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It would have been a massacre

Published:Wednesday | June 3, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

A high-ranking member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has testified that it would have been a massacre of police personnel had they gone into drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke's Tivoli Gardens stronghold to arrest him without assistance from the military.

That testimony by Deputy Commissioner Clifford Blake came yesterday as he gave evidence before the west Kingston commission of enquiry about the threats the police were faced with in the days leading up to the operations.

"As a matter of fact, had we gone in there by ourselves, it would have been nothing short of a massacre of JCF personnel," he told the three-member commission.

 

triggered frantic calls

 

Seeking to illustrate the gravity of the situation, Blake, who was an assistant commissioner at the time, recounted how sections of west Kingston and other communities in the Corporate Area had erupted in gunfire and said this triggered frantic calls for reinforcement from several police formations.

"We were stretched way beyond our capabilities. I could not find much to assist [them] ... . It was just a matter of moving people from one place to the next," he sought to explain.

One of those calls, he recalled, came via the police radio network from Sergeant Wayne Henriques as he and members of his team came under sustained gunfire from criminals who had ambushed them along Mountain View Avenue in St Andrew.

Earlier in his testimony, Blake - who was one of the persons who crafted the tactical plan for the operations - revealed that police intelligence had indicated that from as early as March 2010, more than 300 rifle-toting thugs had begun assembling in Tivoli Gardens to repel any attempt by the security forces to arrest Coke.

"What is it about Tivoli why you, without more, waited until May to act?" asked Deborah Martin, the attorney for the JCF who led him through his evidence.

"To do a pre-emptive operation - going after the guns that we knew were inside there - would let us lose sight of what was our main objective, which was to apprehend Christopher Dudus Coke," he replied.