It has been another violence-filled week in Jamaica. And included in the violence was the shooting up of an illegal taxi by the police, according to witnesses including the driver, which resulted in a schoolgirl who was a passenger being shot and injured. This happened on Thursday morning, when the taxi was transporting a number of students on their way to school.
That afternoon, a young man selling at a traffic light approached my car and, making a gesture of winding down the window, signaled that he wanted to talk to me. I put the window down and he asked if I was the lady he sometimes saw on TV talking about INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigation). When I replied yes, he began what I can only call a pouring out of his heart.
It was about the shooting of the Alpha schoolgirl. He was angry and in pain. He asked if people pickni can be shot just so and nothing come of it. He said that police can’t just shoot up a taxi because they have something with the driver, and they don’t even know who is in the taxi. It cudda him madda eena di taxi an im neva know. How im would ah feel den? Eeeh? Dem nuh care.
He went on to talk about the police harassing the taxi drivers, who he said were not stealing. They were trying to make a living, to send their children to school. Like him, he said. Mi out yah ah sell fi support my family. Ah di same ting dem ah do.
He asked if I had heard what was happening downtown, and spoke about the protests, with road blocks and fires being set in some places. I said I had heard about it before I left home. He said people were doing it because they heard that the schoolgirl had died. I said that I had heard that was what had sparked the protests but on the radio they had reported that she was still alive. No, he said, from two o’clock wi hear seh she dead. (She is actually still battling for life in hospital.)
I told him that INDECOM said they were already investigating the case and that they would be giving an update as soon as they got more information.
The light changed & the line of traffic moved forward, and the young man walked beside the car and continued to talk when I stopped again. He told me that he had recently been backed up by a policeman, right out here, he said. Him seh him goin shoot mi. Mi ask him if him tink him cyan shoot mi an nuttn goin’ happen. Dem tink is di whole ah Jamaica nuh know nuttn.
As the traffic light changed again, he said he heard the policeman had been taken in. Dem mus charge him, he said. And the last words I heard as I drove away were – But dem shuddn even try him. Dem should jus do him what him do di likkle girl.
Layers upon layers of violence. Which is why the investigations and the formal justice and accountability systems must work and must be seen to be working.
Responses to the Shooting
INDECOM issued this press release yesterday:
INDECOM PROBING SHOOTING INJURY OF 15-Y-O ALPHA STUDENT
June 30, 2016 – The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has launched an investigation into the shooting injury of a 15 year old female student of the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha). The incident occurred at the intersection of North Street and Mark Lane at approximately 7:15 a.m.
The student underwent emergency surgery at the Kingston Public Hospital and is now recovering in the Intensive Care Unit.
The report received by INDECOM is that a man operating a “robot” taxi transporting students of Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha) was allegedly stopped by police. It is also being alleged that after the taxi had stopped, the police opened fire at the vehicle hitting the student.
A team of investigators and forensic examiners responded to the incident following the report. The incident scene was processed; the motor car in question was also processed; investigators collected statements from witnesses to the incident.
The Commission is asking anyone who may have witnessed or can provide any information about the incident to call or visit its office in Kingston at 1.876.968.1932, or call our mobile number at 1.876.878.0167. Persons are also encouraged to call our new Toll Free Lines: 1.888.991.5555 or 1.888.935.5550.
NB: In the Commission’s 4th Quarterly Report for 2015, the issue of shooting at vehicles was discussed extensively. We invite members of the media and the public to peruse the document with a view to understanding the policies and legal issues related to incidents of this nature. Visit our website: http://www.indecom.gov.jm (Click on Reports then “The 4th INDECOM Quarterly Report”)
During a discussion on Nationwide News Network yesterday, Commissioner of Police Carl Williams made the following comments while responding to several questions from hosts Cliff Hughes and Dennis Brooks:
No police officer came forward to report that incident, and so we are going based on the allegations that have been made. We have started investigations already, to identify the…if police officers were involved and, if police officers were actually involved, we will identify them, not some time from now but very soon. And they will be subject to the fullest consequences.
We still have ballistic evidence that we can pursue and so we also can narrow down to police officers who were supposed to have been in the area at the time.
We heard that it was an unmarked police vehicle…an unmarked vehicle…
…if it were a police vehicle, no shots should have been fired. Unless a police officer is, unless his life is threatened or unless the life of someone from the community, a citizen, is threatened, the police are not authorized to fire their weapons. We have gotten to the point where it is not even okay for the police to fire their weapon when justified; it is okay to fire when justified and when it is necessary for the police to fire. Because there are instances in which there might be justification but it might not be necessary. And so it must be necessary and it must be justified before the police can fire their weapons. That is how we have been able to manage in the last two or so years. And that is how we have been able to reduce the number of fatal contacts between the police and citizens. And so if it were a police officer’s …if it were police officers in this situation, then certainly that would have been inconsistent with the policy and the direction that the JCF is taking at this time.
(Transcribed from recording of Nationwide News Network interview with COP Carl Williams by Cliff Hughes & Dennis Brooks, 30-6-16)
The 2015 4th Quarterly Report mentioned in INDECOM’s press release is worth looking at both for its information about the issue of firing on vehicles and for the picture it gives of the reporting INDECOM does about its cases, investigations and work.
I hope that the child who was injured recovers fully. I hope that those who shot her are found. There is much urgent work that needs to be done, as we keep finding ourselves at the point of having to express similar hopes over and over again.