Update 10am Wednesday: A George Town man, 32, was arrested early Wednesday on suspicion of arson in connection with Tuesday’s fire involving two police vehicles.
The man, who was not identified, has not been charged and is now in police custody.
Initial story: Two new Royal Cayman Islands Police cars being outfitted for patrol service at a George Town auto dealership were set on fire early Tuesday, in what the police commissioner called an “unacceptable attack on law enforcement.”
It was the second time this year that an arsonist targeted vehicles connected with police. In early February, two personal vehicles belonging to a senior police officer were deliberately set alight outside the officer’s George Town home. A third vehicle burned in that incident belonged to the officer’s next-door neighbor.
Severe damage was caused early Tuesday to one of the patrol cars parked inside the security fence on the south side of the Vampt Motors Ford-Toyota dealership lot. The second police vehicle, parked next to it, had its interior seats and steering wheel damaged by flames. The fire was considered suspicious due to the two distinct points of origin.
Cayman Islands Fire Service crews were called just before 3 a.m. to extinguish the fire. All vehicles were unoccupied and no one was hurt.
Four police vehicles were parked at the dealership lot at the time the fire broke out, but only two were damaged.
“This is an unacceptable attack on law enforcement and government property,” Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said Tuesday. “It will impact the patrols those vehicles were intended for, but more importantly, [it] appears to be a continuation of reckless arson attacks on vehicles around the island last year.
“Such behavior endangers everyone and must be stopped. We are asking members of the community to come forward with any information.” No arrests were immediately reported.
The string of arson fires Commissioner Byrne referred to happened in February, starting with the attack on the senior officer’s home in the Ryan’s Retreat subdivision. A raging overnight fire in that incident singed the officer’s home, destroyed the two vehicles and damaged a third one parked next door.
When contacted by the Cayman Compass, the officer said they did not know why the vehicles had apparently been targeted.
“I am frightened for the life of my family,” said the officer, who said two children live in the home where the cars were targeted. “I am scared that my kids are going to look at me and say … ‘I can’t live in my own house.’
“If anybody out there knows anything … I’m asking them to go forward and contact the police.”
No arrests were reported in connection with the vehicle fires in Ryan’s Retreat.
Another four car fires were reported around Grand Cayman – three on Valentine’s Day and one three days later – but there were no connections made to police in any of those incidents.
Shots fired, superintendent attacked
Attacks on local police have not been limited to vehicle arsons during 2018.
Two armed robbery suspects were involved in a shoot-out with RCIPS officers in early March during a pursuit. The two suspects were believed to have been involved in a robbery on March 3 at the Czech Inn outdoor eatery in Bodden Town.
According to police, officers tracked down the suspects at Victory Avenue in Prospect. The men left their vehicle and ran, firing shots at the pursuing officers. The police returned fire, but it was not believed that anyone was hit in the exchange. One man has been arrested and charged in connection with the robbery.
In October 2017, a senior RCIPS officer was attacked during a traffic stop. Two men were charged in connection with an attack on Superintendent Peter Lansdown that left the senior investigator unconscious and hospitalized for several days.
Mr. Lansdown was in full uniform at the time of the attack. Police said he stopped at the scene of a car crash along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway when one of the suspects allegedly punched the superintendent in the face, knocking him down. He was subsequently treated for a broken rib and stitches.
That case is now before the Court of Appeal.