Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
On a day when members of a large security contingent swooped down on Denham Town in west Kingston - in the aftermath of a series of shootings over the weekend that left four dead and another injured - members of the community continued to seethe in anguish at the murder of Candace Johnson, the pregnant woman described as a crusader for peace.
Johnson, who was asthmatic, had been wrestling for some time with the tragic loss of her father.
A former student of a mentorship programme at Boys' Town, Johnson was one of four persons killed within a 36-hour span. Another woman, also believed to be pregnant, was shot and injured.
A former acquaintance of Johnson said that throughout her two-year stay in the mentorship programme, she was involved in a quest for security and no longer pursued an education.
The bloodletting started on Saturday morning when the neck of a male vendor of bootleg DVDs, identified as Damion, was shredded after he was shot multiple times at close range.
He was gunned down minutes after he reportedly engaged in a dispute with another man, sparking the weekend-long savagery in sections of west Kingston.
While two others were shot, one fatally, it was the slaying of the last couple, including Johnson, 20, and Dwayne Stewart, 22, that had the people of the community raging.
"She was so innocent," declared Charm, a resident of Denham Town.
Searching for father figure
In a note to The Gleaner, Johnson's former schoolmate described her untimely end as senseless. The note stated that since her father's death, "Johnson seemed to be going about the matter (seeking a father mentor) in a disoriented manner and allegedly got involved in several failed relationships.
"Candace wanted to be a practical nurse, did class work, attended school irregularly and was usually a likeable person," her schoolmate said in the note.
The spate of bloodshed prompted a terrified female resident of the troubled Denham Town community to whimper, "It's time to take a stand! The police need to act now and the citizens must make their voices heard ... ."
As the gunshots punctured the start of the Saturday market day, vendors who were setting up their wares, as well as early shoppers scampered for cover from the deadly scene at the intersection of Heywood and Princess streets, about 8 a.m.
At the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), less than 100 metres away, Damion's lifeless body was laid on a (market) handcart that was surrounded by a contingent of heavily armed police personnel and a group of curious onlookers from the community.
Less than 24 hours later, in the predawn period of Sunday morning, gunmen again struck. Two people, including a woman, also believed to be pregnant, were attacked less than a mile away from the KPH.
Some residents told The Gleaner that while the man was shot to death, the woman was saved by her presence of mind as she pretended to be fatally wounded until her assailants left the area.
Later, in what is believed to be a reprisal attack, Johnson and her partner were cut down execution-style, reportedly by a lone gunman on Percy Street where they had relocated a day earlier.