Court security tightened

After four shooting incidents in Grand Cayman last week, security at the Law Courts Building increased dramatically on Friday.

Armed police officers patrolled around and on top of the downtown two-storey structure.

Typically, visitors to the courthouse pass through a metal detector at which two guards are stationed. Apart from strategically placed cameras, that is the apparent extent of security.

On Friday, however, observers counted at least 10armed police officers outside. A trained police dog and its handler were also on hand.

Inside, beyond the metal detector arch and attendants, two veteran policemen were positioned to watch all who entered the building.

Upstairs, two plainclothes officers, present for other cases, mingled with people waiting for matters in Grand Court or the normal Friday maintenance hearings in Summary Court.

The reason for all the precautions was the presence of Carlos Renton Russell, who was arrested last Wednesday, hours after a fatal shooting at the George Town Hospital (Caymanian Compass, 31 March).

Russell, 42, was brought to court that same day on a holding charge of possessing unlicensed firearms, including a revolver and ammunition, both spent and live. He was remanded in custody to Northward Prison and the Crown at the time said further charges were expected.

No new charges were laid on Friday. Russell had been scheduled for some weeks to be in Summary Court that day for the continuation of a trial involving seven other defendants. All pleaded not guilty to charges relating to several hundred pounds of ganja found in a container in East End in July 2003.

Because Magistrate Nova Hall had to deal with the maintenance matters first, the ganja trial did not resume until noon. There was an adjournment for lunch, with proceedings then going on until after 4pm. While court was in session, prison officers were stationed at each corner of the room, plus one on the stairwell leading to the cells below.

Police officers outside remained at their posts throughout the day and until after Russell was escorted to a vehicle for transportation back to prison.

He is scheduled to return to court on Wednesday, 6 April, when the magistrate is to give her ruling on submissions by defence attorneys that there is no case for their clients to answer.

The shooting at the hospital was the third of four incidents in which firearms were used in Grand Cayman last week.

A man was hospitalised after being shot in East End late Monday or early Tuesday. A house in Bodden Town was shot at late Tuesday night. After the fatality on Wednesday afternoon, an 18 year old was shot that night in West Bay.

Police say the shootings involved ‘rival factions within a small segment of our community’. Acting Commissioner of Police Rudolph Dixon assured residents that ‘these incidents do not indicate an increase in the number of persons committing crimes’ (Compass, 1 April).

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