Gun crime is the “scourge of the Caribbean,” a judge warned as she sentenced a 23-year-old man to six years’ imprisonment for pointing an imitation firearm at police officers.
Jonathan Welcome was involved in an armed stand off with police in George Town in April.
He escaped after pointing the weapon at officers but was later arrested and was convicted of possession of an imitation firearm with intent to resist arrest after a trial last week.
Visiting judge Dame Linda Dobbs told Welcome, who she said had a long and unenviable list of previous convictions, that he was on a slippery slope and urged him to use his time in jail to turn his life around.
“Think about what you are going to do for the future. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life in prison,” she said.
“It is not being a man, carrying a gun. Cowards carry guns,” she added. “It takes strength to say no.”
Earlier, a jury heard how Welcome, carrying a handgun, was spotted by police on School Road, George Town, in the early hours of April 17. He was pursued by armed officers but fled the scene after pointing his weapon, later discovered to be an imitation firearm, at police and bystanders.
Summarizing the evidence, the judge said, “The officers were clearly concerned for their safety, taking cover where they could. The two members of the public must have been petrified.”
If the weapon had been a real firearm, she said, he would have been automatically sentenced to 10 years behind bars. Though there is no similar mandatory minimum sentence for imitation firearms, she said, there was clearly a correlation.
“Gun crime is the scourge of the Caribbean and the Cayman Islands has not escaped this.”
She said offenses involving firearms had risen in the territory and were becoming a “serious problem.”
An imitation firearm, though clearly not as dangerous as a real gun, possesses the same capacity to inspire fear in victims, she added.
For those reasons, she said, she sentenced Welcome to six years in prison. Among Welcome’s previous offenses is the robbery of BlackBeard’s Liquor Store in Grand Harbour in 2011. The robbery became famous locally after two bystanders wrestled the weapons off Welcome and his accomplice, chased and apprehended them, telling them “Not today, Bobo.”