A Dad's Pain

Father of latest August Town murder victim weeps for his son

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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THIRTY-five-year-old David Stewart is the eighth person to die at the hands of gunmen in August Town, St Andrew, since the start of the year.

Stewart, a correctional officer, was opening the grille to his business place, Family and Friends, shortly after 7:00 am yesterday when gunmen, reportedly from a neighbouring faction in the community, pumped eight bullets into his body.

His father, Anthony, who was standing inside the business place with his son's blooded clothes, was brought to tears when the Jamaica Observer spoke to him. He was helplessly enraged and beside himself with thoughts of how his fourth son met his demise.

“Weh dem kill mi son fa?” the man, whose anger appeared to be fever pitch, questioned. “A this morning dem drop him home from work. One o'clock him come in and di last thing mi seh to him is if him eat already. Dem come tek mi son life fi nothing at all. You know how hard him work? Him nuh involve inna nuh foolishness. Dem man deh a pure peace him talk 'bout fi di community, but evil kill him.

“Him mother down deh stress out; all her pressure (hypertension) tek her. She don't even eat anything from morning. Di man have him son weh a seven. Weh him fi do now when him grow up?” he said, as he held up a shirt stained with the blood of his child.

“When mi go up deh mi couldn't even believe seh a mi son to how him swell up. A copper shot di bwoy dem use swell up mi son. Eight shot dem gi him, all him eyes dem gone. Mi hold up him head and kiss him pon him forehead and mi nuh see nuh eye,” the elder Stewart said before breaking down in tears.

Residents pointed to fresh holes in the asphalt and at the entrance of Stewart's business place, pierced by shots of the third attack at that location.

Several escaped the onslaught — believed to be part of ongoing reprisals involving the areas of Goldsmith Villa, Jungle 12, Riva, Hermitage, and Bedward Gardens — with minor bruises. But the police could not say whether or not more people were seriously injured in the melee.

Some who spoke in hushed tones told the Observer that two m en alighted from a motor vehicle, which stopped at Ivy's Corner in Jungle 12, and opened gunfire on the crowd waiting for transportation.

The shooting, the residents said, was sustained for approximately five to 10 minutes and occurred soon after a shooting incident in another section of the community, which they said the criminals used to lure the police away from the assault area.

Stewart's lifeless body was discovered shortly after, but as crowd gathered, the gunmen struck again.

A police officer who had arrived from the station mere metres away from the crime scene, attempted to secure the area but came under immediate gunfire from the lurking criminals.

Backup came shortly after, in the form of Inspector Steven Taylor, the police officer in charge of the area, but he, too, proved no match for the induced gunmen whose semi-automatic weapons proved superior to the handgun he carried.

One man who spoke to the Observer explained that he was on his way to the crime scene when the constable and inspector came under fire. He said that he had to seek refuge in a nearby garbage drum until reinforcement arrived.

An elderly woman who returned to the scene said that she slipped during the second shooting and was only spared because of where she fell. The woman said that a neighbour cracked her door and beckoned to her to enter.

The shooting forced the closure of nearby educational institutions such as August Town Primary School, Hope Valley Experimental School and the August Town SDA Basic School.

Principal of August Town Primary, Marlton Wilson, told the Observer that devotion had just ended when a barrage of explosions was heard. He said the screams of children saturated the air and confusion reigned.

Wilson said parents then descended on the compound in droves, ignoring the school's protocol to sign before they could leave.

Councillor Venesha Phillips (PNP, Papine Division), said that she had never before witnessed such brazen displays by criminals since becoming councillor.

“This morning what we saw is a coordination that sends a chilling message that criminals can actually organise themselves in ways that, if we're not careful, we might have to move the JDF (Jamaica Defence Force) up here. What happened this morning, we have not seen before.

“We're talking about 7:25 this morning men with high-powered rifles were in the street walking around, but you can appreciate the fear factor that comes with letting what they've witnessed known. We as the political leadership have to offer them the support so that they can come forward.

“I'm saying we need a situational response to criminals. The police who came under attack are not robots. They were greeted with gunshots when they came out to protect the people of August Town. I'm saying that a situational response must be allowed, simply because when criminals hear us make excuses through the different mediums to say that it is a social situation gone wrong, they enjoy that kind of nonsense. They mock us and laugh at us when we make excuses for them and we need to stop it as a country,” the councillor said.

A team from the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) was on the scene yesterday, which drew the ire of residents who insisted that they were preventing the police from doing their jobs. An INDECOM officer sought to explain the role of the commission to influence the views of residents.

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