Tue | Aug 22, 2017

A miracle if there were no deaths

Published:Thursday | October 22, 2015 | 10:00 AMLivern Barrett

A senior Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) officer has testified that it would have been "a miracle" if there were no casualties during the May 2010 police-military operations in Tivoli Gardens.

Lieutenant Colonel Jaime O'Gilvie's testimony before the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry yesterday was in contrast to testimony given earlier by Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds that he did not have any casualties during the operation.

"It would have been unrealistic to project that we would not have any casualties," O'Gilvie testified after chairman of the commission Sir David Simmons informed him of Hinds' testimony.

He revealed that in planning the operation, the JDF anticipated that there would have been casualties within its ranks and among the heavily armed thugs, who, according to available intelligence, had sworn to fight to the end to prevent the arrest of drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

"We anticipated that if we were going to be successful, there were likely to be casualties on both sides. It was going to be a pitch battle," O'Gilvie insisted.

MORETHAN 70 DEATHS

A report by the Office of the Public Defender found that more than 70 civilians and one member of the JDF were killed in the operations that were aimed at capturing Coke. The former Tivoli Gardens strongman was being sought on an extradition order from the United States.

The three-member panel also heard testimony from JDF medical officer Major Gayle Ranglin-Edwards that 11 soldiers who participated in the operations suffered permanent disabilities. As a result, she said the army has accelerated their retirement.

Ranglin-Edwards, who also testified before the commission yesterday, said they were among 26 soldiers who were injured in the first two days of the operations, which began on May 24, 2010. According to her, 14 of them suffered gunshot wounds, including Private Maurice Green, the only member of the JDF killed in the operation.

BULLET PIERCED HELMET

"Private Green suffered a fatal wound to the head. It had enough energy to pierce his ballistic helmet," the JDF medical officer revealed.

She also recounted how one soldier was shot in the leg and had to have it amputated just above the knee, and how the arm of another soldier was shattered by a bullet.

"The bone in his right arm was broken into many fragments, and there were metal fragments in the arm," she said.

O'Gilvie told the commission that what the army encountered in Coke's Tivoli Gardens stronghold was unprecedented.

"This was brand new to us. We had never seen this level of preparedness and complexity before," the lieutenant colonel insisted.

He will continue his testimony today.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com