Cops tailed ‘Dudus’ for hours before pulling over car
CHRISTOPHER 'Dudus' Coke — Jamaica's most wanted fugitive — was captured yesterday afternoon in a police dragnet along the Mandela Highway in St Catherine.
The capture of Coke, who is wanted by United States authorities to answer drug-trafficking and gun-running charges, comes just short of a month after he escaped from his former stronghold of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston when the security forces stormed the community to execute an arrest warrant on him and restore order after gunmen loyal to him barricaded all entrances to Tivoli and launched unprovoked attacks on the State.
Coke was travelling in a car with the Rev Al Miller when he was held at approximately 4:00 pm at a motor vehicle spot check set up by the police who apparently had information that he would be travelling on that road yesterday.
A cop, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Observer that the vehicle in which Coke was travelling was being escorted by two cars carrying gunmen and that police officers were following the convoy for several hours. The cop said the car in front of that in which Coke was travelling was allowed to get away as Coke's capture was their main focus.
"He was the object of our attention and we wanted nothing to interfere with our efforts to nab him," said the cop. "Sometimes we have to weigh our options in matters of this nature," he told the Observer.
When the cop was asked what happened with the third car, which was travelling behind Coke's vehicle, he said the driver sped away on realising that Coke's car was pulled over by the police.
Yesterday, Miller told the Observer that he was taking Coke to the United States Embassy at Coke's request, as the fugitive had expressed his wish to waive his right to an extradition hearing.
Coke was transported to the Spanish Town Police Station where he was held for just over two hours before being transported by Jamaica Defence Force helicopter to an undisclosed location.
The incident caused tension in the town as large groups of heavily armed soldiers and police were called in to man the station and the Prison Oval football field where the helicopter landed.
Last night, a highly placed police source confirmed that Coke was wearing a wig when he was held.
The Observer was also told that Coke, who normally wore a beard, was clean-shaven at the time of his capture.
"When we held him the first thing he said was how he was happy that he was not harmed," a policeman said.
Yesterday evening, during a press conference at his office at Old Hope Road in St Andrew, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington refused to divulge details of Coke's capture.
"The circumstances of Mr Coke's arrest are the subject of an investigation and when the investigation is complete we will inform you," Ellington said.
The police also expressed an interest in interviewing Miller, who was instrumental in handing over Coke's siblings, Leighton 'Livity' Coke and Janet Coke. Leighton Coke was last week charged with shooting after police said he was positively identified by a witness.
"From our standpoint, we believe that he [Miller] needs to come in and speak with us because there are some questions that he needs to answer," Ellington said.
The police also said they were not informed that Coke had expressed an intention to waive his right to an extradition hearing.
"This afternoon before coming down here I spoke to all my senior officers and I asked each individual if they were a party to any discussion or agreement for the bypassing of the legal processes for Coke to be turned over to US Marshals. Each officer responded negative," Ellington said.
He also said the police would be working with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to get Coke before a local magistrate within 48 hours.
Under Jamaican law, Coke would have to express his wish to waive his right before a local judge before he would be handed over to US Marshals.
The police commissioner appealed to Coke's relatives, associates and sympathisers to remain calm and allow the law to take its course.
Coke's extradition request has been before the Jamaican Government since last August, but was being stalled by the Bruce Golding Administration on the ground that the evidence submitted by the United States was gathered in breach of Jamaican law.
However, faced with mounting pressure to resign after he admitted to sanctioning an attempt by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party to lobby Washington on the Coke issue, Golding announced on May 17 that the Government would sign the order to begin the extradition process.
But his announcement resulted in gunmen loyal to Coke blocking the entrances to Tivoli Gardens. On May 20, mostly female residents of Tivoli Gardens staged a peaceful protest on Spanish Town Road in support of Coke, and then marched through the streets of downtown Kingston. They urged the authorities to leave him alone and many said they were willing to die for him.
On May 24, after repeated appeals for the blockades to be taken down were ignored, the security forces entered Tivoli Gardens but were met with stiff resistance from gunmen who were eventually defeated.
A total of 73 civilians and a soldier were killed in the skirmishes. Two cops were also ambushed and killed by gunmen on the night of May 23 on Mountain View Avenue in widespread violence triggered by other gunmen loyal to Coke.
Since the May 24 offensive, Coke had been on the lam, and the police last Friday increased a $1.2 million bounty for his capture to $5 million.
The US authorities say they have nine co-conspirators who have given them information to build a solid case against Coke, who is the head of the notorious Shower Posse.