Families dispute police account of shooting; eyewitnesses say cops hit duo in bike deaths
What was intended to be a night of celebration of life morphed into tragedy for a 24-year-old woman celebrating her birthday and the motorcycle driver with whom she whizzed through Kingston’s streets late last week.
Those circumstances appear to be incontrovertible, but mystery and controversy shroud contrasting narratives by the police and eyewitnesses about the deaths of Briana Kerr and 40-year-old Derrick ‘Screechy’ Coley, both of east Kingston. The police have been accused of knocking the duo off the motorcycle to their death.
Britany Powell, Briana’s sister, was awakened by the constant ringing of her cell phone in the wee hours of Friday morning with the ominous news.
It hit her like a thump to the stomach: Turn up at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) because Briana was involved in a crash.
The message reeked of the cruel d é j à vu of a call she received earlier this year to visit KPH because her mother had fainted. Her mom didn’t survive.
Powell rues not having told her sister to stay home and celebrate on Friday instead.
“I literally just saw her. ... I am the one that drove her to meet her friends around 8:30 p.m. I helped her to get ready because, as the bigger sister, I want her to go and enjoy herself. A me help her put on her wig,” she told The Gleaner on Sunday.
An initial police statement said that Kerr died from gunshot wounds after she was attacked at 10:40 p.m. The police then provided an update placing Coley at the scene.
However, no mention was made of death from gunshot wounds.
The families of both deceased have denied the police reports about both the time of the incident and the cause of death.
According to friends of the now-deceased, they and other friends were still partying at a hotel in New Kingston at 10:40, in contravention of the islandwide coronavirus curfew.
Eyewitnesses have placed the blame squarely at the feet of the police.
A tearful Powell said she had no idea she would never see her sister again when she dropped her off at the event.
“Being out after curfew hours isn’t a death penalty, the last time I checked. She didn’t deserve to die,” she told The Gleaner.
Powell said she has been told by an eyewitness that a chasing police service vehicle hit Coley and Kerr, the pillion, from the motorcycle, sending them airborne on Mountain View Avenue.
“I was not there. My issue is the fact that police are trying to cover this up. Use JamaicaEye. You must can use surveillance camera to solve this one. You can see the corruption already a happen. All of a sudden, a gunshot!” Powell said.
JamaicaEye is a police-coordinated surveillance database that allows them to tap into private camera footage.
Romario Smikle, a childhood friend of Kerr’s who was with her and Coley on the night in question, said the police should state clearly if they were involved in an accident.
He also disputes the 10:40 p.m. shooting narrative of the police, saying they were still partying at that time.
Smikle also told The Gleaner that, after he saw the police go in pursuit of the motorcycle in New Kingston, he kept calling Kerr on her phone, having ridden in a different direction to elude the cops.
“The police weh lick dem and run, that a di only police we see ... . Mi call her ‘cause she a di pillion. 1:49 a.m., mi call her. Mi call Screechy 1:50 a.m. and 1:56 a.m. mi call CJ (Briana boyfriend) fi come fi dem,” he said.
Smikle said, when he got to the crash scene, Coley and Kerr were discovered both bleeding and appeared to have multiple broken bones.
He said the chase began from Dominica Drive to a Mountain View community.
Smikle told The Gleaner that he and friends transported the injured persons to KPH.
Antoinette McGregor, Coley’s wife of five years and with whom he shared four children, said their last conversation surrounded a joke that she was pregnant.
“He was jovial and a nice person to be around. Him nuh hard to nobody. He is a happy person and love his kids dem,” said the grieving spouse.
McGregor said her husband was no gunman.
She said she rushed to the hospital on learning of the crash and was there all day as the doctors tried to save Coley’s life.
He, however, succumbed to his injuries during surgery.
Powell said that Briana, who graduated from St Andrew Technical High School, had dreams of joining the military even though she was good at hairdressing.
“She even sent a résumé and was waiting to see if she would be accepted. She was a motherly figure even though I am the oldest. Her children were basically her (younger) brothers,” Powell said jokingly, adding that Kerr took responsibility for their siblings following the passing of their mother.
Superintendent Tommie-Lee Chambers, who heads the East Kingston Police Division, said Sunday that she was aware of the incident and was awaiting further details.
Chambers said she was told that it was a fatal accident that led to the deaths.
Saying she was unaware of police involvement in the incident, Chambers also told The Gleaner that she expected to be briefed further on the investigation.