Four out of the seven shooting incidents that have occurred since April, in which three people were killed, were gang-related, Deputy Police Commissioner Kurt Walton has confirmed.
Two fatal incidents occurred this month, within days of each other: the first on 1 July on Martin Drive and the second on 9 July at Vic’s Bar on Seymour Drive. Mark Andre Ebanks, Eldon Charles Walton and Wayne McLean lost their lives in the shootings.
With those statistics in mind, Walton, speaking on the 14 July episode of the Cayman Compass weekly Facebook talk show ‘The Resh Hour’, called for the community to join with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to help stamp out gang activity.
“We need to create a culture where bad people don’t feel they can commit crime and get away with it… where the good people, the decent law-abiding citizens, say, ‘Enough is enough and we are going to do the right thing and come forward and speak to the police… provide information’,” Walton said.
He added it cannot be a police-only approach to dealing with the spike in gang and gun activity.
“If you have pertinent information… or evidence that you are able to provide, engage with us,” he said.
Since the start of the year there have been 28 firearm-related crimes, Walton said. Last year, according to the RCIPS 2020 crime statistics, there were 30 in total.
Hot spots declared after multiple-victim shootings
Walton said police have heightened armed patrols in the areas of Martin Drive and Seymour Drive as well as other key locations now designated as hot spots following shootings and violent incidents.
The deputy police commissioner said the level of criminality, particularly the 9 July shooting, was concerning as “without a doubt the persons involved in this had no regard for others that would have been outside [the bar] at the time”.
Walton said police investigations and the review of CCTV footage obtained from various sources showed two shooters were involved, firing indiscriminately on the crowd outside Vic’s Bar.
“You can actually see on the CCTV cameras where individuals were really running inside of the bar through the door, and they were falling over each other, and shots were still being fired. These individuals had no regard for human life… total, just total, indiscriminate shooting at that point,” he said.
He said 40 spent shells were recovered at that scene.
In the Martin Drive incident, police believe there was a shootout.
Walton said these recent incidents, while gang-related, do not speak to specific outfits in the traditional gang sense.
“What we’re seeing now is more loosely associated persons… still part of gangs, whether it’s familial, whether it’s geographical locations or whether it’s just… people that you grew up knowing in the same community… It is not what you would expect of a gang,” he said, explaining that in the United States there are about 13,000 gangs identified through, for example, a specific tattoo or specific type of clothing.
In the Cayman Islands, he said, that is not the case.
Walton said he investigated Cayman’s first gang-related shooting back in 1995 and since then the country has gone through peaks and troughs of those types of incidents.
A gun amnesty, he said, is being considered but the priority is solving the spate of shootings.
Community action needed
He said gun crime bothers him not only as a police officer, but as a Caymanian and a father.
Speaking before the death of Eldon Charles Walton, Walton said: “Since 1999, we’ve lost 47… 47 young men as a result of gun crime. If that’s not enough to strike to the very hearts of individuals, then what is? The amount of mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and close family friends that are grieving as a result of that, it’s really unbearable”.
He added that the death of 4-year-old Jeremiah Barnes in 2010 should serve as a tragic reminder of the futures lost as the result of these crimes.
Right now, he said, there are 33 people in Northward prison for firearms possession, with 15 people serving time for murder, three on remand and two currently in prison in the UK.
On a personal level, Walton said, it is “sad” to see what is happening.
“We’ve had this situation where you’ve got a complete breakdown in the social fabric of society, and you’ve got a situation here where… gangs think that the only way to solve the problems is to kill each other. There are really only two things that happen… you end up in a cemetery or you end up in prison. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
Walton said the reality is police need people to come forward and assist in taking guns off the street.
“It’s the only way that we can progress our investigations. It is significant to get people to come forward. There are measures that we can take to protect persons,” he said.
Walton said there is witness anonymity legislation and options under the Justice Protection Act to protect informants.