Policemen in action in West Kingston during the May 2010 operation.
DYING and injured cops. A female officer wetting herself before fainting due to intense and sustained fire from criminals. Heavily armed men engaging officers in the Corporate Area at almost every turn. And a service vehicle stolen in an ambush that nearly turned deadly for cops.
These are the experiences described by two police officers during the Tivoli Enquiry yesterday as they recounted a deadly day for police personnel on May 23, 2010 — a day before the operation was launched to apprehend then Tivoli Gardens don Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.
“I saw big men crying because it was a situation to cry about,” Sergeant Robert Clark said in reference to the scene on Mountain View Avenue, where eight police officers were shot, two of whom died, on the night of May 23.
“Police personnel were afraid to go on the road, I can tell you, especially if you are in a marked vehicle,” Clarke added during his examination-in-chief led by attorney Deborah Martin.
“Ma’am,” Clark stressed, pausing, “I’m saying to you, police were afraid to go on the road. They were afraid.”
“We believe you,” empathised Commission Chairman Sir David Simmons.
On the night of May 23, a group of police officers were pinned down by gunmen in a section of Mountain View Avenue, where two of eight injured cops — Sergeant Wayne Henriques and Constable Jason Davis — lost their lives.
So intense was that 20-minute ordeal that a group of gunmen looking on from Nannyville wanted to help out the hemmed-in policemen, led by Senior Superintendent Colin Pinnock, but were afraid the cops would fire on them, Pinnock testified before the enquiry.
It turned out, Pinnock testified, those gunmen from Nannyville had been earlier instrumental in protecting the lives of two police officers, who had been shot by another set of gunmen, and lay bleeding beside their service vehicle in the vicinity of the Excelsior High School.
“They protected them with their guns?” Martin asked.
“Yes,” said Pinnock, who fought back tears during his gripping evidence.
Pinnock and his men from the Motorised Patrol Division had gone to rescue the two injured cops after 10:00 pm when they started taking heaving gunfire from gunmen who were hiding behind a wall at a football field.
Pinnock said the shootings started after he and his 20 men crossed the road and walked along the wall for protection. “All hell broke loose,” is how the senior cops described the event.
“If we never crossed the road,” he said, “we would be sitting ducks.”
He said the gunfire was without warning and that, as his men fell injured around him, the gunmen laughed and taunted them, saying, “Oonu ago dead tonight!”
Shortly after the firing started, and the police began returning fire, one of his men shouted that Davis was shot. Pinnock looked around to see Davis falling to the ground. Some of Davis’ colleagues gathered around him when another policeman was struck.
Pinnock said he could hear bullets impacting the ground around him and saw a man running from the police car where the two cops they went to rescue were laying.
He said he fired at the gunman, who stumbled before running behind the wall where the other gunmen were.
Pinnock said he crawled back to Davis and comforted him, while working his radio in order to get assistance.
“Pinnock! Pinnock!” a shout came, as bullets continued to fly. But the senior cop said he didn’t think he was the one being addressed as subordinates do not usually refer to their superiors in that manner.
“Supe!” the voice came again, “Mi get shot!”
Pinnock said he looked around to see an injured Henriques.
“Mi feel like me in water,” the cop said, and asked for help.
But Pinnock, still tending to Davis, told Henriques to try and relax.
A team of police officers, led by then Senior Superintendent Derrick ‘Cowboy’ Knight, was on its way to assist the distressed cops but they couldn’t get close because gunmen had been resisting their advance along another section of Mountain View Avenue.
Pinnock said the gunmen ceased firing only after two armoured vehicles came to get the injured officers, who were taken to hospital.
Pinnock testified further that, while on the way to hospital, Davis said he felt blood in his mouth. He said he tried comforting him.
Both Henriques and Davis died at the hospital. The other injured cops were treated and released.
Pinnock said this was the worst shootout he had been involved in during his long career in the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
“This one was extraordinary,” he said. “With all the counselling, this one will stand out in my mind.”
Shortly after the gun battle, he said, two police officers — a female included — who were involved, resigned from the force. “They could not deal with it after that,” Pinnock said.
The senior cop testified that more than 100 spent shells were recovered the following day from the football field where the gunmen were.
He said the shooting was related to Coke, and that criminals wanted to stretch the resources of the police to shift the focus from Tivoli Gardens.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Robert Clarke told the enquiry that , had the cops known that gunmen from Back Bush were always lingering at the field, they wouldn’t have gone there. He said he had been shot at in the vicinity before.
On the night of May 23, 2010, Clarke and other police personnel responded to the call of their colleagues, but couldn’t offer support because the area was dark.
Earlier in the day, Clarke and about 16 other police officers were in a life-or-death engagement with gunmen along Slipe Pen Road in the vicinity of the Blood Bank.
Police officers travelling in a convoy were accompanying a doctor to the Kingston Public Hospital when they were ambushed by gunmen close to the Blood Bank and had to abandon their vehicles. Clarke said his superior at the Half-Way-Tree Police Station dispatched him and a Constable Richards to assist the cops on Slipe Pen Road.
Clark said when they reached the area, gunmen had his colleagues pinned down under heavy gunfire. He said a female police officer wet herself before passing out. Bullets were hitting the ground around them. Tree branches being cut down by the gunmen’s bullets were falling on them. A few cops injured themselves trying to escape being shot, dislocating shoulders, among other things.
He and Richards attempted to recover a police vehicle but were thwarted by a group of about 20 young men, all armed with rifles and decked in jeans and white shirts, who came out of Hannah Town.
Clarke said he fired 60 rounds at the men but that they were better armed and outnumbered him and Richards. He said he asked the other police officers to provide cover while he and Richards attempted to recover the vehicle. “They couldn’t manage to do so,” he said.
The gunmen, he said, stole the car and drove into Hannah Town where the vehicle was shot up by other gunmen who mistook them for police officers. The car was soon set ablaze by gunmen.
He said he was involved in battles with gunmen for four straight days and that for two weeks after, he was unable to hear well and had to visit a doctor. He said Richards’ hearing has still not fully recovered.
“It was all-out war,” he said.
Published By: The Observer
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