RCIPS gets busy

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The Royal
Cayman Islands Police Service arrested five suspects for murder or attempted murder on Friday and
charged another in absentia.

At
4pm Friday a convoy of police cars sped up North West Point Road with
teams of heavily armed officers inside.

They were
going to make a house call on Rennie Ebanks Road in West Bay.

The district
had seen four fatal shootings since mid-February.

The armed
officers surrounded the small house, hidden away on a back street with the
front door heavily bolted.

Detectives
believed it was being used as a safe house. They were right.

After officers
from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Uniform Support Group secured the home,
about a dozen plainclothes detectives swarmed the building.

The man they
found there was one of three people arrested Friday afternoon on suspicion of
murder.

Three other
men were charged in an attempted murder case from 5 March in George Town. The
three men were identified as 27-year-old Luis Robert Verona, 29-year-old Sven
Brett Connor, and 25-year-old Mark Anthony Seymour. Verona and Connor were both
arrested and charged. Seymour was
charged in absentia and is actively being sought by police.

“These
tit-for-tat attacks on people… it has to stop,” Police Commissioner David
Baines said Friday just before the raids commenced.

Friday night,
very little violent activity was reported in West Bay.

None of the
three men arrested in the two killings from last week – those that claimed the
lives of Alrick Peddie and Damion Ming – had been identified or charged at
press time.

Commissioner
Baines said the two shootings – one mid-afternoon Wednesday, the other around
9.45pm Thursday – were related; likely the result of an on-going gang war
between two criminal groups in West Bay.

Calling the
suspects “mindless thugs”, Mr. Baines urged anyone with information
about the recent shootings – one on Thursday night and the other during the day
Wednesday – to call a new anonymous tip line set up by police. That number is
949-7777.

“We know
who’s responsible for the shootings, because people tell us,” Mr. Baines
said. “But people telling us doesn’t translate to charges.”

Witnesses in
the Thursday night killing said they heard several shots, followed by a pause,
then another series of shots in the Birch Tree Hill area of West Bay. It was
believed more than one suspect was involved.

The victim in
the killing was identified as Ming.

Ming was due
in court Friday morning for a mention related to a previous criminal
conviction.

His attorney,
Nicholas Dixey, informed the court that Ming was deceased. 

Thursday’s
death occurred barely more than 24 hours after 25-year-old Alrick Peddie was
killed on Willie Farrington Drive.

Gunfire also
claimed the life of 29-year-old Marcos Duran on 11 March in West Bay, but the
incident was not related to the recent spate of gang violence.

However, a
shooting less than 10 minutes after Mr. Duran was killed was believed to be
retaliatory and possibly related to gang violence in the district.

These violent
incidents and others, including the gang-related shooting that killed
four-year-old Jeremiah Barnes in February, led to the police raids Friday.

Mr. Baines
said those searches were planned and were conducted at the homes of known gang
members.

RCIPS intends
to keep the pressure on in the coming days, Mr. Baines said.

Effectively
immediately, all rest days for RCIPS officers have been canceled and every
officer will be working a 12-hour shift, Mr. Baines said.

Non-essential
police services were being closed down temporarily to put more officers on the
streets.

“You will
not be surprised to hear me say we’re a bit stretched in terms of resources,”
Mr. Baines said.

Governor
Duncan Taylor said the recent violent crimes had taken top priority at his
office. But he was cautious about making too many promises.

“There is no
easy solution to the type of gun crime and problems we’re facing in the Cayman
Islands today,” Mr. Taylor said.

Raids cause concern

Rumours swept
like wildfire around Grand Cayman Friday afternoon, almost as soon as police
started beating down the doors to homes in West Bay.

Talk of
further shooting incidents was rampant, but police insisted no other reports of
gunfire had been received.

At West Bay
Police Station, emotions ran high.

A woman who
had seen her child’s father brought in as part of the raids screamed
hysterically about people coming to kill her young son.

Others who
waited in the police lobby said they were not aware what their friends had been
arrested for and that they believe police were simply shaking people down
following the recent murders.

With the
recent spate of violent crimes, the legislature has altered laws affecting
civil liberties in the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Baines
said recent changes to legal proceedings would assist officers. These changes
include allowing certain witnesses to testify anonymously in court and allowing
law enforcement to electronically monitor individuals released on police bail.

However, those
measures also bring certain human rights concerns.

George Town
MLA Alden McLaughlin recently expressed those concerns during a Legislative Assembly
debate on the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill, 2010.

“(The bill)
runs counter to the rights of an accused to be able to confront those who
allege his responsibility for a crime,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “If we do not have
a system that ensures the fair trial of those who come before it, then the
whole house of cards will collapse. (If not) all of us are at risk of trial by
police officers…not by a jury of our peers.”

The Cayman
Islands Human Rights Commission has remained silent on the witness anonymity
bill and the recent amendments to the Bail Law that were approved by the Legislative
Assembly in February.

Another plan
expected to come to the Assembly later this year is the revised Police Bill.
That proposal will contain, among other things, legal changes that allow
criminal court juries and judges to draw “negative inferences” if a suspect
refuses to answer a police officer’s questions.

The specific
amendments to the Police Law have not been made public.

Mr. Baines
said the right balance would have to be maintained between protecting people’s
lives and protecting people’s civil rights.

“We will not jeopardize
future prosecutions by crossing legal boundaries,” he said.

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RCIPS officers raid a home in West Bay Friday afternoon where a man suspected in a recent homicide was found.
Photo: Brent Fuller
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