Sun | Apr 30, 2017

JDF had 50-calibre rifles in Tivoli

Published:Wednesday | July 1, 2015 | 7:00 AMLivern Barrett

A high-ranking member of the Jamaican military has revealed that the army deployed two 50-calibre rifles during the May 2010 operations in Tivoli Gardens but could not recall if they were actually fired.

While acknowledging that he knew where the high-powered weapons were located, Lieutenant Colonel Mahatma Williams, commander of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) unit that was specifically tasked with apprehending drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, would only divulge that they were in the vicinity of Marcus Garvey Drive.

ACTING ON INFORMATION

But testifying during cross-examination before the west Kingston commission of enquiry yesterday, Williams revealed that the army's 50-calibre rifles were deployed in response to intelligence available to the security forces that thugs loyal to Coke had the same kind of firepower in their arsenal.

"Do you have any recollection of hearing a discharge that you would associate with the 50-calibre weapon?" asked attorney-at-law William Panton, who is representing the Office of the Public Defender.

"I heard loud sounds. I knew where our 50-calibre was located. I didn't hear it fire when I was going in [entering Tivoli Gardens on May 24, 2010, at the start of the operations], where we took most of the fire," Williams replied.

While expressing concern about divulging the location of the weapons at the time, attorney for the JDF Linton Gordon sought to clarify that they are usually placed at a point where the persons carrying them have a long-range view and can ensure that persons "using a similar weapon can be detected and dealt with".

"In those circumstances, the two persons having those weapons ... they might have been placed at persons' premises, where it would not be fair to those persons to say where, but it would not necessarily be in physical proximity to the area of operation, given the nature of the weapon," Gordon explained.

Williams also recalled how members of his unit - the combat support battalion - came under "heavy and sustained" gunfire as they made their way up Industrial Terrace. He said the unit was heading to two houses in the Java Section of the west Kingston community where intelligence told them Coke was located.

However, he said as a group of soldiers attempted to clear a roadblock mounted along Industrial Terrace, they began taking "effective fire" from men positioned atop two high-rise buildings, a low roof along McKenzie Drive, and an open field nearby.

"The bullets were hitting around us ... hitting their targets like the vehicles. I could hear the pinging and slapping," he said.

Williams said that when the men under his command finally got to the two houses in Java, Coke was nowhere to be found.

He will continue giving evidence today.