THE Corporate Area Coroner's Court has ruled that four police officers be charged with manslaughter for the death of Damion Roache, a mentally challenged man.
Warrants for the arrest of Corporal Fabian Johnson, Constable Omar Crossdale, Constable Garfield Wynter and Detective Corporal of Police Claudia Green have been issued by the Coroner.
Roache, 25, was shot dead by the police in November 2002 in the Olympic Gardens community. The autopsy report showed that Damion received five gunshot wounds with four shots to the back.
A release from Human Rights lobby group Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), said Roache was fearful of the police after witnessing someone being shot and killed by the police as a child. On the day he was killed, Damion ran when he saw the police, who allegedly opened fire in his direction.
JFJ said the police were in the White Wing Walk area reportedly searching for wanted men.
"They reported that three suspicious looking men fired at them and they returned fire and Roache was mistakenly shot when he ran in the same direction that the men ran. During what one policeman described as a 'running gun battle' none of the police personnel involved or any of the gunmen were injured. A civilian eyewitness however, gave evidence that the officers began firing as soon as Damian began running. None of the eyewitnesses reported seeing three men who engaged the police in gunfire," the release stated.
In 2004 an initial Coroner's Jury returned a verdict of accidental death. But JFJ contended in the Supreme Court that crucial evidence had not been put before the jury as the file before the court did not include all witness statements.
A new application was filed for a another inquest to be held which was upheld by the Court. The matter began again before the Coroner in 2008.
"JFJ laments the length of time taken for the matter to be concluded at the level of the Coroner's Court and hopes that the matter will move more speedily in the Circuit Court and that the rights of everyone involved will be protected," the release also stated.
JFJ is, however, heartened by the verdict despite the fact that it is nearly ten years since Damion Roache's death and wants to urge other families in similar situations to keep striving toward justice. JFJ salutes the Coroner for his perseverance in seeing the Inquest to its conclusion. JFJ also commends the men and women of the jury who continued year after year to attend the Court until the matter was concluded. We encourage the citizens of Jamaica, not only to voice the call for justice but to play an active role in the administration of justice.