We will find the cop killers - Commish promises murderers will be brought to justice
Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams has acknowledged that he is aware of a report that a Corporate Area criminal gang has ordered the death of four police personnel as payback for the killing of its leader.
The admission came yesterday after Williams and other high-ranking members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) visited the Denham Town Police Station in west Kingston, where police personnel - for the second straight week - are grieving the slaying of a colleague.
Constable Lynden Barrett was reportedly shot and killed by gunmen while on duty along Wellington Street, in west Kingston, exactly one week after his former colleague, woman Constable Crystal Thomas, was shot three times in the face while trying to foil a robbery on a passenger bus along Spanish Town Road, in Kingston.
Williams told The Gleaner that the threat to kill four members of the JCF as revenge for the shooting of the gang leader was one of several "stories" that have come to his attention.
"I've heard it and other stories. We are sifting through it and we are taking it serious until we are able to disprove it," he offered.
His crime chief, Assistant Commissioner Ealan Powell, acknowledged that he was also aware of the threat, but said, so far, investigators have found nothing to connect it to the death of the two constables.
"We are not saying that this [slaying of the constables] is as a result of that threat. We know that the threat was made, but we are not making any comments at this time," said Powell, who heads the JCF's Criminal Investigations Branch (CIB).
"It would be impossible, at this time, to say that one thing is linked to the other. But one thing we can say is that they [the constables] were killed because they were police," added Powell, who, like Williams, declined to divulge the name of the gang or its leader.
The reported threat comes in contrast with assertions by some residents of Denham Town that Barrett was killed by other members of the police force.
During a visit to the community yesterday, most residents were adamant that the constable was killed by "friendly fire", but declined to relate what they saw.
Williams, while declining to discuss the circumstances under which Barrett was killed, dismissed the claims of the residents as propaganda.
"We know for sure that the criminals are responsible for this. We will find them and bring them to justice. We must not underestimate the capacity of some communities to spread the kind of propaganda that will turn the police into villains," he insisted.
"We will find the killers. The killers were not police. We have checked it out and they were not police ... . The first [team of] police on the scene were those who went and discovered the body," he continued.
According to the commissioner, Barrett - who many described as a very hardworking and pleasant person - had been dispatched to the Denham Town area to carry out undisclosed duties.
Police sources say shortly after, he was attacked from behind near the intersection of Wellington and Dumfries streets and shot in the head and the upper part of his body. He was later pronounced dead at the Kingston Public Hospital.
But according to Powell, the circumstances surrounding the constable's death are "still not abundantly clear".
"We are still talking to people, and we are analysing information and then we will make a statement on the circumstances [under which Barrett died]," the CIB head explained.
The constable's death triggered a suggestion from Rohan Jones, welfare director for the Police Federation, to rank-and-file members of the JCF that they are empowered to take pre-emptive action - not limited to the use of force - to protect themselves.
"I am (more) prepared to lead a fund-raising drive to raise funds to secure the best legal minds to defend you (rather) than to be preparing to bury you," he said, while addressing grieving police personnel at the Denham Town Police Station.
Jones later sought to explain that he was referring to persons acting within the law.
He also urged his colleagues to continue being professional, but decisive in carrying out their duties.
"Let us not be cowards, let us not, like pigs, be slaughtered," he said.