Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Cops fired more than 1,000 rounds after Tivoli secured - Gifford

Published:Friday | April 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Lord Anthony Gifford

The West Kingston Commission of Enquiry yesterday heard evidence that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) fired a total of 1,167 shots when they moved into Tivoli Gardens after a police-military team had already secured the community.

That figure, according to attorney-at-law Lord Anthony Gifford, who is representing the Office of the Public Defender (OPD), is a tabulation of the numbers disclosed in witness statements of 31 police personnel who were deployed during the May 2010 police-military operations in the west Kingston community.

"What we have are 31 statements from 31 police officers - all of whom say in their statements that they were issued with so many rounds, that they discharged so many rounds and they returned so many rounds in Tivoli on the 24th of May, and the total number is 1,167 rounds discharged," Gifford explained.

"One shot 80 rounds, one shot 75, one shot 54 and one shot 70. What the commission will be examining, as it goes through the evidence, is what were these officers firing at?" he continued.

Former Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, who was being cross-examined at the time, acknowledged that "a larger element" of JCF personnel took over the operations after a joint police-military team had secured a large section of Tivoli Gardens, but insisted that he could not comment on the accuracy of the OPD figure.

"I have no way of knowing that this is correct, sir, and, therefore, I am very, very reluctant to make any comment or even confirmation of what is stated here," Ellington said.

While acknowledging that the OPD figure was derived from the witness statements of police personnel, commission chairman Sir David Simmons underscored that the "best evidence" should come from the JCF records and ordered that they be turned over.

Gifford also questioned the retired police chief on whether any member of the JCF was killed in Tivoli Gardens after they took over the operations on May 24, 2010.

"No, sir," Ellington replied.

He said there may have been reports that police personnel were injured in the operations, but indicated that he was not personally aware of those reports.

In addition, the former top cop told the commission he did not know whether any police personnel involved in the operation suffered damage to their protective gear.

 

ONE SOLDIER SHOT

 

In contrast, Ellington testified that he was aware that on May 24th, as the JDF led the operations into Tivoli Gardens, one soldier was shot and killed and 40 others received gunshot wounds.

The former commissioner also contradicted claims that 35 or nearly half of the more than 70 persons killed during the operations were shot in the back.

Simmons revealed on Wednesday that the figure was included in the post-mortem reports prepared by the Government.

However, Ellington said the post-mortem summaries he saw indicated that only 14 of the persons killed in the operations had gunshot wounds to the back.

He said of that number, six had gunshot wounds to their backs alone while the remaining eight had bullet wounds to their backs and other parts of their bodies.

The commission is probing the conduct of the May 2010 operations, which were aimed at arresting drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. According to the OPD, 74 civilians and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) were killed in the operations.

The three-member panel also heard evidence that a document presented by the OPD indicating that Governor General Sir Patrick Allen gave consent to a state of emergency more than a week before the operations was a fake.

The document in question is purported to be a proclamation by Sir Patrick issued on May 13, 2010, declaring a limited state of emergency in sections of the Corporate Area.

It also formed part of the OPD's interim report to Parliament on the conduct of the operations.

However, giving evidence yesterday, supervisor at the Government Printing Office, Demsha Thompson, said the proclamation declaring the statement of emergency in 2010 was issued on May 23 and gazetted a day later.

Thompson said a thorough check has revealed that the May 13th document was a counterfeit and that it contained several inaccuracies.

As an example, he said the document he described as a counterfeit referred to the Governor General as "Professor Sir Patrick Allen".

He noted that, as far as he was aware, the governor general was never a professor.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com