Suspects’ gun was loaded, police say
Twenty-four hours after they chased down and captured armed robbers in Grand Harbour, friends and strangers were stopping Edward Azan and Charles Ebanks on the street to congratulate them on their courage.
As they stood being interviewed by the media outside Blackbeard’s liquor store – the scene of Monday’s attempted robbery – several people driving and walking past stopped to cheer them on.
Within a one-minute period, a man in a passing truck told them: “Good job,” while another driver shouted “Heroes!” out her window, and a visitor to the island walked up to them, shook their hands and told them their act of bravery was the kind of behaviour that kept him coming back to the island.
Both men said this was the type of reaction they had been encountering ever since they tackled armed teens who had unsuccessfully tried to hold up the liquor store Monday afternoon.
One of the robbers was armed with a shotgun, which Mr. Ebanks managed to wrangle from him, and the other carried a can of pepper spray, which he later used to spray Mr. Ebanks in the face during the chase.
Police later said that, despite statements made by the two fishermen-turned-heroes, the gun they wrestled away from the would-be robbers was loaded.
Speaking a day after the hold-up and chase, when they had had some time to let the events sink in, the two fishermen said they would not recommend that other members of the public take on armed criminals because they might get hurt, but they said their efforts had sent a message to criminals that the people of Cayman were no longer willing to sit back and be victims of crime.
“I feel it should not have happened, but it’s a good thing that it did happen because it sends a message out there that there is someone out in the public that fights for the little man… that there is going to be some reaction from some members of the public.
“Maybe I was in the wrong spot at the right time, or they were in the wrong spot at the wrong time… but it sends the message out that someone will react at the end of the day. I am glad no-one got hurt. The bad guys got the message. They are locked up now by the police,” said Mr. Ebanks.
“Everyone should not try to do this,” said Mr. Azan. “If someone sees this going on, they should automatically call 911. Call and get help and keep your distance. What we did was spur of the moment, there was an adrenaline rush. It was hectic, it happened so fast,” he said.
The men said the police responded quickly and were on the scene within minutes.
The robbers were tackled, not just by Mr. Azan and Mr. Ebanks, but also by other members of the public, including Randy Merren and Ray MacGuire.
Police arrested two males, ages 17 and 18, in connection with the attempted robbery.
Mr. Azan and Mr. Ebanks said their families and friends congratulated them on taking down the robbers, but their efforts also worried some of their family members.
Mr. Ebanks said: “My mother didn’t hear about it until late last night [Monday]. She said, ‘Charles, I pray for my children every night and every day.
To think that you could possibly not be here today…’ She said she loves me and said ‘Try not to do that again, young man.’”
Mr. Azan said his 95-year-old grandmother told him he was “foolish” to tackle the robbers.
The have-a-go heroes say that they may be fishermen who lead simple lives, but if the same situation happened again, they would react the same way.
“A lot of people say they are fishermen, simple guys, but we have a tough side to us… if you push our buttons, you’re going to get a reaction. We’re not violent people, we try to conduct ourselves in a professional and mannerly way, but if you push me into a corner, I have no choice. I’m going to come out kicking and screaming,” said Mr. Ebanks.
On Tuesday, the fishermen revisited the liquor store, where they were congratulated by staff and owners and by Police Commissioner David Baines, on their quick actions.
“The courage displayed by both Mr. Charles and Mr. Edward was quite remarkable,” Mr. Baines said. “Despite being threatened with a gun and pepper sprayed, they valiantly pursued the suspects and detained them for the vital minutes it took for our officers to arrive at the location.”
He said police generally advise people not to get actively involved in the pursuit of suspects or risk being hurt, but “it’s clear that when involved in a critical situation like this, where spilt-second decisions have to be made, the advice does not always stand up.”
Police are trying to find the driver of a suspected getaway car – a silver/grey Pontiac four-door sedan that was seen leaving the vicinity of Selkirk Drive as the chase on foot ensued.
Anyone with information should George Town CID on 949-4222 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS).