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New Year, old fears - Canaan Heights slipping into 2019 on edge following deadly gun attack

Published:Saturday | December 29, 2018 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson and Alicia Barrett
A female family member of one of the victims of the attack in Canaan Heights in tears yesterday, while her father (right) tries to make sense of the tragedy.
Police look on while residents gather around the shop in Canaan Heights where the deadly attack took place last Friday.
A spent shell missed by the police when they processed the scene where six persons were shot, two fatally, in Canaan Heights last Friday.

Over the past two years, the Clarendon community of Canaan Heights had started to shake the violent notoriety it had acquired in the past.

But the peace was shattered last Friday night as two heavily armed men staged a bloody attack in the community leaving two persons dead and four others injured, and the community teetering on the brink of a gang war.

The dead men have been identified as Winston Bent, 26, otherwise called 'Buju'; and Jerome Ellis, also called 'Platinum'. They and the others were peppered with bullets at a corner shop on Pernal Bailey Avenue, about 8 p.m.

Yesterday, two of the victims who were shot in their legs were treated and released from hospital. However, the others, including Bent's brother, remained in hospital in critical condition.

The attack dampened the mood of the Clarendon cops, who were looking to close 2018 in relative peace, with Clarendon having recorded 130 murders so far this year, more than 20 per cent below the 169 recorded in 2017.

"We were down on all crimes. Down on murders, shootings, rape ... everything was down. Canaan Heights had made such good progress," said Deputy Superintendent Lilieth Campbell, who met with residents yesterday and promised stricter policing of the area.

"For two years we had complete peace. They were allowed parties, they were really mature, and we would just drive through and give police service. Last night I don't know what shattered the peace," said Campbell, who declined to provide any details on the state of the investigation.

Police sources, however, confirmed residents' claims that the gunmen were after Bent and his brother, who were witnesses to the shooting death of another brother, Clifford Bent, a month ago.

According to the sources, the brothers were involved in a long-running rivalry with men in another section of the community.

The sources said one of the suspects they are searching for in relation to last Friday's shooting was implicated in Clifford Bent's killing. He was recently released from police lock-up.

Yesterday, residents gathered at the shop and spoke in hushed tones about the barrage of explosions which sent everyone on the corner scampering for cover.

They re-enacted the gunmen's wanton firing, and were particularly hurt by Ellis' death. They said Ellis, a selector, was shot minutes after entering the shop.

The residents pointed to one of their neighbours who they described as 'Sonny T', who they said hid behind a plyboard at the front of the shop and emerged unharmed despite four bullets piercing it.

Yesterday, the residents urged the bleached-out-face young man to give his life to the Lord in 2019.


Church to march for peace


In the meantime, tomorrow's New Year's Eve celebration in Canaan Heights will feature a special church march.

Pastor Calvin Rhoden of the United Purchase Church of God said that the march is important because the community need to come together and pray the crime monster away.

"We need to pray because crime is what is killing us. Prayer can change anything because this is a demonic power, and we can only call upon the supernatural power of God to help us," said Rhoden.

People in the community are sceptical about the impact of the church, but Rhoden told the residents that they should rest assured that the church is present and is willing to help with the healing process.

"What happened touched all of us because the incident happened right in front of my gate. Even my wife was crying because it was touching. I have been talking to people and giving them encouragement, but when things happen on the spur of the moment, we can't just jump and talk to people. We need to give them time," added Rhoden.

He added that he is planning with the church to go and talk to the persons affected by the incident and those who made it out alive.

Rhoden told The Sunday Gleaner that there may be fear since the

incident happened, but he is hoping that people will come out for the church march and help the community mend.

"I feel bad because even last night when I came out to see two people lay down dead, it touch me. I feel it to my heart. We want to march right through Canaan Heights on watch night and call a prayer meeting to call upon God right at this spot (where the incident took place)," he said.

While the police prepare for reprisal, Rhoden said that the 'eye for an eye' mentality will not get far. He said that his church instead teaches peace and forgiveness.

"This is not flesh and blood so we need a supernatural power to cramp the darkness because I understand that the devil is unleashed right now, and that's why people are killing. We need to talk forgiveness. It hard and tough but we have to learn. After we forgive we can move forward," said Rhoden.