Despite a large crowd being in the area where Omar Barton Samuels was shot dead early Sunday morning, police are still appealing for witnesses and had not made any arrests in the case at press time Tuesday.
28-year-old Samuels was shot sometime between 12.30 and 1am near the Habana Café on the corner of School Road and McField Lane. The area, including the nearby Jah-T’s jerk food stall, is popular with late night revellers after bars close on Grand Cayman at midnight Saturday.
Eyewitnesses said Tuesday that up to 200 people were in the area at the time Samuels was shot and police on Tuesday urged more of them to come forward to say what they saw.
Detective Inspector Kim Evans, who is heading up the case, insisted progress was being made in what police have described as a murder investigation.
‘We have increased the number of officers working on this case and are making steady progress with our enquiries,’ he said.
On Tuesday police also gave new details about the amount of time it took for an armed response unit and paramedics to reach the scene where Samuels was shot.
‘An armed response unit was on the scene within 10 minutes of the call to 911,’ Mr. Evans said in a statement. ‘The ambulance crew was given access to the victim once they were satisfied that the scene, which was quite large, was safe,’ he said.
But Mr. Evans pointed out that the armed officers had to take into account the fact that there have been previous incidents involving firearms in the same area.
‘It is always important to ensure that we do not put officers or medical personnel in danger when responding to reports of crimes that involve firearms,’ Mr. Evans said. ‘Our policy is to have the area checked and cleared by armed response before officers are allowed on the scene; in this case that protocol was followed.’
Police on Tuesday vowed to step up patrols in the area, which has become a hot-spot for serious crime and gang violence in recent years. New Commissioner of Police David Baines toured the area Sunday morning.
‘We will be looking at that area,’ said Deborah Denis, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s public relations officer. ‘Neighbourhood Officers have been in the area working with the community and we will be looking at longer term crime prevention strategies such as increased lighting,’ she said.
Less than one month ago 21-year-old Lance Justin Myles received a 20-year jail term over his role in a May 2008 drive by shooting in the area.
In May 2008, the mutilated body of 20-year-old Brian Rankine was found in a dirt parking lot near the intersection of the two roads, just meters from where paramedics found Samuels early Sunday morning.
Late last year police also seized a cache of bullet proof vests after gun shots were reported in the area. No one was injured in that shooting.
In September, police investigating a ‘shots fired’ call on School Road ended up in a high-speed chase with a man and woman in a vehicle along George Town’s Harbour Drive. Police fired shots at some point during the pursuit, but no one was injured.
Ms Denis added that police will investigate fresh reports of alcohol being sold illegally in the area. Beer bottles were strewn across the crime scene Sunday morning.
‘We investigate all reports of illegal liquor selling and have, in fact, carried out a number of operations in that area over the last few years,’ Ms Denis said.
Contrary to what was stated in Tuesday’s Caymanian Compass, prosecutors said Tuesday they had not abandoned a firearms case against Samuels, despite a long delay in bringing the matter to court.
Samuels had been on bail when he was shot Sunday morning, accused of possession of an AK-47 rifle and 15 rounds of ammunition, after being charged in March 2008.
Crown lawyers had consistently opposed Samuels being bailed over the charge, but he was released from custody by Justice Charles Quin on 15 September last year for a non-emergency operation at the George Town hospital. He has been on bail ever since.
Samuels was due to face court over the firearms charges on 10 November this year.
Police say they found the AK-47 concealed in plastic wrapping behind a picture frame at Samuels house, which they searched after finding a small amount of cocaine in his car.