Glenroy Sinclair, Staff Reporter
A Jamaica Defence Force soldier fires into the air to disperse an onrushing crowd while detaining men during yesterday's joint police/military operation in Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston. Also in photo are JLP caretaker for the constituency, Dennis Messias (right), and Andre Franklin (in green shirt) of JLP group, Generation 2000. - PHOTOS BY RUDOLPH BROWN/CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER
MORE THAN 40 persons, including Tivoli Gardens' community leader Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, were detained yesterday, in a massive swoop by the security forces involving hundreds of police and soldiers, armoured carriers and helicopter support.
The police said the operation, touted as one of the largest ever spearheaded, was an attempt to capture gunmen involved in the murder of three policemen in May.
But in a chaotic scene, where there was sporadic gunfire for several hours, two women, Nicola Johnson and Carol Woodley, were shot in the presence of Opposition Leader Bruce Golding, who was standing near the Denham Town Primary School, on North Street. Both women are in stable condition. There were further reports that a third woman was shot and injured, inside Tivoli Gardens.
Mr. Golding, who spoke with reporters after the raid, said one of the injured women was standing to his immediate right, while the other was just a short distance away on his left, at the time of the shooting. According to the Opposition Leader, members of the security forces fired indiscriminately at the crowd.
Mr. Golding, who toured the community after the security forces ended the operation, proposed to meet with Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas and Chief of Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, at the earliest possible date.
A report from the Constabulary Communication Network (CCN), said any report of excessive force by security personnel would be swiftly and thoroughly investigated and the public advised of the outcome. The Bureau of Special Investigation (BSI) has already begun a probe.
The shutters of businesses in that section of the city remained closed, while classes at eight infant, primary and high schools were disrupted.
Meanwhile, the transportation system, which facilitates commuters in the area, was disrupted.
Human rights lobby group, Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), said it was deeply disappointed at the reports of the conduct of the security forces in West Kingston yesterday. Meanwhile the joint police/military action has also been condemned by Generation 2000 (G2K), the group of young businessmen affiliated with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
Despite the intermittent gunfire and orders from the security forces for persons to stay inside their homes, scores of residents streamed on to the streets and on the steps of high-rise buildings.
While two JDF helicopters kept a bird's eye view, several armoured cars, trucks and other heavy units were busy securing the area. The geographic boundary of Tivoli Gardens was cordoned off. Police were at intersections of Maxfield Avenue and Spanish Town Road, Barry and Pechon streets.
Military personnel took control of the Coronation Market and the roofs of several high-rise buildings in the vicinity. They were even in the lanes adjacent to Spanish Town Road.
The Constabulary Communication Network described the activity as an intelligence-driven operation, which was aimed at locating and recovering illegal guns and ammunition, in a few targeted premises and the arrest of key suspects in the murder of the policemen.
BROUGHT IN FOR QUESTIONING
Mr. Coke was picked up early yesterday at his upscale St. Andrew home, while another influential figure in west Kingston, businessman Justin O'Gilvie, was held at his home. They were questioned by senior detectives at the CIB headquarters in downtown Kingston, before they were released.
Reports are that Mr. Coke is the half-brother of Christopher 'Chris Royal' Coke, one of two men who were shot and killed by the police on Waterloo Road, St. Andrew, on May 3, just minutes after Corporal Hewitt Chandler was murdered by gunmen.
Several hours later Inspector Lascelles Walsh and District Constable Canute Brown were viciously attacked and murdered by gunmen. Deputy Commissioner Mark Shields had indicated that the men implicated in the policemen's killing were from west Kingston.