Tuesday | March 20, 2001
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Braetonites speak out on shootings

WHEN SEVEN young men were killed on the morning of March 14, it marked yet another dark chapter in the history of the Braeton, Phase III community, South St. Catherine.

Now, residents are concerned that "justice" continues to elude them, even in the face of what they called "vicious police brutality."

"I'm very angry about the whole thing. I never expected anything like this to happen to the little young yute dem. I would love to see some justice 'cause is not the first time such a senseless police killing a tek place inna de community," said a brother of one of the seven young men shot and killed by the police.

"It wasn't no shoot-out, I don't see no evidence of that. Is more than 60 police come over here...60...ah just murda plain and straight."

On Wednesday, scores of police and soldiers swooped down on the house where the youth were. The police said they identified themselves, and asked the occupants of the house to come out, but instead the men opened fire at the lawmen, who fired back.

The police said four guns were found at the scene, including a .38 calibre revolver stolen from a policeman who was shot dead at Above Rocks police station in the hills of St. Catherine last month.

Neighbouring residents of Fifth and Fourth Seal Way are still bearing the mental scars of the incident.

"Everytime I'm alone, I imagine my brother dying. I feel like is my fault still 'cause I was supposed to take care of him... He wasn't a troublemaker," one young woman said of her slain brother.

When the news team visited the community yesterday, several black flags fluttered in the breeze in memory of the lives of the seven young men.

On Fifth Seal Way, the doors of the house where the young men were killed were open, but the bullet-riddled metal louver windows were closed.

It was a few minutes after noon and there was almost palpable tension in the air. Nothing stirred in the pathway. Houses were shuttered tight.

Residents find cold comfort in relating the blood-curdling first-person reports of screaming youth, mercy pleas and explosions which dominate their conversations in the day, and their dreams at night.

A news team was able to speak with a few. Some accounts of the incident by residents are simply chilling.

"I heard "Gallus" (Andre Virgo) saying the Our Father prayer. He was crying and begging for his life. Then I heard a barrage of shots and he went silent," a neighbour said.

"Mi hear an officer sey 'Weh yu a do bwoy? Try run?' and him seh 'No officer, how mi fi run and yu a beat mi', and then mi hear pure explosion and nothing else," another neighbour said.

One neighbour, a professed Christian who said he was awake at the time listening to LOVE-FM said: "The police were in the area from about 3:45 a.m. I was listening to a programme on the air where people were praying for the family of the security forces. Ironically 20 minutes after that, mi hear the youth dem start bawl out as police start beat dem...after that, mi hear shot fire pon rapid, mi neva hear so much fire yet."

Since that fateful Wednesday, residents have had to throw bleach and disinfectant in the house to get rid of the stench of blood and human remains at the house.

Detectives from the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI) were busy in the community collecting statements relating to the shooting. They said that autopsies on the bodies of Andre Virgo, Tamoya Wilson and Reagan Beckford would be performed this Thursday.

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