Sun | Sep 19, 2021

Family to flee after arson attack

Published:Wednesday | July 28, 2021 | 12:11 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Intern
Oscar Palmer walks through one of the scorched rooms in his Kingston Gardens home on Tuesday. Arsonists attacked the family before dawn.
Oscar Palmer walks through one of the scorched rooms in his Kingston Gardens home on Tuesday. Arsonists attacked the family before dawn.

An arson attack has displaced 10 adults and two children in Kingston Gardens in the latest round of violence that has stalked communities in the central district of the capital. The family house was reportedly attacked by gunmen, who set the...

An arson attack has displaced 10 adults and two children in Kingston Gardens in the latest round of violence that has stalked communities in the central district of the capital.

The family house was reportedly attacked by gunmen, who set the building ablaze at approximately 3 o’clock Tuesday morning.

Homeowners Doreen McLean-Palmer and her husband Oscar Palmer are charging that the attack was politically motivated.

McLean-Palmer said that she was alerted to the gunmen’s presence by her grandson, who was on the veranda with her husband. Intruders armed with M16 rifles ordered the grandson and Palmer inside to join the rest of the family and lit a mattress and passageways.

“When the fire brigade came, that was when we got an opportunity to come outside because them swarm the house,” McLean-Palmer said.

She estimates that 20 attackers swarmed the premises.

“It’s politics related because my son is involved in politics,” McLean-Palmer said, adding that he was a supporter of Kingston Central Member of Parliament Donovan Williams. She theorised that the violence was linked to the political shift of the long-time People’s National Party stronghold to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party in the September 3, 2020, general election.

The allegations about a political link have not been confirmed by the police.

Gang feuds have caused gun violence to soar in the Kingston Central Police Division, with murders climbing by 48 per cent year-on-year, from 27 to 40. Shootings have also rocketed by 36 per cent to 34 reports, nine more than for the corresponding period last year.

There have been growing calls for a zone of special operations to be imposed in Kingston Central.

McLean-Palmer said that this was not the first time her home has been targeted by gunmen.

A few years ago, they were robbed five times in three-month period.

OVERWHELMED WITH FEAR

The trauma of those events have overwhelmed her with fear.

With nothing but a pair of smoked-filled and ash-covered pair of shorts, Palmer is left lost for much words.

Palmer has lived at the house since 1990.

“Me neva duh nobody nothing,” he said repeatedly.

“No clothes, not even a slippers, same so me stay right now,” he added, pointing to his bare feet.

The only things that were saved were some of his wife’s clothes, a passport, fan, and two bedside lamps.

Palmer, who was trapped in the burning house, escaped through a small window in a back room. He suffered minor cuts and burns on his hands.

“If the police had come even 20 minutes earlier, [we] could’ve saved stuff,” said McLean-Palmer.

The couple said they will sell what’s left of their property, split the earnings, and move out of the community. After investing much of their earnings into home renovations since 2015, this is the last straw.

“The way I feel right now, I don’t think I would spend another dollar right here,” she said.

Superintendent Julian Davis-Buckle of the Jamaica Fire Brigade said that three fire units were deployed, including two pumper trucks and one water tender from the York Park and Rollington Town stations.

The call was received at 3:17 a.m.

Twenty-five firefighters were deployed to the scene.

asha.wilks@gleanerjm.com