Tue | Apr 25, 2017

Gunmen tried to lead security forces into kill zones

Published:Thursday | September 24, 2015 | 9:00 AMLivern Barrett

A senior Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) officer, who had commanded troops during the May 2010 operations in Tivoli Gardens, yesterday recounted how heavily armed gunmen, seeking to frustrate efforts to capture drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, manoeuvred themselves in what he described as "an orchestrated and pre-planned manner" designed to lead members of the security forces into "kill zones".

Major Kevron Henry, commander of a joint police-military team, tasked with securing several areas in west Kingston at the start of the operations, explained that he formed this conclusion after the gunmen engaged the men and women under his command in a number of fierce fire fights near Coronation Market.

Testifying before the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry, Henry did not offer an opinion on whether the gunmen appeared well-trained, but insisted that they were "well prepared" - a reference to the calibre of weapons they had, the amount of bullets they fired and the way they protected themselves during the fire fights.

"I saw, personally, how they utilised cover, how they moved in and out of cover, moving from a primary position of cover to an alternate position of cover ... their movement, their rates of fire etc," the JDF senior officer explained.

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"It was now clear to me that gunmen, based on the previous fire fights in which barricades had been erected to lead the security forces along certain corridors, were manoeuvring in an orchestrated and pre-planned manner so as to create effective lanes of fire and draw the security forces into kill zones," he wrote in the witness statement he gave the commission.

"Would you explain what was happening that caused you to form the view that they were drawing you into effective kill zones?" attorney for the Jamaica Constabulary Force Deborah Martin asked during her cross-examination.

"Based on what I was seeing for myself and hearing from my other manoeuvre elements, especially in the market complex, the fire seemed to be coordinated, all the access points were blocked off and firings were pre-planned at these locations," he replied.

"I made the assessment at that point that we were being channelled into a particular area," he continued.

Major Henry also told the commission that a day into the operations, he got reports that there were 16 bodies, scattered across sections of Denham Town, which also fell under his area of responsibility.

Responding to questions from counsel for the commission Symone Mayhew, Henry said the bodies were found in areas stretching from Denham Town High School to the Coronation Market.

The enquiry has been adjourned until October 20.