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Commissioner doubts accident claim after deadly training exercise

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 01, 2013    

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SIX senior firearm instructors were yesterday interdicted with immediate effect by the police high command as a high-level team opened a probe into a training exercise that went wrong, resulting in the death of a constable and injury to five others at the Jamaica Police Academy (JPA) late Wednesday night.

Yesterday, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, at a news conference, labelled as "suspicious" the incident that claimed the life of 20-year-old Constable Ricardo McKenzie, who was assigned to the Mobile Reserve.

"The silence of the persons who had positions of responsibility raises doubt about the theory of an accident... and it is causing me concern as to whether there is any attempt to cover up what occurred," Ellington said hours after visiting the injured cops in hospital, as well as the JPA.

Earlier yesterday, the police had said that a female officer was among those injured in the mishap that occured at approximately 11:00 pm on Wednesday night.

A total of 27 officers participated in the training exercise.

The police also announced that Commissioner Ellington had temporarily closed the Tactical Training Village and the shooting range at the JPA.

Ellington also ordered that all Standard Operating Procedures and established protocols regarding firearms training be immediately reviewed.

In addition, he said that all police officers who took part in the training exercise have been swabbed and all weapons used in the exercise are now in the custody of the investigators.

Meanwhile, the Independent Commission of Investigations and the Inspectorate of the Constabulary are investigating the incident that, up to last night, police officials declined to discuss further.

The police also announced that the head of its Chaplaincy Services Unit, Bishop Dr Gary Welsh, made contact with the family of the policeman who died, and is to visit the families of the injured cops.

Yesterday morning, Bishop Welsh met with and counselled members of the Mobile Reserve.

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