Three killings on Grand Cayman in the past month appear to have no direct connection to one another, according to the senior police officer who has overall responsibility for the three homicide investigations.
Moreover, two of the three homicides – that appeared to have at least superficial links to what police described as gang-related killings back in 2011 – were not connected to those cases, as far as police could determine, Chief Inspector Malcolm Kay said Tuesday.
“So far, with the three murders that have occurred this year … there is no strong gang affiliations,” Mr. Kay said during a midday press conference at the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service headquarters, the first in-person press briefing since the latest spate of robberies and killings began in late August.
Within the past two months, the Cayman Islands has witnessed at least a dozen armed robberies or robbery attempts and two other incidents where shots were fired at individuals outside their home, in addition to the three homicide cases.
RCIPS Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton said, after about 15-18 months of relative peace and quiet, Grand Cayman appeared to be experiencing “a spike” in gun-related crimes. Mr. Walton said he had no evidence that any large numbers or shipments of firearms had made it to the islands in recent months, however, he acknowledged there was that possibility.
“Our borders are not always 100 percent fool-proof,” he said.
Aside from the killings, overall crime has climbed more than 15 percent between January and September of this year, when compared to the same nine-month period in 2012. That increase includes a 33.6 percent rise in what police consider “serious crime,” driven by a 45 percent increase in burglaries and a nearly 27 percent increase in robberies through the first nine months of 2013.
Worse, Mr. Walton said the police service had lost about 30 officers over the past year through either attrition or retirements and had not seen its budget levels restored to previous funding the department maintained in 2009. He said the police budget for the current 2013/14 fiscal year was about $35 million, when the police had received more than $36 million four years ago.
“We know there’s this perception that we have 396 or 400 officers and what are they doing?” Mr. Walton said, noting that the department was required to manage a number of specialist units in addition to routine patrol and crime fighting operations. Those included the firearms licensing unit, managing tobacco legislation and the latest item on the police agenda, regulating local pawn shops.
“We have all of those extra demands on us, yet we’ve had our budget cut [from 2009],” Mr. Walton said.
Police made two arrests in connection with the Sept. 15 killing of Irvin Garlon Bush, 52, outside his West Bay home. One of the suspects remains on police bail and another has been released from custody. No one has been charged.
While they haven’t made a criminal case, Mr. Kay said RCIPS was relatively confident in saying Mr. Bush’s death in September had nothing to do with the shooting death of his son, Robert Macford Bush, in West Bay in September 2011.
Mr. Kay also rejected questions about the shooting having a connection to the local Logwoods gang crew in West Bay.
The shooting death of Earl Hart in Prospect on Oct. 3 drew concerns from the community because of Mr. Hart’s participation as a witness in the murder trial of Chakane “C.J.” Scott. Scott was convicted of shooting Asher McGaw in East End in September 2011.
Again, police said there seemed to be no connection and Mr. Kay noted that “hundreds of people” had testified before the court in various cases without any harm coming to them.
Mr. Kay provided no other possible motive for Mr. Hart’s killing. The 22-year-old was shot several times through the window of his garage apartment on Marina Dr. while his girlfriend and child slept.
Then on Friday, 32-year-old Anthony Connor was shot in the parking lot of the Mango Tree Bar and Restaurant on Shedden Road in central George Town. Again, police mentioned no motive or arrests in connection with the killing.
Mr. Connor had just been released from prison in July on a robbery charge, Mr. Kay confirmed. Mr. Connor’s family members said in a statement emailed to the newspaper that they were “heartbroken” at his death.
“The continued gun violence must stop! All it is doing is hurting family, friends and the entire Caymanian community as a whole. We are known as a loving, peaceable people; therefore we ask everyone to unite and pray for the senseless violence to cease.”
Mr. Walton said he was aware of sometimes harsh criticism from the Cayman Islands public directed at the police regarding this recent rash of robberies and shootings and said he considered it part of the job. “We have broad shoulders,” Mr. Walton said.
A number of local lawmakers mentioned the recent spike in gun crime during their debates on the Cayman Islands government budget, with a few sharply criticizing Police Commissioner David Baines for not staffing certain areas of Grand Cayman as fully as others. Mr. Baines was on scheduled leave Tuesday and could not attend the press conference. Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Brougham also did not attend.
Mr. Walton said residents had to understand that the recent heavy focus on the homicide and robbery cases had drained police resources to a certain extent, although he admitted the RCIPS was better trained and staffed than it was during the September 2011 spate of gang-related killings across the islands.
The chief superintendent said he knew of no plans to bring in outside police investigators as had occurred following the September 2011 killings. Mr. Walton said it seemed in the long term that those officers had achieved limited results anyway. “The one murder we solved [out of the five] was actually solved by our local detectives [referring to the shooting death of Asher McGaw].”
Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick, Premier Alden McLaughlin and a number of Legislative Assembly members were briefing on the crime situation by Mr. Brougham Monday, a few days after Mr. Connor was killed outside the Mango Tree.
The Mango Tree is a popular local hangout and has been frequented, on occasion, by members of the assembly themselves.
Mr. Brougham briefed lawmakers on police response to the recent killings and the ongoing investigations.
Mr. Walton touched on some of the strategies with members of the local press on Tuesday. They include increased patrolling in known high-crime areas and “zero tolerance” policies for known offenders. He said police would concentrate foot and vehicle patrols in “high visibility” areas and would also shift work schedules to maximize available resources.
Uniform Support Group [armed] officers would be deployed to the eastern districts, Mr. Walton said, where a few “doorstep” robberies had occurred in recent months; that means someone coming home for the evening has been accosted by suspects in front of their home. He warned residents that armed police would be carrying long firearms openly, in addition to holstered side arms.
“You will see long weapons being displayed overtly,” Mr. Walton said.
Governor Kilpatrick said she would discuss the police approach to “prevent reprisals” shortly with Mr. Brougham.