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Former Tivoli resident details beating by soldiers

Published:Tuesday | December 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Jermaine McLeod, a former resident of Tivoli Gardens, recounted what he characterised as the traumatic ordeal he experienced on May 24, 2010, when soldiers stormed the community in search of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

The first witness at the sitting of the Commission of Enquiry, McLeod showed scars that he said were caused by injuries inflicted to his hand, which was placed under the wheels of an army truck.

McLeod recalled how after attempting to make his way out of Tivoli Gardens with an elderly, crippled woman, he was savagely beaten by soldiers.

In cross examination, he said he had returned to Jamaica only two years earlier and had not met Coke.

However, McLeod said he was aware of the extradition order against Coke.

He said he was carrying the woman, who was wheelchair-bound, when Tivoli Gardens began to explode. He was severely beaten by men whom he identified as soldiers.

McLeod said before all hell broke loose, he stayed behind as other residents moved out of Tivoli Gardens but made a move as the soldiers stormed the community.

Nowhere to go

"I did not have anywhere to go," said the young man, who operated a game shop in the area.

At the time, he said he lived with his stepfather and brother.

As shots and explosions reverberated, McLeod said he realised that it was time to leave Tivoli Gardens. Then he heard gunshots but said he did not know where the barrages were coming from.

McLeod told the enquiry that he smelled smoke, then a group of soldiers emerged.

"The smoke was getting crazy ... the fire was blazing," he said.

McLeod said at that time, he realised that the smoke was coming from houses near his. "The house in front was burning," he said. "We saw soldiers, and one of them called me to come down the lane and told me to put down the crippled lady by the name of Miss Sissy ... ."

He said he proceeded down the pathway in obedience. "They told me to put her down," said McLeod. "I laid her on the ground, then they started beating me with a baton all over - my arms, back, and legs ... . I was getting hit all over."

He said police personnel and soldiers took him to another section of the community called Java. McLeod said there were lots of people in nearby yards without fences. "People appealed to the policeman to stop beating (me), but he did not. He was beating me with a tree limb."

"One police (not the one beating him at this stage) took my phone," said McLeod. "Other people were standing there and they were taking everyone's phone."

Later, McLeod said they asked him if he knew Coke, and when he responded that he only knew of him, he was accused of lying, and more beatings followed and they promised to kill him.

He recalled that a Jamaica Defence Force truck drove into the area. McLeod said he, along with other men, who were apprehended by the soldiers, crawled to the truck and got in.

"They drove us to camp and the beatings continued - a little assault, an elbow here, and a kick there," he said.

- G. S.