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Gun battle in Tivoli - Five killed Policeman, soldier injured Nine weapons found
published: Monday | January 14, 2008

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

A resident of Zacky Avenue in Tivoli Gardens reacts to the police/military operation there yesterday. Five men were killed in an alleged shoot-out with the security forces. - Rudolph Brown/Chief Photographer

FIVE MEN were killed in a house on Keith Avenue in the western Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens yesterday in what the police said was a shoot-out with a police/military team.

One soldier and a policeman were also shot and injured in the incident which residents say started about 11:00 a.m.

Following the shooting, the police reported that five guns were recovered from the men. However, later in the evening, they said another four guns were subsequently found in the community.

Among the weapons recovered were shotguns, assault rifles and revolvers.

At press time, two of the dead men were identified as 24-year-old Kwesi Cunningham and 20-year-old Roland Mitchell, also known as Randy, both from west Kingston.

After the midday shooting, angry residents blocked several roads claiming the men were murdered. They also complained that soldiers in a Jamaica Defence Force helicopter discharged tear gas into the community.

Inspector Steve Brown of Operation Kingfish said the security forces were met with gunfire as they searched for the wanted men.

Mayor of Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, who is also councillor for the Tivoli Gardens division, told The Gleaner that he arrived in the community shortly after the shooting.

"We just want to ensure that the thing is done in a professional way," Mr. McKenzie said.

At the nearby Madden's Funeral Home in Hannah Town, a boisterous crowd gathered to view the bodies of the dead men.

Many of them were anxious to see if their relatives, or friends, were among the deceased.

Karlene Hall, trembling and sobbing uncontrollably, made her way from Tivoli Gardens to the funeral parlour where her worst fears were confirmed. Her son, Kwesi, was among the five men killed.

She said her daughter told her that Cunningham was inside the house at Keith Avenue when the shooting occured.

The death of Ms. Hall's second child came almost one year after her two younger sons, 10-year-old Ikel Henry and seven-year-old Shadder Henry, drowned in the Rio Cobre River in St. Catherine.

Yesterday, the Opposition Spokesman on National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips, came out in support of members of the security forces.

"It is important to the stability of our democracy and for the survival of our country that members of security forces are able to conduct their lawful activities in any part of the country without fear or favour, or without the interference of anyone," Dr. Phillips.

Yesterday's incident was the latest in a series of controversial confrontations in West Kingston between security forces and alleged gunmen from Tivoli Gardens.

The most infamous took place in 1997 and 2001. In the latter, 27 persons were killed in a three-day standoff.

In October 2005, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, then head of the JDF, described Tivoli Gardens as 'the mother of all garrisons'. He made the comment after a joint police/military operation in that community in which four persons were shot and injured.

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