In the early hours of Sunday morning, a large crowd gathered near McField Square in George Town to observe a dangerous confrontation between a gunman and police. Upon being stopped for questioning by police, 22-year-old Jonathan Welcome produced a firearm and pointed it at officers. In response, one officer drew his weapon and commanded Welcome to drop his firearm. Welcome refused to comply.

As the throng watched, “The man, while pointing the gun at officers, fled into the densely populated area of Rock Hole where he was able to elude capture,” according to a police statement.

The showdown the crowd witnessed that night can be seen as emblematic of the overall situation of crime in the Cayman Islands, with violent criminals on one side, law enforcement authorities on the other, and society vulnerable to the crossfire.

In regard to Sunday’s incident, the police statement praised the armed officer for exercising “extraordinary restraint and concern for public safety” by not igniting a gun battle in the presence of multiple onlookers, even though it meant that Welcome was able to escape. (His freedom may turn out to be temporary – police know exactly who he is, have distributed his photograph through local media and are encouraging people to share information about his whereabouts with police or Crime Stoppers. He should turn himself in immediately.)

Some commenters have expressed contrary opinions, and warn that the officer’s refusal to use his weapon might embolden other gunmen who may now believe they can avoid arrest in the future by threatening police with firearms.

We (with our limited knowledge of what occurred) think it unwise to criticize the armed officer’s split-second judgment based on what “might” happen in the future. Police who carry firearms do so in order to protect themselves, their fellow officers and the public – not to shoot criminals, unless there is no other choice.

In this case, there was. The officer’s decision not to shoot may very well have saved lives and prevented collateral injuries.

The task now for police is to ensure that Welcome is arrested and brought to justice.

Just as in the tense standoff with Welcome, our police in general have been placed in an extremely precarious position. Brazen acts of criminality, much of it involving guns, appear to be on the rise – including armed robberies at Alfresco in West Bay, Al La Kebab in Marquee Plaza, Island Jewellers in Camana Bay and Discount Liquors in Pasadora Place.

In the media, over the radio and on the Internet, certain segments of the Cayman community have formed a vituperative chorus to rave against the police.

In part because of unfair and irresponsible criticisms, the overall toxic atmosphere and erosion of support for our peace officers, our police will soon face a vacuum in top leadership, with the impending departures of Police Commissioner David Baines, Deputy Commissioner Stephen Brougham, Superintendent Mike Cranswick and Superintendent Robert Scotland – leaving only three officers remaining at the level of superintendent or above.

Perhaps the most significant and most formidable duty for Governor Helen Kilpatrick, in the final year of her tenure, will be to fill the ranks of police leadership and set up the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service for success. As governor, she is responsible for fighting crime “from the top down.”

But the fundamental, and the far more important, responsibility of battling criminality “from the ground up” lies not with the governor, any U.K. appointee nor any Caymanian in the police leadership, but with the collective members of Cayman society. In the long term, in order to prevent our country from falling victim to waves of violence and lawlessness, we must address the cancer of crime before it develops and metastasizes.

In this protracted war, our weapons will not be batons, Tasers or firearms – or anything designed to harm the body.

Our weapons must be implements that cultivate the mind and spirit: education, accountability, employment and opportunities.

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  1. I want to know when persons think a situation is taken far and beyond.
    If a criminal points a gun at a police officer, am I to believe that the officer is not justified in taking that person down?
    Just think for one single moment was it your son the police officer and a criminal points a gun at him, and then shoots. What are you going to say the next day at the dead house? Blame someone else?
    We need to stop the cross dressing. One moment we are in tough over coat and the other in a frock. It could not go down anywhere else in the world except Cayman. I say it is a shame to disgrace the police officer , and it has only opened a door to further stand off.
    You see from the day of that Caymmana Bay Robbery :Without a trace” Criminals have disrespected police. Either our investigations stinks or we need to fire the whole lot and engage a new crew. Sorry we need “Tough Cops”

  2. If the police officer had fired when he pulled his weapon, he would have been justified. No question. But by not firing, he showed extraordinary control and should be congratulated. Everyone needs “tough cops” to fight crime but we also want smart, well-trained, tough cops and this cop seems to fit that description. Any doubts? Think what would have happened if the Cayman police had a reputation of “be tough, shoot first.” Jonathan Welcome likely would not have held his fire.

  3. May I congratulate`the the Compass on a thoughtful editorial – we don’t always agree so credit where due.
    Before a police office can use deadly force they must have a reasonable belief that they or another person is in imminent mortal danger. Some punk waving a gun around does not, necessarily give rise to this belief.
    Of course, had it been me as the cop Mr Welcome (if it was he) would have the pleasure of welcoming friends and family to his funeral as I do not think myself capable of such restraint as shown by this officer – who’s judgement is vindicated by there NOT being any funerals.

  4. While I understand the editors position in this. I still believe the the RCIPS needs a bit of a stronger hand. This young mans reaction to armed officers and their response has set a bad precedent among the criminal element in Cayman. Make my words you will see more and more of this until the RCIPS get harder on them. The sad thing is that if he had of shot the young man more likely than not the community would have joined up against the RCIPS saying that the shooting was unjustified, which is most like the main reason he didn’t fire. I am sure he was glad he wasn’t forced to. When and if this young man is caught I am curious as to see what happens in court.

    If this is the response to an armed officer, how do you really think they will respond to unarmed police.

    • Mr Davis. Have you ever been confronted by someone with a gun? Are you firearms trained? Have you been trained how to react? have you done the monthly recertification shoots where you are tested to see what it takes for you to pull the trigger? Until you do, do not presume to know what that officer thinks.
      And as for how will he react to unarmed officers….if he has no gun to hide behind he will be some cowardly little punk because that is what these lowlifes are like. They are big in their community, in their family, in their gang. Big men with a gun, protected by family and friends. Hiding on an island 10 miles long and 3 miles wide, cowering in a dark corner frightened of every sound imagining a full armed response team that will come after him and drag him away, crying with soiled trousers.
      Please focus your ire on him and those who, at this moment, are protecting him.

  5. As I said above I think the officer was right to not have had a shoot out with so many people around.

    But why didn’t he take off after him when he ran off?

    “He disappeared into the crowd.” Just how big a crowd was it that he couldn’t follow him?

    For that matter, why didn’t one of the “crowd” note which way he was going and tell the police officer?

  6. This isn’t even a tough call. The officer’s did the right thing in not using deadly force and not taking the life of either the criminal or an innocent bystander. To Michael going on about how the police need to be tougher, it’s not your place to second guess police when they err on the side of caution by not taking a life and protecting the public. No matter what you think about criminals and policing it’s not the job of police to execute criminals unless it can’t be avoided. The US has already found out what happens when police adopt a shoot first ask questions later approach and it’s not good. If their bullet had not hit its intended target, but an innocent bystander, all hell would have broken loose in these islands. They already know the suspect and he can’t go very far and so will be dealt with in due course. Unless you also think he should be executed for this crime when caught then any position advocating the police should have shot him on the spot is just hypocritical.

    • Christoph, Out of all the responses to my comments your point ‘ They already know the suspect and he can’t go very far and so will be dealt with in due course’ makes sense to me and when explained this way I do understand why it was better to back off wait to catch him at a later time. Which is also supportive of the officers restraint.

      @John, Yes I have had a gun pointed in my face however you are current I do not have training that RCIPS officers have, but I am not a cop. My comment are not direct attacks on this particular officer, that point I was trying to make is that if you don;t take a hard line on crime it will spiral out of control. As as far as to what justified deadly force, I still think pointing a gun at the police warrants a deadly response.

      In the end I am convinced that his actions were probably the best. They did get him rather quickly which was probably what the officer was thinking when he backed off.

  7. Interesting story, the RCIPS always seems to be the whipping boy, but crime is just the symptom of other problems in society. I suspect the Cayman community needs to look inwardly at itself to address the issue, but of course it’s much easier to blame everyone else, rather accept some responsibility for the state of crime and disorder. As someone who served pre and post Ivan, I think Ivan was the turning point for the island. Pre-Ivan the criminals were still there, but they were not ’emboldened’ in the way they are now, and much of the crime which did take place was not reported courtesy of […] protecting the islands image. During and after Ivan the RCIPS was brought to its knees as a result of the destruction of the police infrastructure, and sheer volume of officers who quit, most of whom’m just walked off the job without giving notice. Combine these factors with the anarchy which took place in the community post-Ivan, and it created an environment for criminality to flourish. Crime was being committed, the criminals realised they could get away with it as the RCIP was essentially innafective, and it was a bit like a boulder rolling down a hill, picking up in speed as it went, and the RCIPS were just unable to keep up. Identifying, investigating, and producing sufficient admissible evidence to prove an offence ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ is hard enough under the best of circumstances, let alone where you have a department which is poorly led, suffers from lack of training, recruitment and retention issues, issues with experience, equipment and infrastructure, combined with a Crown Prosecution Service with similar issues. Good luck to the new Commissioner who gets the task of trying to fix this mess.

  8. There are a lot of comments on this incidents….some for shooting this foolish young man, some for letting him live…and not endangering innocent by-standers.
    In retrospect, the police officer can be seen to have done the right thing by not firing his weapon, even while having one pointed at him but…
    My question is….had he shot this guy holding a gun on him, would the bleeding-hearts judge him wrong, as they have judged him right for what he has done ?
    Probably so….it also shows how little they value the lives of their police officers…as this police officer had every reason to fear for his life and to act accordingly.
    He took a grave chance with his life by either judging or hoping that this criminal would not shoot him first
    But I guarantee this young man one thing…he is extremely lucky that it is in the Cayman Islands that he has pointed a firearm at an armed police officers and lives to tell about it.
    Even in the United Kingdom, where these restrictive laws on firearms, self-defense and offensive weapons originate…
    Had this guy encountered an armed police unit and pulled a gun on them…
    His family would now be planning his funeral…guaranteed.

  9. And a bit of advice for this young man…
    When they do find you…and they will.
    Make sure you’ve shed that gun, son.
    You won’t have a crowd to hide behind and you’ve had your one chance
    Best give yourself up…they might just shoot you on sight this time.
    You’ve given them every reason to.