Arrests made in child’s killing

“Relative: We must see justice done.”

Brian Barnes’ voice shook with a
mixture of rage and grief as he tried to describe what he and other family
members went through on Monday night.

“I just watched that little boy
lying there at the hospital last night….it’s so hard,” Mr. Barnes said on
Tuesday. “It’s an innocent four-year-old child.”

Brian’s grand-nephew, Jeremiah
Barnes, was shot in the face inside his father’s Chevrolet Malibu at around
8.25pm Monday.

The four-door sedan was stopped at
the Hell Esso petrol station in West
Bay when police said two
men approached from behind the building. Witnesses said at least one of the men
opened fire into the passenger side of the vehicle.

The bullets missed Jeremiah’s
father and mother and his older brother.

Jeremiah wasn’t so lucky.  

In a shocking revelation Tuesday
afternoon, police said that two men involved in the deadly shooting lay in wait
behind the Esso station, anticipating the arrival of the Barnes family.

When the white Chevy Jeremiah’s family
rode in pulled up, Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines said
two men got out of a vehicle that was parked behind the station, walked up to
the Chevy and began “firing indiscriminately”.

Jeremiah’s family members said all four
people were in the Chevy at the time shots were fired.

“It could have been all four of
them in the car that had been shot,” said Brian Barnes. “We must see justice
done.”

Jeremiah’s father, Andy Barnes, his
mother Dorlisa Ebanks and his older brother were not the only people to witness
the shooting Monday night.

A group of school children using
the football pitch at John
Cumber Primary
School across the road from the Esso station
heard the shots and some of those who were there saw what occurred. 

One witness described a
dark-skinned male shooter who fired off three rounds before running back behind
the gas station. Others in the area said they heard four shots ring out.

A get-away vehicle was then spotted
leaving area immediately afterward.

Mr. Baines said during a Tuesday
afternoon press conference that the manner in which the shooting was done
smacked of gang retaliation tactics. He declined to state who might have been
the target of Monday’s shooting.

“We believe the (suspect) vehicle
was already in position behind the gas station,” Mr. Baines said Tuesday. “We
have to pursue all lines of enquiry, but there are some facts that would
indicate that this was a targeted shooting into that particular vehicle.”

How the gunmen might have known the
Chevy Malibu would be at the station at that time was unclear.

The
Chevy was driven to the West Bay Police Station immediately after the shooting.
It remained there, cordoned off with crime scene tape – while the child was
taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital in George
Town.

He
was pronounced dead a short time later.

A
crowd of about 50 people gathered in the hospital car park, some vowing
vengeance against the shooter.

At
around 9.15pm Monday, a hospital doctor told Jeremiah’s mother her child was
dead.  The child’s father collapsed on the pavement upon hearing the news,
while the boy’s mother and grandmother screamed and cried with grief.

A
crowd of several dozen people also gathered briefly at the West Bay Police Station,
but had mostly dispersed by 9pm – about half an hour after the shooting.  

Police
response to the shooting was immediate. Within minutes of the report, traffic
checks had been set up in West
Bay near the fire station
for outgoing vehicles.

Police
sirens could be heard all over the district and the Cayman Islands Helicopters
aircraft was also up searching the area late into the night.

The
two suspects were taken to George Town Police Station for questioning Monday
night. The Caymanian Compass is not identifying them because no charges had
been filed at press time.

Commissioner Baines described the
shooting as a wake-up call for Cayman.

“Perhaps now that this poor little
boy has lost his life people will start to come forward and give up these
so-called gangsters who terrorise the public while they carry out their deadly
feuds,” Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said in a prepared
statement. 

‘Terrible loss’

Cayman Islands Governor Duncan
Taylor called the shooting a “terrible loss” and vowed to push legislative
changes in the upcoming Legislative Assembly session later this month to assist
police in investigating and solving violent crime.

One of the changes would allow
witnesses to give anonymous testimony in criminal court proceedings. The other
would be the passage of the revamped Police Law that allows, among other measures,
the ability for a “negative inference” to be drawn by jurors and judges if a
suspect refuses to answer police questions during an investigation.

Mr. Taylor said similar “negative
inference” legislation is already in place in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Baines said even though two men
had been arrested in connection with Monday night’s shooting, police were still
looking for witnesses who could assist – including the children from across the
street at John Cumber Primary at the time gunshots rang out.

He said appropriate counselling and
family assistance services would be provided for those children, many of whom
were 11 and 12 years old.

The commissioner warned the
community not to act rashly in the face of a crime that had left many shaken.

“I’m conscious that there’s been
some suggestion…about the public using vigilantism and arming themselves,” he
said. “I understand your concerns, but I ask you to leave it in our hands.”

Compass
journalist Norma Connolly contributed to this report.

barnes-scene

LEFT: Jeremiah Barnes | RIGHT: Police patrol the cordoned-off area of the crime scene at the Hell Service Station.
File, Brent Fuller

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