Fri | Apr 3, 2020

Mark Wignall | An innocent man heading to his death

Published:Sunday | February 9, 2020 | 12:22 AM
Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force speak with residents of Ackee Walk in St Andrew on Wednesday. Eight residents were shot, three fatally, in a drive-by attack on Tuesday night.

A few weeks ago when another extended moment of hell exploded at the bus hub at Chancery Street in St Andrew and a few more of our Jamaicans entered the realm of those who were shot dead, one side of Buzzer’s bus was shot up and the windscreen was shot out.

Growing up in nearby Ackee Walk, he knew the road and the language of the underworld, but he always believed that in time, he could move away from driving a bus and maybe migrate to the US to drive trailers. Until then, he would continue to reject the criminality of the times.

Last Monday at about 7:00 p.m., he and his wife were at their little shop-bar in a little community in West Rural St Andrew. A bike drove up with a woman as pillion. In less than a minute after, another bike drove up. A car also came along, and it was obvious they were on one mission.

The second bike rider strode up to the first rider, his gun held low and shot him in the head. He pushed the woman pillion off the bike, and then the car and the killer left as suddenly as they had arrived.

On Tuesday evening at a little after 8:00, Evroy ‘Buzzer’ Hibbert, on his way home, stopped by the little cook shop at Ackee Walk and was told that the food he ordered would be ready in 15 minutes. Before the 15 minutes expired, hell decided to visit Ackee Walk, all over again.

One vehicle with gunmen aboard entered a lane to the north. Another car with killers inside blocked the entrance, which would have involved the lane to the south. As the gunmen in the north lane fired at random, those in the car blocking the entrance to the area opened up.

“A 22 spent shell mi count when Buzzer lie dung dead. And dis man never inna nutten wid no body,” said a 42-year-old unemployed man from the area who I have known for about five years.

A policeman who knows Buzzer told me on Thursday that “Buzzer still have him loan on the bus, and most of what him care bout is him immediate family. Him was always apprehensive about Price Rite (Chancery Street bus hub) and the extortion there.”

The unemployed man who was among those who spoke to me said, “You know me did know di badness, but me walk away from it long time. Dem man dey who shoot up Ackee Walk never inna nuh extortion mission. Dem just come fi kill some people.”

RANDOM KILLINGS IS THE NEW TERRORISM

About a week ago on a Friday evening, I was feeling hungry. Knowing Chupski would be ‘feeing peckish’, I stopped by the little cook shop at Ackee Walk and bought two box dinners. The previous chef was much better.

Last Wednesday, as we spoke about the shootings at Ackee Walk, I asked the 42-year-old unemployed man why he said that the men just came to shoot up the place.

“I can’t tell you the exact reason except it don’t have nutten fi do wid extortion. Even if you was in the area, Mr Wignall, and just leaving the restaurant, you, too, would be dead. Di man dem come fi drive fear inna di area.”

To a large extent, he is right. In the annals of politics and the cultural violence spawned from it, warring factions killing innocents has been nothing new. I first became aware of it just as the criminals were ridding themselves of those who were once their political bosses.

Tukku operated a 30-square-foot cook shop on a gully bank in Grants Pen. It was early 2000s and political and gang factions were shooting each other. It was said that one side had killed a female who was not involved in badness.

At about 9:30 one morning, two gunmen simply walked up to Tukku as he prepared his quite tasty festival and salt fish fare. When I stared down at his dead body, his hands were still covered in the dough of the festival.

A few days later when I spoke to some of those ‘on the other side’, they told me that “innocent haffi dead fi innocent”.

DON’T LOOK FOR ANY CRIME SOLUTIONS SOON

In trying to navigate choppy waters and clinging to the ladder of optimism, I find that social and political pragmatism will always get me back to a reality that I am desperately trying to deny.

I have long gone past spending undue time figuring out why too many of our young men have embraced ignorance and badness and the gun culture. The fact is, the social and economic and even political architecture of this country encourages such behaviour.

The governmental administration of the Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is much more likely to win the next election than the People’s National Party (PNP). That said, at some stage, PM Holness has to fess up and admit to this nation that the states of emergency (SOEs) have become a house of cards. All it takes is for a gust of wind to blow it down.

“The police personnel manning stop and search at points in the SOEs are worse than a joke,” said a trainer of instructors in the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

“I have no relief from instructors telling me that recruits are being trained under inhumane conditions and the tyranny of idiotic instructors who go on a rampage of their own. That is not training.”

The JLP has an election coming up. It has to be a must-win for that party simply because the voices among too many in the society are not so silently bawling out about these randomised killings.

“If we had a guarantee that gunmen would only kill their own, it would still be bad for the country, but the people would feel safer,” said my police friend last Thursday.

“But the thing is out of control now.”

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