts from a few, he died moments later throwing those in the surrounding areas into panic.
Also victims in the attack were a number of students making purchases from a vendor outside the primary school as well as dozens of others already inside preparing for another day of learning. They all listened in horror as nearly a dozen loud explosions went off outside forcing teachers to huddle with students on the floor of their classrooms and quell the piercing screams.
“People are frustrated, disappointed, and angry, because you don’t expect those types of things to happen at a school, especially when a parent is dropping off their children,” the eyewitness lamented.
Police cordoned off the area and closed a small portion of Highway 1 for hours searching diligently for clues and recovering around a dozen spent shells.
Classes were called off moments later and children poured out of the school’s southern gate, visibly shaken and confused.
Meanwhile, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Senator Dr Rommel Springer converged on the scene along with other ministry officials including counsellors to speak with teachers.
Outside, a small crowd soon mushroomed into dozens of observers, desperate for answers. Among them, were family members of the deceased who journeyed from his community at Marley Vale, St Phillip after hearing the news.
Holder’s young son sat blankly on a chair outside the school, but his mother, Shauna Richards could not be consoled and collapsed multiple times before being taken from the scene.
Other teary-eyed relatives including Holder’s mother, Myrtle Skeete and his father, Emerald Holder did not hold back their agony and astonishment with the unbelievable events of the morning.
For the victim’s father, who is President of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the tragedy is more disheartening as it has forced him to come face-to-face with the types of issues against which he has long been advocating.
“I am very concerned that these sorts of things are happening in Barbados when you have young kids in the early stages of their lives being involved. Here it is now you have a young kid, just six years old who now is without a father,” Holder said.
He recalled: “We had a good relationship although he didn’t live with me. We used to talk every Sunday and the last time I heard him we were on WhatsApp talking to him and his son. That was the last time I heard from him.”
The deceased’s mother meanwhile said Marlon; the third of her five boys and the owner of a small hired car business was a child who was “envied” by a lot of people.
“I think Marlon had a lot of people who used to envy him and grudge him. From a child, Marlon’s grandmother raised him and he did a lot of travelling and a lot of going out. He always had things because his father never left him undone, his grandmother never left him undone and he came up in an environment where he never had to look for anything,” the teary-eyed mother recalled.
“When I first got the news, I was just making breakfast and then Marlon’s father called me and asked me if I heard anything about Marlon,” Skeete said. “That is when he told me my son was shot and I started to scream.”
Another close relative who did not want to be identified said Marlon was “like a brother” to him for over 19 years.
“From the time I moved into Marley Vale, we were very close. From the time my son was born he was near to me. If my son needs anything, he would give my son or his mother. I can’t tell my own son about this, because he and Marlon’s little boy were very close.