Chang says Dover shooting believed to have been gang-related
Dr Horace Chang (file photo)
Amid a probe by the police's Major Investigation Division (MID) into the shooting of nine persons, four fatally, in Dover, St Catherine earlier this week, National Security Minister, Dr Horace Chang, has said the incident could have been as a result of gang activities in the Corporate Area.
"The best information we have is that it (the shooting in Dover, St Catherine) is emerging from an earlier gang activity actually originated in the Corporate Area," Chang said while addressing a press briefing on Wednesday morning.
He explained that criminals, as was believed in the case of the Dover shooting, will travel from places downtown Kingston to rural communities to carry out attacks.
"So they travel out into northern St Catherine, which is miles away from downtown Kingston, but there is a cousin of somebody they wanted to hurt out of Kingston, and they go up there. When they get to these districts... they don’t look for one person, they shoot everybody they see on the streets. It is horrible and the police are looking at how they can mitigate that," Chang stated.
The national security minister said while criminals have been migrating to rural areas, it has become increasingly difficult for the police to keep track of these persons.
"It is the kind of activity that in the current state of policing, it is almost impossible to prevent some of these (shooting) activities, because it is at a distant from where the source seemed to have been. Most Jamaicans who live in urban areas have family in rural Jamaica. The criminals too, and you won't always find where all of them go to. While the police have built their intelligence, and often times we have been tracking people into rural areas, you cannot always keep track of all of them," Chang indicated.
He said some patterns developed by criminals in the country have become "dangerous".
Said Chang further: "It is a very dangerous and cruel culture that has emerged, which may be summarized... in one of our folk expressions, 'If you can't ketch quaco, yuh ketch him shut', and you get to the stage where criminals are now attacking the families of anyone they have a dispute with."
Despite the severity of the crime situation impacting the island, the island's national security minister said the security forces have to keep fighting.
"But really we have to keep fighting the fight and take the guns off the streets, and that's going to take some time," he stressed.
Chang argued as well, that there had been no dramatic increase in shootings across the country, but rather "more traumatic" cases, as with Tuesday night's horrific shooting in Dover, a farming district just outside of Kitson Town in St Catherine.
"There has been increased homicides in November, relative to the other years, but not a dramatic increase in shootings when you look at the actual numbers. Just that the character of the shooting has been far more traumatic... (as) in the case of Dover last night (Tuesday night) in St Catherine. Four died in that episode. A most unfortunate episode," he said.
Meanwhile, one of those killed is a close relative of Olivia Grange, the Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports Minister. He has been identified as 67-year-old Gladstone Grange, otherwise ‘Bigga’, a truck driver of Spring Garden, St Catherine.
Speaking on the matter at the press conference, Grange described the situation as heart-breaking.
Another family member of hers was also injured in the deadly gun attack.
"Two family members of mine were actually shot, one killed... They were actually in the square where they always gather. They play games; ludo, and you know there is a bar and there is a shop, and the shooting was just random, and in fact nine persons were shot; four dead, four taken to the hospital and one did not actually go to the hospital," Grange outlined.
She added, "... It really is a sad day for all of us because it is a farming community and a community that is really not occupied by gangs, and the persons who became victims are innocent people."
The other deceased are 38-year-old haulage contractor, Marcus White, otherwise called ‘Beba’, of Cherry district; 49-year-old bartender, Patricia King, of Dover district; and 46-year-old labourer, Dennis Pryce, otherwise called ‘Ninja’, also of Dover district, all in St Catherine.
Five other persons, ranging between the ages of 31 and 45, were shot and injured in the incident. One of them has subsequently been released from hospital, while three remained hospitalised up to days after the shooting. One did not go the hospital for treatment as his injuries did not require treatment.
It is reported that about 9pm, gunmen travelling in a car pounced upon patrons at a shop, where they were playing a game of ludo, and opened fire, hitting them.
The gunmen then fired at residents who were at a nearby bar, before escaping from the community.
The victims were assisted to a hospital, where four were pronounced dead.
Members of the community remain shaken and on edge, despite the presence of members of the security forces since the shooting.
The parish of St Catherine is presently under a state of emergency.