Police have launched an attempted murder investigation after a 28-year-old man was shot in the face in an armed holdup at a jerk stand in Red Bay.
Kemar Golding, a brewer at the Cayman Islands Brewery, was shot around 11.30 on Wednesday night, 29 June, as he helped a friend dispose of garbage at the Roast Hut jerk stall beside the Lighthouse School on Shamrock Road.
The men were putting rubbish from the jerk stand in a garbage can behind the stall when they were confronted by three masked men. One of them, who was armed with a handgun, demanded cash and was told they had none, said Chief Superintendent Marlon Bodden of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
“Then one of the suspects said, ‘Let him have one’, and immediately [the victim] was shot,” said Mr. Bodden.
He said Mr. Golding moved his head slightly as he heard those words and as the gunman raised the handgun – a reaction that most likely saved his life. The bullet entered by his left eye and exited through the side of his head, narrowly missing his brain, the chief superintendent said.
“If he had not reacted, then we would definitely have a murder right now,” Mr. Bodden said.
Chief Medical Officer at the Health Services Authority Dr. Greg Hoeksema said Thursday afternoon that Mr. Golding had undergone surgery and was in a stable condition, adding that there were no immediate plans to airlift the victim off island.
“Very fortunately, [it’s a] non-life threatening injury but still very serious,” he said.
The second man at the jerk stall was unhurt.
“At the moment, based on the aggravation of this particular incident, we are now treating that investigation as an attempted murder,” Mr. Bodden said.
He said: “This was an unprovoked attack on an individual and this is not the kind of reward you would give an individual for doing a simple chore as going to dispose of garbage.”
“We are appealing for any individual that has any information or were in or around the area at that time to please help us because this nonsense has to stop. We don’t want any individual to put themselves in any danger by trying to have a standoff with any suspect…
“We would want them to be very sensible about communicating their information to us if they had witnessed any crime or anything illegal, but we want them to be more aware of what is happening and to communicate that to us, so we can investigate this and try to trace down, and if necessary, hunt down these individuals that actually possess these firearms,” Mr. Bodden said.
Police said all three suspects wore masks, with one wearing a hoodie-type jacket. Mr. Bodden said they were reported to be wearing some kind of cloth, possibly T-shirts, over their faces. All three spoke with Caymanian accents.
The three masked men ran off, empty handed, towards the Lighthouse School, in the direction of Red Bay Primary School, police said.
By late Thursday morning, police had not recovered a bullet or bullet casings from the scene.
This is the fifth incident in recent weeks where a firearm has been discharged during a crime.
Mr. Bodden said forensic tests on bullets or casings recovered from previous robbery or attempted robbery scenes were still ongoing and it was not yet known if the bullets fired were from the same gun. In some of these incidents, three masked men have been involved.
Chief Superintendent Bodden said police were investigating the possibility that these are the same three people involved. “We are keeping an open mind. However, three is the common denominator as it relates to suspects featured in many of the crimes that are being reported,” he said.
Police were conducting door to door inquiries on Thursday morning trying to find witnesses and to glean more information about the shooting.
Mr. Golding’s colleagues at the Cayman Islands Brewery said they were shocked by the shooting of the brewer, who they said is well liked by co-workers and bosses.
Co-worker Martin Leggatt said Mr. Golding worked with him at Caybrew in the bottling hole as an associate brewer who runs the labelling machine. “He is a hard-working, outstanding individual who never made any trouble with anyone and always fun to be around.
“When everyone was having a bad day, he would brighten the day.”
Mr. Leggatt said when he heard the news Wednesday night about midnight. He was shocked and thought it was just a bad dream.
“There are a lot of shootings going on in Cayman right now but this shooting seems like the most outrageous, cold-blooded, evil [act] I have heard,” he said.
“Kemar is one of our main brewers,” said Operations Manager Andreas Moerl.
“He was taught and sent to the United States for special training and he is a very hard-working, intelligent and flexible young man. It was a big shock for us here at the brewery with what happened last night and we hope he recovers and is coming back soon.
“Kemar is a big part of the operations at the company and we are really hurt in production because he was in charge of several different things in the bottling, brewing area and filtration. “This is big hurt for us, not only personally but for the whole operation itself and we hope he will soon recover and come back to his duties because we all miss him,” Mr. Moerl said. Mr. Golding has worked at Caybrew for the past four and a half years since the company first opened, he said.
The chef who cooks at the jerk stall said he was appalled when he turned up at the scene at 6am Thursday to find out what had happened. He said Mr. Golding frequently visited the Roast Hut.
“He would sometimes come and sit and talk with other workers. He seems to me like a very pleasant young man,” the chef said.
Mr. Bodden said police were also investigating an attempted robbery of a taxi driver at Marble Drive, off West Bay Road in George Town, earlier the same night involving three masked men. He said the taxi driver was called to Marble Drive where he was confronted by three masked men, one of whom struck him over the head and demanded cash.
The driver, who was not hurt, drove away and did not hand over any money. That attempted robbery happened around 10.45pm.
Mr. Bodden said there was no evidence at this stage to link the two incidents other than the number of masked suspects involved and the fact that there would have been enough time for those suspects to get to Red Bay by 11.30pm.
Those men were described as being 5 feet, 5 inches tall; of slim build and with dark complexion. All three were reported as wearing white cloth over their faces.
Wednesday night’s shooting came two days before police officially launched a month-long gun amnesty in which the RCIPS is appealing to the public to hand in or give them information about unlicensed, unwanted or illegal firearms so they can be disposed of. The amnesty runs from Friday, 1 July, to 31 July.
Mr. Bodden said members of the public were becoming less reluctant to contact police about serious crimes and help from the public had helped police track down illegal weapons recently.
“Because they realise that, irrespective of whether or not they [members of the public] remain silent, it continued, so they are trying a different approach – that is, to bring it to our attention and that is the reason why we can make so many recoveries of firearms as we reported over the last couple of weeks, recovering in various police operations loaded firearms and so on. At least we know that those firearms weren’t involved because they are now kept under safe protection until they are finally destroyed.”
Anyone with information about Wednesday night’s shooting should contact the confidential police line 949-7777 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477(TIPS).