Mtn View flares up - Man shot dead; residents protest
By Petulia Clarke, Staff Reporter
Monday, October 14, 2002
PNP candidate for Eastern St. Andrew, Colin Campbell, gets details of an alleged police killing in the Saunders Avenue, Mountain View, area yesterday morning. - Michael Sloley /Freelance Photographer
SECTIONS OF Mountain View Avenue, St. Andrew, remained under strong police and military control yesterday after hours of incessant gunfire left one man from Vernon Avenue dead and residents cowering in fear.
Some of the residents who staged protests in the area told The Gleaner that 20-year-old Jermaine Johnson, a labourer of 5 Vernon Avenue off Saunders Avenue was shot in the face by the police minutes after they went into the community to quell the gunfire.
The residents confirmed that gunshots from Jarrett Lane, Back Bush, Tarban, Jacques Road and Bunny View Avenue had been echoing in the area throughout Saturday night and Sunday morning.
One woman who said the police were initially dismissive of her call for help, said she'd been sleeping on the floor for weeks.
They were even more angry at the police who they said should be protecting them, but had killed one of their own. In response, the tyres of several police vehicles were slashed and the window of a bus smashed as the residents got more irate.
Witnesses say that Mr. Johnson was shot after returning from a shop nearby, where he'd gone to buy goods when the gunfire eased.
"The shots done in the area early (after 10 a.m.) and people start moving out to buy what they can buy before it start again. It's like he was jus' unlucky. Him get the shot straight in him face," one man said.
They said that the police left after the killing and when they came back later, they wanted to move the body, but the residents prevented them, waiting instead for a proper crime scene investigation.
The Constabulary Communi-cation Network (CCN) said that investigations are continuing into the circumstances under which Mr. Johnson was shot. They say that there was heavy gunfire in the area Saturday night and yesterday morning that at one point marooned the police party. The fire intensified and at about 11:15 a.m. yesterday, Mr. Johnson was found shot.
Colin Campbell, Member of Parliament for East St. Andrew, spent the afternoon assuring Saunders Avenue residents that he would liaise with the Commissioner of Police in order to get the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI) and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) to investigate the shooting of Mr. Johnson.
He said he would also speak to the police to ensure that adequate protection was in place for residents who fear the incessant gunfire.
Mr. Campbell said that after hearing statements from the residents yesterday, he was convinced that a police officer had acted improperly in the fatal shooting of the labourer.
"I will make a request that this person be immediately removed from duty," Mr. Campbell said. "I can't understand how coming out of a community attack, one innocent person was killed by the police.
"I don't want you to use the fact that one policeman came in the community and did wrong to pressure the entire Force," Mr. Campbell said. "If one does wrong we'll deal with that individual; I'll see to it that justice is done and I'm asking all of you to co-operate with the investigators when they come in."
Jamaica Labour Party candidate for the area, St. Aubyn Bartlett, also made an urgent appeal to the police to "do some serious foot and mobile patrolling" along the border of Back Bush/Saunders Avenue to ensure that peace was maintained and that no one else gets hurt in the few days leading up to elections.
Mr. Bartlett said that there were no activities that he knew of in the area that caused the tensions to develop, and that politics was just an excuse for the escalation.
"I don't know that it's politically motivated or not. I was really looking forward to a peaceful election," he said. "The general area has had tension like this for a very long time, and politics is maybe just an excuse. I have maintained that we cannot go on like this."
Earlier this month, gunmen operating in the Mountain View Avenue area clashed with members of the security forces during a curfew imposed in the area. A Jamaica Defence Force soldier was shot in the right leg in the melee. There was a similar flare-up a week ago, when one man was shot through the eye and another crippled from eight bullets pumped into him, residents said.
Since September 3, gunmen have killed 13 people in the community, including a 10-year-old girl.