Double blow to JCF

Double blow to JCF

Sudden deaths of two district constables hours apart leave cops numb

By Arthur Hall Editor-at-large

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

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The police force is in mourning as news spread yesterday of the sudden deaths of two district constables from reportedly natural causes.

In the first incident, District Constable Tamara DaCosta, 42, who was assigned to the courts and detention section of the St James Police Division, died at Cornwall Regional Hospital on Sunday after complaining of feeling ill.

Hours later, 62-year-old Morris “Bigga” Walker was found slumped over in the barracks at Cross Roads Police Station in St Andrew, minutes after he had completed an 8:00 am to 6:00 pm shift. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“One death is hard, but two at one time saddens my heart. It has sent shock waves among district constables across Jamaica and members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force who we work with,” said Damion Pryce, head of the United District Constables Association in Jamaica.

Pryce said the sudden deaths underscore the need for his members to get regular health checks to deal with the demands of the job.

When the Jamaica Observer visited Cross Roads Police Station yesterday police personnel were in a sombre mood as they remembered their colleague who had been stationed there for his entire career.

Sub-officer in charge of the station, Inspector Hopelyn Henry, told the Observer that everyone was hurt by the death of the Walker, who had served at the station for some 35 years.

“Mr Walker was unflinching, he was dedicated to the task, and he would never complain. Even if he was not feeling well you would never know because he didn't complain,” said Henry.

“He was here at work yesterday (Monday) and he was in a very good mood and high spirits. We joked about a number of things. He had a pain in his leg and he told us that he sprayed some WD-40 on it and he was feeling better,” added Henry.

That sparked an outburst of laughter from people at the station as WD-40 is the trade name for a product used as a lubricant, cleaner, and rust removal for mainly metal parts.

“He was scheduled to go off on retirement on the 11th of June, so we were planning a function for him and we were really having fun yesterday. It seems as if he knew that he was going because he was in really high spirits, and I think he would have had a conversation with every member of the team yesterday (Monday),” said Henry.

The inspector said members of her team were mourning the well-liked district constable.

“We had a prayer meeting this morning (yesterday) and persons are going on because the work continues, but they are sad. It was a great loss. He was really the epitome of dedication and commitment,” added Henry, who was consoling one of Walker's nieces at the station at the time the Observer visited.

Walker's niece, Jennifer Butler-Murray, told the Observer that the family is struggling to deal with his sudden passing.

“My uncle was a family person. He always looked out for the family. I can tell you that as a family man Morris never let us down,” said Butler-Murray.

“He took care of one of my daughters until she left primary school, and I can tell you, Morris was a great guy,” added Butler-Murray as she confirmed that Walker's wife and children live overseas.

Meanwhile, DaCosta's daughter, 19-year-old Northern Caribbean University student Krisnashoy Spencer, was yesterday still devastated at her mother's sudden death.

“We were very close. She was my best friend. I miss her very, very much. I am still processing it,” Spencer told the Observer.

Spencer, who lives with her mother and grandmother at Providence Heights in St James, recounted that on Sunday her mother started to complain of chest pains, breathing problems, and a slight headache.

The cop was accompanied to a private doctor who recommended that she be taken to Cornwall Regional Hospital, where she was admitted.

Spencer said she went to visit her mother during afternoon visiting hours but received the unexpected news of her passing.

“She died in a hospital bed surrounded by strangers. I regret I wasn't there during her final moments to tell her I love her,” Spencer said. “She was an amazing person, always happy, always smiling, always pleasant, hard-working, just a friend to everybody.”

Pryce, who expressed condolence to the families of both cops, also described DaCosta as someone who worked hard.

A dejected Anthony Rodney, the western region representative for the United District Constables Association, was yesterday struggling to come to grips with DaCosta's sudden passing.

“Everybody is in a state of shock. We heard she was not well and she was up by the hospital, and suddenly to hear she just passed; nobody could believe it, nobody. Everybody went into a state of shock. Persons had to go up [to the hospital] and see for themselves to verify that she really died,” Rodney told the Observer.

“It is something that nobody expected. She was a jovial, hard-working person. She was never one who showed she had problems or anything like that.”

The United District Constables Association is also mourning the passing of Henrick Sailsman who will be laid to rest in St Elizabeth on Sunday, June 7.

— Additional reporting by Horace Hines

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