Vengeance and violence on Cayman's 'mean streets'

Another young Caymanian, barely beyond his teens, is dead, his life’s candle extinguished by gunfire in what is becoming known as the “killing zone” of the district of West Bay.

This time the victim is David Ruben Ebanks (just 20), who was found late Friday night lying on the ground near a Birch Tree Hill Road home across from Kelly’s Bar. Though police haven’t confirmed any link between Mr. Ebanks’s death and the Jan. 3 murder of Victor Oliver Yates (just 22), members of the Ebanks family, the police (and we at the Compass) have reason to believe there is a connection to gang activity, a link bound by blood.

As with Mr. Yates, there is no evidence that Mr. Ebanks was himself a hardcore gang member. There is, however, ample evidence — posted by Mr. Ebanks himself on his social media accounts — that he indulged in a lethal cocktail of troubles, including guns, ganja, cash and a fascination with the “drug and thug” lifestyle.

Alongside these disturbing images, however, existed glimmers of hope — friendships, family and aspirations to become an engineer. Together, the dueling sides of Mr. Ebanks’s character depict struggles common among our country’s youth — to follow the siren song of “easy money” and criminality, or to sacrifice momentary pleasures of the present for the lasting rewards of tomorrow.

The words of German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe come poignantly to mind: “Bent is the twig which might have grown straight.”

We will never know the outcome of Mr. Ebanks’s internal struggle, which was ended Friday night by the bullets which took his life.

Though Mr. Ebanks’s narrative has reached a horrifying conclusion, his murder forms just one more chapter in the continuing saga of violence in West Bay between the two criminal factions known as the Logwoods crew and Birch Tree Hill gang — whose memberships are defined by blood relationships as much as by voluntary initiations.

While Mr. Ebanks could attempt to lift himself up from his sordid surroundings through education and hard work, ultimately he could not escape his familial connections, which according to his father Rudy Ebanks, include members of the Birch Tree Hill gang.

“David was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They never got the guy they really went after. The bullets were not meant for him that night. It is all about retaliation now,” Rudy Ebanks said.

Mr. Ebanks’s murder is the 23rd killing to occur in the Cayman Islands since January 2010, and the 12th to occur in the district of West Bay.

Only the very brave, or the very foolish, would dare walk alone — or even in groups — in parts of West Bay late at night, particularly in areas such as Watercourse Road (where Mr. Yates was killed) or Birch Tree Hill Road (where Mr. Ebanks was killed).

We all should take seriously the portentous message posted on the Internet by the 22-year-old West Bay man who was shot in the wrist Jan. 5 outside the Pop-A-Top liquor store on Powell Smith Road (an act believed to be in retaliation for the shooting death of Mr. Yates). After news of Mr. Ebanks’s death began to circulate, the 22-year-old man wrote on Facebook: “R.I.P. to my cuzzin David. They kill u, they just kill dem self.”

Murder. Vengeance. Hate. Fear. That is the essence of street justice, dealt out by gun-toting criminals, in the absence of law and order. West Bay will remain washed in blood until courageous citizens disrupt the cycle of violence by breaking their silence, and bearing witness to the assassinations they have seen.

Mr. Ebanks, the latest victim of this street culture, himself posted on Instagram this past October:

“#1 Rule never snitch …”

Silence, sometimes, does last forever. 

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