Fatal police shooting recounted at inquest

Barrett’s killing ruled a lawful death

The Courthouse Building in downtown George Town. – photo: Taneos Ramsay

The events surrounding Cayman’s first fatal police shooting in at least three decades were described in graphic detail last week at a Coroner’s Inquest, which ended Friday. A jury unanimously found the Jan. 6 killing of Jamaican national Norval Barrett was a lawful death.

Leading up to the verdict, Magistrate Eileen Nervik read sworn statements from officers involved in the deadly incident, as well as Cayman resident Marsha Kelly, who was Barrett’s girlfriend.

Statements by Kelly suggest that Barrett – a convicted robber who was here illegally – was in Cayman at least partly because of his romantic connection to her.

According to Kelly’s statement, the woman first met Barrett in July 2010 when her then-husband brought him to their home.

Soon thereafter, Kelly and Barrett became close to each other – unbeknownst to Kelly’s husband.

“I was basically cheating,” she stated.

Later that year, Kelly and her husband were both stabbed and hospitalized.

Barrett visited them at the hospital, according to Kelly’s statement. While there, police searched him and found he had a knife.

Barrett was taken to the George Town Police Station, where officers discovered that he was in Cayman illegally. They also suspected that he was involved in multiple robberies that had taken place around that time, and arrested him on suspicion of those offenses.

Barrett would be convicted on one armed robbery charge in 2011 and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. His sentence was later reduced to nine years by the Court of Appeal.

While in prison, Kelly continued to see Barrett, bringing soap and other supplies to him at Northward and “speaking on the phone with him for hours,” according to her statement. Kelly’s husband found out about the relationship in 2013. The two separated and later divorced.

When Barrett was released from prison and deported in August 2016, Kelly and her youngest daughter traveled to Jamaica to be with him.

However, the relationship soon soured, and Kelly stated that she and her daughter came back to Cayman weeks later.

Suspecting that Barrett was cheating on her, Kelly changed her number and ceased all contact with the man, she stated.

But early one morning last December, Kelly said she awoke to a tapping on her George Town apartment window. When she looked outside, she saw Barrett standing there.

“I was shocked,” she stated, adding that Barrett came to Cayman again with a shipment of marijuana. “I told him he can’t stay here, that he cheated on me … He said, ‘Baby, I never cheated and I would never do that. I love you and I want to be here.’

“I said, ‘I moved on.’ But I didn’t.”

Over the next few weeks, Barrett would stop by Kelly’s house occasionally to eat and shower, but would otherwise stay elsewhere, she said.

Around Christmas, Kelly said she saw Barrett’s picture in the media, and that there was a manhunt for him.

“I told him he has to leave,” she stated. “He said the weather is too bad and the boatman won’t come and get him. He said he was staying in the bushes because, ‘I can’t trust anyone.’”

Even though Kelly suspected that police might be watching her premises, she still allowed him to stop by, according to her statement.

“I still wouldn’t turn my back on him,” she said. “I’m a mother, a sister; I have love.”

Kelly also said her feelings for Barrett were rekindling. About a week before the shooting, he asked her to go back to Jamaica with him and get married. She said yes.

Meanwhile, police were closing in on Barrett’s whereabouts.

According to police statements read by Ms. Nervik – the names of the police were kept off the record because they have allegedly had their lives threatened in relation to the case – detectives had information suggesting that Barrett would sometimes sleep in a car outside of Kelly’s apartment. They also had information suggesting that he had a firearm, and that he may have been involved in more robberies, they stated.

Treating Barrett as armed and dangerous, police planned to apprehend him by employing an operation with nine tactical officers, a K-9 unit, and other police.

Around 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 6, those officers gathered at the George Town Police Station to plan their course of action. Their briefing included information that Barrett was staying at Kelly’s apartment that day, according to statements read by Ms. Nervik.

Indeed, Barrett had come over to Kelly’s around midnight that day, according to her statement. The two fell asleep in Kelly’s bedroom.

Several hours later, Kelly stated that she woke up to pounding on her door and shouts of, “Police, open up!”

Dressed only in sleepwear, Kelly told officers she would open the door when she put more clothes on.

When she was going back to her bedroom, Barrett was walking past her toward the back door. Just as Barrett exited through the back, police kicked in the front.

Behind the apartment, two tactical officers were positioned about 15 feet from each other. According to the officers’ statements, when Barrett appeared in the rear door entrance with a .357 revolver in his hand, the officer to the right shouted at Barrett, “Armed police. Drop your weapon!”

Instead of dropping his weapon, Barrett turned toward the officer and began to point his handgun at him. That is when the officer to the left yelled the same command, according to his statement.

A “surprised” Barrett swung his weapon around to aim at the officer on the left, and started walking toward him.

“I started to back away slowly,” stated the officer to the left. “Seeing what he was doing, I became further fearful for my life …. Resigned to the fact that he was about to shoot me, I discharged one round from my MP5 carbine in his direction.”

But that did not stop Barrett, who continued to advance, according to the officer’s statement. Still retreating, the officer fired several more shots.

“I cannot recall how many times I fired at him, as I was now focused on saving my life,” he stated.

The officer then tripped backwards on a rock and lost control of his rifle.

Stunned, the officer stated he attempted to draw his pistol, but experienced trouble, “due to my state of anxiety.”

“I was defenseless,” he said.

With Barrett “no more than five feet away from me and still advancing,” the officer said he thought he was going to die.

Then, the officer heard a loud explosion and saw Barrett stumble past him toward the front of the apartment.

“I then felt a touch on my right shoulder and heard [the other officer] asking me if I was OK,” he stated. His colleague had apparently shot Barrett in the back of the head, saving the downed officer’s life, according to his statement.

The two officers approached Barrett, who was lying face down on the ground with his gun about six inches away from his hand, the officers’ statement said. After kicking the gun further away, they called for medical officers, who tried to resuscitate Barrett to no avail.

Barrett, who was 34, was pronounced dead at 6:16 a.m. at the George Town Hospital.

Kelly, for her part, was arrested on suspicion of harboring an illegal immigrant and taken to the Prisoner Detention Centre. She claims that police hit her and dragged her across the pavement in just her underwear and blouse during her apprehension. Police stated that she was resisting arrest and that they used reasonable force to ensure her cooperation.

Kelly, 34, was charged with that offense, and her case is still in the Summary Court.

In May, prosecutors ruled that no charges would be filed against any of the officers involved. This decision was reached after an independent review of the incident by police officers from Bermuda.

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