JDF under fire - Disabled woman killed in August Town, complaints to INDECOM soar
With fresh allegations of a soldier killing a 44-year-old disabled woman in August Town, St Andrew, on Wednesday, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) is coming under the radar after a rise in reports of assault and other criminal conduct.
Up to May 28 this year, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) commenced probes into at least 18 incidents involving the JDF. The watchdog, which has oversight responsibility for investigating police and army excesses, probed 15 incidents for all of 2019, checks by The Gleaner have unearthed.
The revelation could resurrect concerns about the Jamaican Government's increasing reliance on military muscle in quelling runaway crime, imposing states of emergency and zones of special operations in nearly half the country's 19 police divisions.
Human-rights advocates have long warned that the militarising of crime suppression might ultimately undermine civilian security because soldiers undergo specialist training in full-throttle combat.
Family and friends of Susan Bogle, the disabled woman who was shot inside her 2 Bryson Road home shortly before 3 p.m., allegedly by a soldier during a police-military operation, is demanding answers and a swift and thorough investigation.
Grace Freckleton, mother of the deceased, said that she became suspicious when on her arrival at the crime scene, she was being consoled by members of the security forces.
"A soldier shoot her" cause the soldier man a bawl ... . Di soldier man a bawl say a di wrong somebody dem shoot ...," Freckleton told The Gleaner Wednesday evening. "Two soldier, when dem come out and dem a walk go down ya suh, dem a cry!"
"Dem say a three shot she get, three shots!"
Freckleton, who did not witness the shooting herself, said she had left her daughter in her room.
Residents reported that soldiers had chased someone into the building. The Gleaner understands that at least three other disabled persons lived in the yard with Bogle.
Bogle was rushed to The University Hospital of the West Indies, in the company of her son, where she was pronounced dead.
Freckleton was bewildered at the thought that the security forces could have mistaken her daughter, who was alone in the "one-way in, one-way out" dwelling, for an attacker.
"Yuh see man a run and yuh buss her door and go in, and yuh see somebody in there. If yuh even shoot the person one time, dem nuh have no gun, dem nuh have nothing. So yuh fire two more shot?" Freckleton asked.
Another resident who spoke to our news team said that Bogle's killing was chilling.
"When she get the first shot, we hear she bawl out, and the soldier still fire two more shot," the resident said.
When The Gleaner contacted the police communications arm, personnel said that investigators were still at the scene and that information would be made available soon.
Major Basil Jarrett, civil-military cooperation and media affairs officer at the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), could not be reached.
But residents of August Town, a community long used to outbreaks of violence between rival gangs, expressed outrage at Wednesday's shooting, condemning the security forces for a fatal error.
"At August Town, when dem kill up here, dem hype. Now dem kill a innocent, disabled woman, and dem body language can tell dem wrong," a male resident, who requested anonymity, said. "None a dem nah shout and carry on. Everybody inna circle a talk. We know something wrong from we a ask who dead and dem nah tell we."
INDECOM confirmed that it has begun a probe into Bogle's death.
The oversight body had, up to May 15 this year, launched investigations into 361 incidents involving members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. INDECOM probed 625 JCF-related incidents for all of 2019.
INDECOM's Senior Public Relations Officer Denyelle Anderson acknowledged "an increase in assault allegations by members of the security forces arising out of the current curfew restrictions", adding that a review was being undertaken.
"The commission welcomes and endorses the recent guidance by the JDF to their members to accord citizens due respect and adherence to rights. Such guidance is applicable to all members of the security forces in Jamaica," Anderson told The Gleaner.
But of concern is that INDECOM's investigations do not capture a number of alarming shooting incidents involving soldiers that transpired earlier this year because the lawmen were off duty at the time of the alleged crimes. Off-duty incidents do not fall within INDECOM's remit.
Two of those incidents, occurring four days apart in February, involved soldiers in Portmore and Eltham Vista, St Catherine, who were allegedly being cuckolded by cheating spouses.
While one of the alleged cheaters in the love triangle managed to escape unharmed through the back door, in the other incident, the companion, a policeman, was shot and injured while attempting to flee. The cop reportedly left his service revolver behind.
More recently, the JDF came under fire for the shooting of two persons, one fatally, allegedly by a soldier on Bray Street in Kingston.
It was reported that 24-year-old Jevaughn 'Tall Man' Duhaney was fatally shot on his veranda while having a meal. Antoinette Montague, 28, Duhaney's friend and neighbour, narrowly escaped the same fate after being shot and injured in the arm while standing beside him.
Numerous calls and other bits of correspondence have been sent by The Gleaner to the JDF's chief liason, Jarrett, for comment. To date, those attempts have been unsuccessful.
Senior Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, head of the JCF's communications arm, also failed to give an update on the investigations involving the soldiers in the love-triangle shootings.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the August Town shooting, Freckleton recalls the loving relationship her daughter had with others at her Bryson Road yard.
"All of dem up deh a handicap. A four a dem ? Molly, Tity, Derrick, and Susan. All of dem have little head. Dem disabled," said Freckleton.
"The police dem know that a pure handicap up there, too, and nuh say (dem nuh know), because is a yard weh dem go inna all the while."
The second of three children for Freckleton, Bogle has been described as a loving mom to her youngest son.
"Her son have a house down the road and say she must come down, and she said she nah come down the road come live because she not leaving her other son up here," Freckleton told The Gleaner.