Reader caution: this report contains descriptions of the aftermath of a fatal shooting that some readers may find distressing.
Cayman’s recent spate of gun violence has brought back painful memories for grieving mother and gun-attack survivor Dorlisa Ebanks, who is calling for it to end before more innocent lives, like her 4-year-old son Jeremiah Barnes, are lost.
“We have to make a change,” Ebanks said during a recent interview with the Cayman Compass as she reflected on two multiple-victim shootings in Grand Cayman over this month.
Days later, on 9 July, Wayne Eron McLean was gunned down at Vic’s Bar on Seymour Drive. He was among six people shot in that attack. Since April, 16 people have been wounded in gun attacks.
Dorlisa Ebanks, founder of support group Against All Violence In Cayman, said those incidents are a stark reminder of her loss 11 years ago and the danger that gun violence poses to the community.
“The community and the islands are aware that this is a problem. This is an existing problem, and we cannot turn a blind eye to it,” said Ebanks, who lost her son in 2010.
“Nobody knows what we went through. What has happened, it is not that it does not faze me, but I am so grateful that it was not an innocent child like mine because losing an innocent child is unbearable and I just beg Cayman to stop, put the guns down. Do it for our children, do it for our future,” she sobbed.
On 10 Feb. 2010, Ebanks’s son was gunned down as he sat behind his father, Andy Barnes, who was driving the family car and had stopped at the Hell Gas Station in West Bay. Jeremiah’s father was the intended target. Ebanks was in the car at the time.
‘Learn from my son’s death’
The mother of four said she prays that no one ever experiences what her family has, stressing the only way for that to happen is for the violence to end.
The community and the islands are aware that this is a problem… we cannot turn a blind eye to it.
“I think it comes from the upbringing in the home and people’s outlook and perspective on things. It starts from how we raise our children. We know how we were raised, why are we forgetting our heritage and our morals? We have to extend those to the children as well. We were brought up to love each other. Everybody knows each other in Cayman,” she said.
Ebanks, a devout Christian, pointed out that the Bible says to be your brother’s keeper.
“Where did that all go wrong? But we need to bring that back. That needs to be in our upbringing,” she said.
On 8 July, Jeremiah would have celebrated his 16th birthday and, to this day, Ebanks and her family still grieve for him.
Ebanks cried as she recounted the tragic day her son was shot and prayed that no mother would ever witness that horror.
“I had to wipe my baby’s blood off of me. I had to pick his brain parts off of me… off of my panel that is still in my car,” she recounted, sobbing, as she said she wanted people to learn from her story and make a change for the country. She said she cannot understand how guns are making their way into Cayman and then into the hands of those perpetuating the violence.
“Honestly, I can’t wrap my head around all of this violence and all of this gun violence, especially. For the people who are doing these things… what are you thinking? Where is the problem? … [W]e need to get to the root of the problem, but why do you feel that you need a gun on your island?” she asked.
Everyone has to help
“Guns take away our right to life,” she added. “Once you fire that, you cannot turn back a bullet. Any gun-related type of incident [infringes] a human right… Why do we have these things? I don’t know. I encourage people to hand them in… speak up,” she said.
Ebanks said she believes part of the issue also has to do with the judicial system.
“It is flawed. Like we don’t get justice, so people are taking matters into their own hands… regretful as it is, these senseless murders and all of this, if there was a proper system in place, I’m sure that these things would not be happening. We just need to get to the root of it,” she said.
While she never got justice for her son’s murder, Ebanks said she has left that in the hands of God to deliver.
West Bay resident Devon Anglin was tried twice for the killing of Jeremiah and was found not guilty both times.
Ebanks urged those who know where the guns are or have information that can help the police to end the violence to come forward.
“I understand when you are in fear, but when someone is wrong, I don’t care who they are… wrong is wrong and right is right. My daddy and mama always told me that,” she said. Government needs to take the lead on fostering love and brotherhood in the schools, she added, as well as introduce a national pledge against violence.