Wed | Aug 5, 2020

Clunis’ sudden death shocks cops, family

Published:Wednesday | July 1, 2020 | 12:27 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

When Leon Clunis called Senior Superintendent Wayne Cameron at 12:35 p.m. on Tuesday to remind him that he would be discharged shortly from the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), neither man would imagine that the wounded “warrior” would be leaving for the morgue.

The funereal atmosphere at the hospital compound, swarming with crestfallen police personnel, was awash with tears and disbelief.

Clunis’ wife had earlier come to greet him while their children prepared for his return home.

Instead, she left a heartbroken widow, whisked away in anguish after the family had waited to be reunited with the wounded police superintendent after his near-three-week stay in hospital.

“We are all shocked and saddened because up to minutes before that he was in such high spirits, his recovery was going very well ... . They were just waiting for medication for him to leave,” said Senior Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, head of the police’s communication arm.

“It’s very difficult for his wife and children.”

Superintendent Steve Brown, who was on hand to grieve with his colleagues, had fond memories of his one-time batchmate and friend.

“We started training school same day and he was the class captain,” said Brown, who had served in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) for more than 29 years.

“... Leon was one of those persons who would lead from the front ... . We see him as a warrior.”

Brown said news of Clunis’ death was unexpected as he was upbeat about going home.

“We had a long conversation this (Tuesday) morning. He called me twice and I was taking some stuff to him, and because of the rain I decided to turn back and told him when he gets home I’ll bring it there,” said Brown, his voice filled with regret.

The Gleaner understands that Clunis, 52, was scheduled to be discharged about 11 a.m. on Tuesday but his condition took a turn for the worst early in the afternoon as complications arose.

Our news team gathered that he lost consciousness again sometime after 3 p.m. but never recovered.

Clunis was shot and injured in a June 12 Horizon Park police operation which left two cops, Detective Corporal Dane Biggs and Constable Decardo Hylton, dead and another wounded. The suspected shooter, Damion Hamilton, was killed by the police in Cooreville Gardens hours later.

Cameron, head of the Police Officers’ Association, said he could not “recall any time that we have lost three officers in one incident”.

That view was affirmed by Sergeant Patrae Rowe, president of the Police Federation, who said that the force was overwhelmed with the trauma of the triple casualty from a single violent confrontation.

Rowe called for the Government to recognise the tremendous sacrifice that law enforcers made to keep Jamaicans safe from criminals.

“This is a new low for us as a force, but our resolve is strong. As police officers, one of the thing is that we have to reconcile with is the fact that death is the consequence of us serving our country,” he told The Gleaner.