Congregants of the Mount Carey Baptist Church in St James at a prayer meeting yesterday after the shooting of their Pastor George Simpson. Up to late yesterday, Simpson was in hospital in serious but stable condition. - PHOTO by Adrian FRATER
Pastor George Simpson of the Mt Carey Baptist Church in St James was hospitalised in serious but stable condition yesterday after gunmen shot him about 7 a.m.
Simpson, who has been serving the community of Mt Carey as a pastor for 27 years, was standing on his verandah when men armed with handguns approached and opened fire.
His wife, who was also at home at the time, escaped unhurt.
Residents who rushed to the pastor's house after the shooting found him suffering from head injuries.
Police on the scene
With the help of the police, who were early on the scene, the injured pastor was rushed to hospital.
As news of the shooting spread, anger and anxiety gripped the community. Some people blocked the community's main road, claiming that the nearby Anchovy police have not been effective in combating crime.
Later, word came that the pastor was alive, prompting some of his members to go to church to ask God to spare his life.
"God, we are calling out to you in the name of justice and not in a spirit of revenge to bring these criminals to justice," said the Reverend Carriel Graham, pastor of the Mt Carey Abundant Life Church of God.
A barrage of gunfire
While congregants were praying and wailing, a barrage of gunfire rang out from a nearby hillside.
People who were in the churchyard shouted "justice", thinking that the police had caught Simpson's attackers.
A senior policeman later told The Gleaner that security forces fired warning shots after they spotted a group of young men running from a house.
"We fired the warning shots to get them to stop," the policeman said.
The men were held and taken to the Anchovy Police Station to be processed.
Simpson is the third religious leader to be shot in western Jamaica in 12 months.
Last May, Pastor Egnol Grant, head of the Adventist circuit of churches in Granville, St James, was attacked and shot by gunmen at his upscale Irwindale home.
In February this year, Deacon Peter Salkey, who is also a police corporal, was shot and injured on the compound of the Bethel Town Seventh-day Adventist Church in Westmoreland.