Sat | May 27, 2017

Mark Wignall | Masked, armed and dangerous

Published:Sunday | May 14, 2017 | 5:51 AM

Bullhead had to show up on a site early last week Wednesday morning and the tools of his trade were at his home in a lane off Red Hills Road. As he left his girlfriend’s house in Belvedere shortly before 2 a.m., he knew that he had to walk, as there was scarcely any transport available at that hour.

As he approached the flat at Perkins Boulevard, the sight of men milling around with guns by the gully’s edge froze him in his tracks. He stepped off the main road into a grassy descent and used the cover of a tall concrete wall to keep himself hidden. He found himself trembling.

He had no choice but to remain stationary against the wall. Not to do so would be to walk the 40 metres to the flat and right into the middle of the goons. Another man called Baptist was coming from the opposite direction in a rare, late-night route taxi. The cab dropped him off at the Perkins Boulevard/Red Hills Road intersection and sped off up the hill. He lived in Patrick City.

Seemingly out of nowhere, two armed men, hooded and masked, one with a pump-action shotgun and the other with a machine pistol grabbed him. Well hidden from view, Bullhead watched as Baptist was hauled across the road. Luckily for him, he was in a space that was not lit. He eased up on his toes and gingerly peeped over the wall. He saw Baptist flat on his belly as one man went through his pockets.

“A dis all yu have, boy?” one said as he beckoned to his partner. “Only six thousand dollar. Shoot di boy!” Baptist felt the wetness leaking out around his crotch.

“No, man, waste a time dat. Yu nuh si di man drunk. ’Low him. Me nah waste nuh bullet out a mi Tec-9.” The website gun.laws.com describes the gun as an “assault pistol that was developed and manufactured by Intratec Firearms. The gun is also known as an AB-10 if it was manufactured after 1994. The gun has a reputation of being used in numerous mass killings and crimes in the United States because it has a large magazine and is fairly cheap. Many criminals have converted the gun into a fully automatic weapon.”

Seems foolish to ask how it got here, as at any time there is coastal border of just over 600 miles that has many porous points of entry.

Bullhead could see much more clearly what was taking place even as he had trouble keeping his body from breaking out into a more violent shivering from the raw fear he felt. He counted about 10 of them, some with rifles, others with handguns, and two had well-sharpened machetes.

All the men were hooded, masked and had knapsacks on their backs. There were two shops nearby. One removed a lock cutter, not exactly a light tool. In quick time they were in the little shops, looting all they could carry.

“It nuh mek no sense,” one of the shopkeepers told me last Wedneday. “Apart from two bicycle, dem tek all sanitary napkins, biscuits, snacks, some beer. Dem leave mi TV.”

The information that I have been able to piece together is that they remained there for about a half-hour, talking among themselves. What confidence!

And as they left, to Bullhead’s surprise, they headed to an edge of the concrete gully and then disappeared. It seems that they used the gully as the route in, but they must have taken a ladder with them. Which way did they go?

A smart police detective would immediately figure out that thugs so ‘well-strapped’ with rifles must live in a community close to the gully’s edge for the simple reason that they could not afford the exposure that walking on the roadway would bring about.

Which communities like that are situated in the south, in the north?

Politicians give us Chaka Chaka

One reader emailed me last week in response to last Sunday’s column, ‘When cultures clash’.

“Having read your article, ‘When cultures clash’, in today’s Sunday Gleaner, along with, ‘The culture of corruption’, by Ian Boyne, and ‘One Noise Abatement Act, one Jamaica under law’, by Martin Henry, I am certain that the fundamental policy of successive Jamaican governments is to create ‘chaka chaka’. 

“Lee Kuan Yew’s 763-page autobiography has one page dedicated to Jamaica. However, his assessment of the country was actually contained in just three lines. He stated: “Theirs was a relaxed culture. The people were full of song and dance, spoke eloquently, danced vigorously and drank copiously. Hard work they had left behind with slavery. … The policies of the government were ruinous.’

“Underlying the three articles is the clear indication that the leadership of the political class has been towards a culture that I am best able to describe as almost primitive. The indiscipline, corruption, squatting, lack of regard for law and order, the tendency to pursue unconstitutional laws, the lack of a rational understanding of human rights (and I could go on) are direct results of being led (to paraphrase former minister Robert Pickersgill) to the ‘wrong jungle’.

“Minister Grange’s intervention in the matter of the Dub Club was not only to call into question the lawful actions of the police in response to the distress call of residents but, more insidiously, to suggest that the lawmakers would seek to pass a law so that the police would thereafter be unable to prevent the residents having to endure that state of distress.

“Out of a population of almost three million, only 70,000, or 2.4 per cent, are PAYE taxpayers earning over US$11,628 per annum. Please check the data and tell me if there is one high-income country in the world where its people are mostly undisciplined.”

People afraid to party late

Two Saturdays ago, I was invited to three gatherings where the common theme was people interacting with each other over music and with no shortage of food.

The first was the one I really wanted to attend. A KC old boy was keeping a Round Robin at a well-known bar/club on Lyndhurst Road. The ownership of the club was associated with a strongman with roots in Arnett Gardens, and about a decade ago, my late friend, Tino Geddes, and I were fairly regular visitors.

It seems that it was not so long ago that gun criminality operated within certain borders that gave uptowners a predictability factor as they ventured out in the nights. Now that the gun has breached all social borders, my reasoning is that it best to travel late to areas where the badness is so concentrated that gunmen would be afraid to test it.

Sounds like faulty logic, but being in the company of a resourceful strongman can turn out to be the best ‘safe space’ there is. That is, if old enemies are not gunning for his head.

In the end, I remained at home, watched reruns of Hogan's Heroes and, during the night, I felt 100 per cent safe at home.

About three years ago, around 10 o'clock one night, I found myself by one of my favourite streetside stalls just below Red Hills Road. As the saying goes, the vibe was just right. Hot soup was nearby in a huge pot. Cow skin boiled down soft with chicken foot, yam and dumplings. Heaven in a cup.

When I left at 2 a.m., there were still about 20 people there. The next day, I found out that about 12 gunmen struck at about 2:30 and relieved the people of cash, jewellery and phones. One man was gun-butted in the process.

Parties being kept by the wealthy class are now solidly protected by armed guards from well-known private security firms. And it helps if a police superintendent or two are invited.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.