An illegal immigrant convicted of robbery in the Cayman Islands in early 2011 was shot dead by police officers Friday morning after he had returned to the islands and was being sought on an arrest warrant.
The fatal shooting is believed to be the first shooting of a criminal suspect by Royal Cayman Islands Police officers since at least the 1980s, according to Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis, who has served in the department since then.
“None of us here at RCIPS are aware of an incident like this [previously],” Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said during a Friday press conference.
The dead man was identified to the Cayman Compass as Norval Barrett, 34, of Jamaica. Commissioner Byrne said the suspect was the subject of a search warrant being served in the Windsor Park area of George Town around 5:30 a.m. Friday. Mr. Byrne declined to independently confirm Barrett’s identity, citing the ongoing investigation.
According to police accounts of the incident, the suspect left a residence on Theresa Drive with a firearm. Mr. Byrne said armed officers fired “a number of shots” and injured the suspect. He was transported to hospital and pronounced dead at 6:16 a.m. Friday, police said.
Mr. Byrne said he could not confirm whether the suspect fired any shots at police, although he said that was being looked at. The firearm recovered by police at the scene was loaded, Mr. Byrne said.
The warrant obtained by police called for a firearms search and the detention of a man, age 34, of Jamaica, according to a police press release.
Just before Christmas, the RCIPS put out a public warning regarding Barrett, who was sentenced in 2012 to 12 years in prison for a robbery at the Shedden Road Esso station on Aug. 18, 2010. His sentence was later reduced to nine years by the Court of Appeal.
Barrett was deported from Cayman after he was released from prison, but the RCIPS reported during the holiday period that he was believed to be back on island illegally. “Anyone who sees Mr. Barrett should exercise caution as he could be potentially dangerous,” the December press release noted.
Mr. Byrne said the officers involved in the shooting were receiving counseling over the incident, which he said can be difficult for officers to cope with.
Officers from the Bermuda Police Service arrived in Cayman over the weekend to conduct an independent review of Friday’s shooting, Mr. Byrne said, to ensure “transparency and independence.” It has been the practice in recent years for police departments in the overseas territories to conduct such investigations of high-profile incidents.
The number of times police have been involved in shootings over the past decade can be counted on one hand.
Although the department has not had an officer-involved fatal shooting of a suspect in modern times, there have been incidents of police using their weapons
Last November, officers involved in a search at a Prospect-area home in response to gang activity shot and killed a bulldog that they said was released on them.
“In order to ensure their safety and arrest the suspect, the threat was neutralized by one of the armed officers who discharged a single shot that fatally wounded the animal,” an RCIPS statement noted at the time.
In 2011, a police officer shot at the tire of a vehicle on the waterfront in a case that involved a police pursuit. No one was injured.
In April 2013, officers were fired upon during a pursuit through George Town. None of the officers was hurt.
In November 2009, the RCIPS reported that a shot was fired through the window of a patrol vehicle driving along Shedden Road early one Saturday morning. A police constable in the vehicle suffered what were described as minor injuries related to the shooting. No arrests have been made.