Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
Special Constable Dowan Peart has been described by friends and colleagues as a kind-hearted and helpful person, traits which police investigators believe could have led to his gruesome murder on Tuesday.
Yesterday, a pool of blood in a bushy area just off Grange Lane, in St Catherine, marked the spot where Peart was shot several times by a group of five gunmen.
One eyewitness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Gleaner the gunmen were travelling in a motor car that had government licence plates and that at least one of them was wearing a police vest.
According to one investigator, the men were returning from a robbery spree in another section of the parish when the stolen vehicle they were travelling in developed mechanical problems along Grange Lane.
The eyewitness said the gunmen stashed their loot in the nearby bushes and were standing near the disabled vehicle when Peart drove up and, noting the government plates, offered to assist.
"Him say, 'Squaddie (term for police officer), wha gwaan, how mi can help oonu'," the eyewitness recounted.
"A so dem realise say him a police and dem shot him," the eyewitness continued.
Shot twice more
A wounded Peart reportedly ran from the vehicle to the heavily vegetated area of a nearby business place, but was chased and shot two more times.
In their bid to escape, the eyewitness said the gunmen went to the Tent City Seventh-day Adventist Church, located across from the shooting scene, and commandeered a vehicle.
The pastor of the church told The Gleaner he was chairing a meeting of his deacons when a man entered the building wearing a police vest.
He said the man asked if any police officer was among the group.
"We told him no but he pointed to one of our deacons and say, 'Him look like police'. I told him no he was not and he asked one of my associate pastors for his car keys and left," the pastor said.
He said the man returned minutes later to ask for instructions on how to disable the 'kill switch' on the car.
"All this time, I thought this man was a police officer. I didn't even know a policeman was killed until this morning (yesterday)," the pastor said.
News of Peart's killing stunned colleagues at the Family Court where he was transferred two weeks ago.
The sergeant in charge of the court, who declined to give her name, described him as a fun-loving person who was a devoted Christian, husband and father.
"He was always talking about God and he prayed a lot and he always talked about his wife and daughter," she said.
Peart is the second member of the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) to have been killed in the last week. The other is Special Constable Troy Foster, who was shot and killed by gunmen during a police operation in Malvern, St Elizabeth, last week.
Commandant of the ISCF, James Golding, in a statement yesterday, said the mood among his members was "sad and gloomy".
"There is cause for great concern as in the last six days two special constables have been murdered," Golding said.
Despite this, he said the ISCF would remain committed to providing professional policing.
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, in offering condolences to Peart's family, reminded all police personnel to exercise great caution while on and off duty.
"It is now abundantly clear to all that the criminals among us will murder, shoot at and confront the police in order to perpetuate their life of crime," Ellington said.