This is the 40th in the award-winning series of close encounters with death by Jamaicans.
HE goes by the alias Mark B — this ex-convict who served time for gun-related activities and aggravated robbery. Now out of prison, the father of three says he is determined to live clean.
Mark, 44, might not even have had a chance to spend time at the State's pleasure, had some of his cronies — with whom he staged a robbery — finished him off when they pumped eight shots into him in a bid to reduce the payout which were proceeds from the infamous Lotto scam.
Interestingly, three of the other six men who allegedly staged the robbery were policemen, one of whom is said to be hiding in the United States, the other in jail for over a year awaiting trial, and the third out on bail.
One night in the summer of 2009, Mark and his team of five gangsters, one of whom was an off-duty policeman, met up with two other on-duty cops and allegedly pulled off a $2-million robbery at a home in an upscale St Andrew neighbourhood. The group had got wind of a scheme in which the occupants of the house had raised the money from persons in the United States caught up with the Lotto scam.
When the loot — appliances like television sets and computers — was taken from the house, two of the aggressors ordered that all four males in the house be killed. That was when Mark said he stepped in, vigorously protesting that the mission was not to kill, but to rob.
They all left the crime scene without any bloodshed, but Mark's life was about to change dramatically.
According to him, the group split up after the robbery.
"When we walked out of the house, they jumped in their cars and I rode off and left them, with an agreement to meet in the Waltham Park area," Mark told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview last week. The money would be divided between them then.
After waiting for what seemed like ages, Mark grew concerned and called one of his "bona fide" friends who had helped pull off the heist, to find out the whereabouts of the others.
"I called them and asked where they were, and they asked me where I was. They said five minutes time they would be there.
"When they finally reached, the police car came in first, then the (station) wagon. They parked up and they said to me, 'everything good?'. I said, 'everything okay,' and started laughing. I was all set to go to a party the following Wednesday night.
Mark said no money was shared out and he felt he needed to leave the scene.
"After a while, with nothing happening, I told them that I would see them tomorrow and started to leave, so the off-duty policeman called me back. At the same time, one of the on-duty policemen said to me, 'we going up the road because we got a call', when in the still of the night, I didn't hear any radio transmission," Mark stated.
The furthest thing from Mark's mind was that they would turn against him. But he found out that there is no honour among dishonourable men.
"By the time I walked off to go on my bike, one of the guys who came on the robbery with me, walked off with the chrome gun in his hand, so when I looked around peripheral, the gun rested across my head. I heard boom, boom, through my forehead, and I heard boom again!"
He had been shot in the head and was in shock, but aware enough to focus on somehow staying alive.
"I just lay down on the ground pretending to be dead. You wouldn't want to see me that night.
"The next thing I felt was a man lifting my left hand. One lifted the right hand, another lifted my right foot and my left foot was drawing on the ground. They dragged me to the end of a nearby gully and threw me down. Then I felt them started rummaging through my pockets. They took away my iPhone, my wallet with my ID (national identification card). I had $20,000 and they took that. For about 30 seconds, the place was just still. It felt like forever," the ex-con said.
Unaware of how badly he was injured, he waited until he felt it was safe before moving.
"When I looked up, I saw a dog on a fence, I never felt 100 (per cent) but I got up and walked. The cars were gone, but my bike was still there, I had just bought the bike a week before. The key was in the ignition and I decided to make a move," Mark said.
The wounded man got onto the bike, started it and rode up the road just in time to see the station wagon — carrying the cops involved in the heist with him — heading in the direction of Half-Way-Tree. So he rode through Cassia Park, ending up on Red Hills Road. To his surprise, when he reached the intersection of Red Hills and Eastwood Park roads, he saw the same two on-duty policemen who had accompanied him on the robbery. They had stopped another motorcyclist and were interrogating him.
"When dem see mi, it was like dem eyes popped out of dem head. None of them believed that I was still alive," Mark said.
"I just rode off fast to LG Brown gas station at Dunrobin, not knowing that I had, in fact, received eight gunshots and not three as I had thought," he said.
Having arrived at the service station, Mark said he begged two security guards there to take him to the hospital, but they said they could not leave their post.
Curious gas station staff were enquiring about his bloody state and he, not wanting to outline the true story at that time, told them that someone had tried to rob him and take away his bike.
Soon, an off-duty policeman who knew him arrived with another policeman in a private motorcar. He repeated his story about being shot by gunmen who tried to rob him and they whisked him off to the University Hospital of the West Indies.
"I remember them talking to me on the way to hospital, but by the time I reached JC (Jamaica College) I felt I was gone. I came around when I reached the emergency room, and when I fully woke up the next morning, two detectives were standing over me.
"It was when the nurse told me that I got eight shots that I realised how serious things were. At that point I told the detectives everything. They moved me to a private room and a few days after, a lot of high-ranking police officers came to see me," he said.
Reports soon surfaced that his cronies had called the hospital and asked for him using the name on his national identification card.
Mark, who investigators took back to the crime scene as part of their probe into the incident, was later taken to the Half-Way-Tree lock-up, then the Horizon Remand Centre where he spent seven months before he was charged and later sentenced during the time of the Tivoli Gardens operation in 2010.
"I had friends who betrayed me. They fabricated a witness, who is a policeman, to point me out (in an ID parade) to build a case against me. The real witnesses never came because I saved their lives. The judge gave me five years; three for the gun charge and two for the aggravated robbery," Mark B said, explaining that the sentences ran concurrently.
Although he has admitted that he did something illegal, he insisted that his trial was not conducted fairly.
The period spent at the Tower Street Adult Correctional facility (formerly the General Penitentiary), which he described as "the worst time of my life," has strengthened his resolve to warn of the dangers of a criminal life and explains a lot of the ills that plague Jamaican society.
"Money runs the prison system. It's who you know inside and who know you," he said.
"There is a lot of wickedness in Jamaica. We don't see wickedness in Jamaica yet. Wickedness can't stop. There are some men in prison who soon come out. They are in prison for things that they never did. They are just dying to come out because they are there innocently, so they are going to vent when dem come a road again. They are bitter," Mark said.
The police force, he charged, has several persons who are involved in various criminal activities. Describing some policemen as 'licensed gunmen', Mark argued that a lot of them didn't join the constabulary because they want to keep Jamaica crime-free.
"Between 75 and 80 per cent of the police in the force are dangerous," he opined.
"I know police who are involved in a whole heap of criminal activities. There are a lot of policemen out there. I don't know if you remember a few years ago when there were several robberies in Havendale... these robberies were being done by policemen. I know of that," said the man who has a previous conviction -- a six-month sentence for drug possession.
Now, Mark wants to turn his life around and make a meaningful contribution to society. But before that, he wants to testify against the policemen allegedly involved in the mission to execute him.
"I did my sentence. I never worked out a deal with the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) and I am co-operating with INDECOM (Independent Commission of Investigations). I am going to send them to prison. I am going to give evidence on them. I care zero," he said.