On 23 Jan. 2015, Dolyn Powery-Ebanks’ worst nightmare came true when her 20-year-old-son David Ebanks was shot and killed while waiting for his meal at a local restaurant.
Six years later, she still mourns her son, hoping that his killers will be brought to justice.
“It just hurts to know that there are people out there that have done it and know of something,” Powery-Ebanks told the Cayman Compass in her first sit-down interview since her son’s murder in early 2015.
Ebanks’ murder is one of over 20 cold cases being looked at by the RCIPS Serious Crime Review Unit, headed by Detective Sergeant Peter Dean.
This Compass monthly special investigative series, in partnership with the police, delves into cases like David’s unsolved murder, which detectives at the unit are actively pursuing with fresh eyes to help deliver justice to families.
A promising life cut short
Powery-Ebanks said Ebanks’ dream was to be a certified mechanic and he was on the path to achieving that goal when his life was cut short. Having graduated from the Passport2Success programme Ebanks applied and got accepted at Superior Auto for its apprenticeship programme in 2015.
“David was very, very excited about the programme and three weeks into the programme on January 23rd, 2015… David’s life was taken suddenly from him. He had just got… that opportunity to be the certified mechanic that he always wanted to be, and he just had so many hopes on fulfilling his dream,” Powery-Ebanks said.
She said his life was taken from him unexpectedly and sadly, “because it was unnecessary. It was through an act of gun violence.” Powery-Ebanks remembered her son fondly, as they had a close relationship.
On 23 Jan. the mother of two said she had been unwell and had spoken to her son throughout the day, not knowing those would be her last conversations with him.
“I know that there are people out there that could probably help us in some way… trying to solve his case. I’m just pleading with anyone that is out there that knows anything, that if they could come forward and just give us whatever they could help us with,” she said.
Powery-Ebanks, who struggled at times to keep her composure was supported by her husband Brad Ebanks – David’s step-father, said “David was a very polite, kindhearted person”.
All she wants, she said, is justice for her son. “I’m just heartbroken and I can’t describe really how I feel… I just have to think of him and that day… it’s like it’s new every day,” she said as her eyes welled with tears.
Quick stop for food ends in murder
Dean, who is heading the investigation into the case, named ‘Operation Albatross’, said each case under the team’s review is treated with equal priority, but, for him, Ebanks’ death resonated.
“I didn’t know David personally and no doubt he was like most 20-year-old boys. I can remember, although it is a long time ago, my own behaviour and immaturities at 20 years of age, and David wasn’t afforded the opportunity of making a life for himself… making himself a well respected member of the Cayman community… and that was taken away from him,” Dean said.
According to the team’s review, Ebanks’ killing was a “targeted murder”, but he was not the intended victim. “Any murder is sad, but this is [an] incredibly sad set of circumstances,” Dean said.
The detective said, based on the case file, on the evening of 23 Jan., Ebanks was socialising at Kelly’s Bar on Birch Tree Hill Road in West Bay.
“Whilst he was with other people, a vehicle was driven onto Birch Tree Hill Road. Men have got out of the vehicle and they have attacked David and his colleague. Both David and this other man tried to make their escape. David ran into the backyard of the house opposite Kelly’s Bar,” Dean said, as he described the sequence of the murder.
At that point, Ebanks had already been shot twice. “He succumbed to his injuries at the back of the yard of this house. It was clearly, immediately identified as a homicide,” Dean said. The attackers fled in their car which had been stolen, the detective said.
“Just a few minutes later, there was a vehicle fire quite near to the scene of the murder. That vehicle was totally burnt out. We believe that was the vehicle that was used by the offenders.
“There’s a lot of people, I believe, have information in the community that can assist us,” he said. Although Ebanks was not involved in gang-related activities, Dean said his murder did have “gang connotations to it”.
He stressed that the police consider it paramount to ensure the confidentiality and safety of anyone who comes forward with information. “That’s what we’re trained to do. We will not put anybody’s life or safety in any danger,” he said. Ebanks’ case, he said, is still in the review stage.
The team is going through the original investigation with a “fine-toothed comb”, looking for all potential evidential avenues that can be pursued.
“Maybe allegiances might’ve changed. What was the tight friendship in 2015 might not be so tight,” Dean said, adding this may help get information on what happened in Ebanks’ murder. He said bullet shells were recovered from the crime scene, which is also another path to be investigated.
However, the public’s support is key to the unsolved case, he said.
“If the members of the public who do have information come forward, then it can catapult our investigation forward in order that we come to the right conclusions, evidence-based with exactly what happened, why it happened and what was involved in killing David,” Dean added.