Jerome Jamaine Cunningham, 25, was sentenced on Friday to 10 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to an attempted robbery in which he fired two shots, one of which wounded a security guard from an armored truck.
The incident occurred around 6:40 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2017, along Eastern Avenue, which Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards described as a busy street with shops and pedestrian traffic.
Ms. Richards said an armored vehicle from Cayman Armoured Courier Services went to the JN Money Transfer business on Eastern Avenue to make a collection. The security officer went into the premises with a courier bag while the driver was parked close by.
Having collected funds from the business, the officer was re-entering the vehicle and was on the step to the back door when he heard a voice saying “Yo!,” Ms. Richards said. “He looked in [that] direction and saw the accused running towards him and shouting, ‘Don’t move.’ He then heard a gunshot. He threw the money bag into the truck, got in quickly and slammed the door. When he did this, he heard another gunshot,” she said.
The security officer had been wearing a bullet-proof vest. The bullet from the first shot lodged inside his vest, but caused a graze mark to his chest. He was taken to hospital where the injury was treated as a burn that was bleeding. Ms. Richards said the guard was discharged from hospital that night, but had to return to be checked for the next month.
The injury left a permanent scar that would remind him of the incident for the rest of his life, Ms. Richards noted. A victim impact report indicated that he still suffered emotional impact in the form of flashbacks; he was paranoic and hyper-vigilant. He had been encouraged to seek counseling.
The day after the robbery attempt, Mr. Cunningham phoned a police inspector, arranged for a meeting and confessed. “He said that he did it in order to prove how dangerous the streets of Cayman are,” Ms. Richards told the court.
Mr. Cunningham also revealed where the firearm was. Officers went to the location and recovered a Ruger P95DC handgun and two live rounds of 9-millimeter ammunition.
CCTV footage from a store near JN showed the incident as the security guard had described it. It showed that, as the armored vehicle drove up, Mr. Cunningham was inside a nearby store purchasing items. He exited the store and approached the vehicle.
When interviewed, Mr. Cunningham said he worked near the location, as a barber, and had acquired the firearm two days earlier. He said he was 7 to 10 feet away from the guard when he fired the first shot at the door of the van, which he did as a warning shot.
Defense attorney Jonathon Hughes told the court that Mr. Cunningham had moved to Cayman to earn a better salary than he had in his home country. He believed he was exploited by his employer because he was working for commission alone, which led to financial hardship. He had gone to the Labour Board to complain that the employer was not paying him the agreed salary, but nothing came of his complaint.
Mr. Hughes said he initially had reservations about his client – so much so that a report was requested as to fitness to plead. Mr. Cunningham had wanted to plead to everything from the first time he was in court, the attorney said. A psychiatric examination did show evidence of a personality disorder, he noted.
There was some degree of premeditation, he agreed, but the opportunity for the robbery arose while Mr. Cunningham was shopping. He was wearing ordinary clothes at the time and did not have his face covered. It was never his intention to hurt the guard, and the only reason he did not plead guilty earlier was because he never saw any evidence of what the injury was.
Mr. Hughes submitted that his client deserved consideration for his “almost unheard of degree of cooperation with police,” by phoning the officer, confessing, reporting the gun’s location and submitting himself to the judicial system.
In passing sentence, Justice Wood noted that he had seen photos of the security guard’s scar, calling it an unpleasant injury. He said it was not surprising that the incident had a serious effect on the man. The judge said he had never accepted Mr. Cunningham’s supposed motive, but to the defendant’s credit, he had later admitted he attempted the robbery to get money. It was also to his credit that he contacted police and revealed the location of the firearm.
The judge said it was significant that the first shot was fired from a distance of 7 to 10 feet “very close indeed … extremely serious.” If the man had not been wearing a bullet-proof vest, Mr. Cunningham might have been in court on a more serious charge.
He was initially charged with attempted murder, but that was not proceeded with because of the guilty plea to wounding.
The attempted robbery would have merited a sentence of 14 years, but because of the guilty plea, the judge said he gave full credit, bringing the sentence down to nine years and eight months. The firearm sentence would have been 15 years because Mr. Cunningham had carried it loaded in public and then discharged it. Because of the guilty plea, the judge reduced this term to 10 years.
Sentencing for the ammunition was two years, and for the wounding, two years and eight months. All sentences were made to run concurrently and the defendant is to get credit for his time in custody. On completion of this sentence, the judge said, he had no hesitation in recommending that Mr. Cunningham be deported.