Sat | Feb 22, 2020

‘I can’t explain what I feel’ - Residents in murder-hit communities live in fear after two killed in gun attacks

Published:Saturday | January 11, 2020 | 12:19 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Desmond Francis (right), pastor of the Deliverance Full Gospel Church of God in Papine, prays for the relatives of victims of a drive-by shooting on Bowens Road, in the vicinity of Waltham Park Road, in Kingston.

Tears streamed down the face of a 67-year-old woman as she scanned the room which was once lit up by the smile of her granddaughter, Neffertiti Roache.

“I will be all right. But right now, I cant explain how I feel,” said the woman yesterday, when a Gleaner news team visited the home, along with officers from the Community Safety and Security Branch. She requested that her name not be published because of safety fears, a common thread that exists in low-income communities vulnerable to outbreaks of gang violence.

Roache, 21, of Cookhorn Lane in Kingston 13, was killed late Thursday after she and others were hit by a hail of bullets as gunmen attacked a group of residents about 6:30 p.m.

The attack occurred on Bowens Road, just off Waltham Park Road, in a neighbourhood that is part of the sprawling St Andrew South Division, which is one of seven police zones in which a state of emergency has been imposed.

Five others were shot, including a two-year-old infant. Roache was confirmed dead while the others were treated for various degrees of injuries at hospital.

Melissa Roache, a cousin of Neffertiti’s, described her as bright and spunky with lots of ambition.

“She was a good person. Very nice to be around and she is always smiling. I can’t believe this happened to her. Whole night I have crying. Right now, me numb,” she said.

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has since condemned the shooting, directing particular rage at attacks against vulnerable groups such as women and children.

“Existing legislation such as the Sexual Offences Act, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Child Care and Protection Act are amended to further protect our women, children, the disabled and the elderly against crime and violence,” said Chang.

“The legal authority is also being strengthened to bring the perpetrators to justice,” he added.

Even though placed under a state of public emergency in an effort to quell the upward murder trend, the division was among the most violent in all of 2019, with 166 murders up to December 28, a 12 per cent increase over the corresponding period of the previous year.

Bowens Road residents told The Gleaner that Roache’s murder has shattered illusions of peace, adding that they feared another attack.

“The community was in peace. We have we things nice and so we never expect this. Right now, me a worry,” said one woman who, like many residents, requested that her name not be published because she feared a reprisal attack.

A few hours after the Bowens Road mass shooting, the relative calm in a section of Riverton City was broken when men drove up in a car and opened fire on a group of men sitting along the roadway.

Marvin Hewitt, 32, a scrap-metal merchant, was hit along with another of his companions.

They were taken to the Kingston Public Hospital where Hewitt was pronounced dead. The other victim was treated.

A motive for the murder is not yet known.

Colleagues of his have been left baffled. They told The Gleaner the shooting happened at a time when the area was witnessing calm.

“This man is a worker, hard worker, that was known to everybody, including the police. Me cyaa understand this,” one man said.

His two young children, who would be looking forward to birthday gifts sometime next month, are now left without the father they loved.