Gang-related violence that erupted within the past 48 hours in West Bay district appears to be the result of a revived feud between two groups and police attributed the incidents to “rising gang tensions” in a lengthy statement Wednesday.
“We have seen more than enough senseless killings and ruined lives.”
The violence culminated in the shooting of two people outside the Super C Restaurant on Watercourse Road around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.
According to police, shots were fired indiscriminately at a group of people standing in the parking lot outside the business. One man was struck in his lower body and taken to hospital in a private car. He was expected to survive. A woman was grazed in the arm by a bullet and also hospitalized.
There were reports that a third person had been hit by the gunfire, but police were unable to confirm those statements and no other victims appeared at hospital.
The two suspects involved in the attack emerged from the bushes across the street from the restaurant and ran away through a neighboring property after the shooting, according to witnesses. No arrests were immediately reported.
The shooting at Super C occurred about 90 minutes after a man was severely beaten at Kelly’s Jerk Stand on Birch Tree Hill Road. The victim in that 8 p.m. attack was set upon by about six men, according to witnesses. He suffered serious injuries, but was expected to survive.
Just before dawn on Tuesday, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service responded to a shooting call at a home on Birch Tree Hill Road. A bullet hole was found in one of the windows of the home, but none of the residents were there at the time.
It was not certain whether the shooting incident at the house, which occurred at 5:45 a.m., was directly related to the other two attacks that happened Tuesday night.
A statement from Acting Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis attributed the attacks to “gang-on-gang violence.” The rash of violence was believed to have occurred between the so-called Birch Tree Hill and Logwoods gangs in West Bay, whose feuds in recent years have left a number of individuals – mostly young men – dead.
“All resources will be brought to bear to tackle this as the safety of our citizens is paramount,” Mr. Ennis said. “We have seen more than enough senseless killings and ruined lives. The truth is that if you are involved in gang activities you will most likely end up in the same places as those who have followed this path – either spending a long time in prison or a final resting place of no return, with broken lives left behind such as parents and loved ones. This is the harsh truth of the matter and the unfortunate consequence of all gang activity.”
There were public concerns expressed about the possibility of the Logwoods/Birch Tree Hill feud resuming after the Oct. 1 killing of Justin Manderson outside Nectar nightclub in George Town. Manderson had been charged with murder in the January 2015 killing of Victor Oliver Yates which also occurred outside Super C in West Bay. Manderson was discharged from trial in July 2015 after witnesses backed out of testifying.
Manderson was injured in an apparent retaliation attempt for Mr. Yates’s shooting on Jan. 5, 2015 outside the Pop-A-Top liquor store in West Bay but survived with a wound to his wrist. On Jan. 23, 2015, David Ruben Ebanks, Manderson’s cousin, was killed in a shooting outside a Birch Tree Hill Road jerk stand, another apparent retaliation attack.
Following Manderson’s death last month, his father Jake and close friend Katina Anglin pleaded publicly for West Bay’s young men to forgo further attempts at “tit-for-tat” violence that killed five young Caymanian men in 2011 and another three in 2013 in suspected gang-related shootings, along with the two murders from last year. Mr. Ennis lauded Mr. Manderson’s public efforts in trying to quell the violence in the district.
“I would like to quote Mr. Jake Manderson who has eloquently called for peace and asked that those seeking revenge ‘leave it to God and the law.’ This is the best advice anyone can offer to those who are engaging in this violence. Another truth is that this is not just a police problem but a social problem, with parents probably turning a blind eye to the activities of sons and daughters, as we know that gang affiliation is gender-neutral. I also call community leaders to take positive actions and interventions to stop these senseless killings. It is better to try and save the life of a member of the community than to attend the funeral of the deceased.”
West Bay MLA Bernie Bush said Wednesday that he had been meeting with district residents who raised this issue of gang violence among a number of other matters to him.
“I hope that … cooler heads will prevail in this and talk to some of the younger ones,” Mr. Bush said. “This is not helping anyone. It’s time to stop this now.”