Pain and gratitude

Pain and gratitude

Cop grateful for award, but says slain colleagues' absence burdensome

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

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With what has been the singular most painful event of his career, and one of the longest four months behind him, District Constable Lothan Richards described his walk to collect a Badge of Honour for Gallantry, with the knowledge that his “teammates” could not do the same, as the most difficult ever in his lifetime.

Richards — the sole survivor of the four cops shot in a mortal battle with a gunman in Horizon Park, St Catherine, in June — was among hundreds of Jamaicans honoured in this year's Ceremony of Investiture and Presentation of National Honours and Awards, which was pre-recorded and aired yesterday, National Heroes' Day.

The district constable, Superintendent Leon Clunis, Corporal Dane Biggs, and Constable Decardo Hylton, on the morning of June 12, were among a police team who came under intense gunfire during a special operation to apprehend an armed criminal. In the terrifying incident, Biggs and Hylton were shot dead, while Richards and Clunis were seriously injured and hospitalised. Clunis, however, died on June 30.

The three were awarded posthumously, while Richards accepted his award in person.

In an August interview with the Jamaica Observer about the pending award, an anguished Richards had been uncertain as to whether he would have taken that walk when the time came in whatever fashion. The exercise, which traditionally would have been held on the lawns of King's House in St Andrew with hundreds in attendance, was this year limited to a virtual presentation due to the current novel coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking with the Observer yesterday following the airing of the ceremony, the cop explained the battle he faced in the moment.

“I don't even know what to say. I am grateful for the award, yes, to know that I am, in my time, actually receiving such an award, but to hear my team members' names called and they weren't able to walk that walk just the same as me, it put a burden on me, you know,” he told the Observer with a heavy sigh.

The flashbacks in the familiar space called “work” without the familiar faces of his colleagues add to the “burden” he feels, the cop admitted in-between pregnant pauses, heavy with contemplation.

“Every morning I go to work the team has a special place where we all would sit,” he noted in giving the Observer what a typical day would consist of. With his landscape forever changed, Richards, who says he is on the mend, but has not yet returned to the streets, is insistent about one thing as far as his crime-fighting days are concerned.

“There is no hesitation on my part to resume duties; there is no fear, I am looking forward a hundred per cent to that,” he said resolutely.

In the meantime, the organisers of yesterday's event, which was light years removed from what Jamaicans are accustomed, received high praises from general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, Reverend Karl Johnson, who was one of several conferred with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander for exceptional contribution to religion and community development.

“I want to commend the powers that be for thinking outside of the box and for putting on what I would say, by and large, was a well choreographed and well presented production. It really speaks well of our country and shows creativity,” Johnson said, while confessing that he did not feel “any sense of loss in terms of missing the pomp and pageantry”.

Of the recognition conferred on him he said, “there are so many of us who just serve without any desire for credit or accolades; we serve because it is part of our whole orientation and shaping, and we do so not looking ahead as to who will see, but only the person who would be impacted, and the lives that will be touched and uplifted. However, if and when the authorities acknowledge one of us, we accept on behalf of all the others.

“I thank God that He has given me the opportunity and avenues to serve Him and country. I am grateful, but I am also quite conscious that it isn't about me.”

For this year's awards, one individual, Orlando Patterson, received the Order of Merit; five the Order Jamaica; 31 the Order of Distinction Commander Class; 40 the Order of Distinction, Officer Class; four, the Badge of Honour for Gallantry; 26, the Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service; 20, the Badge of Honour for Long and Faithful Service; three the Medal of Honour for Gallantry, while 71 members of the uniformed groups received the Badge of Honour.

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