Massacre at Barnes Avenue... 7 years on
OCTOBER 5, 2005 is not a date that Randall Brown will forget any time soon, if ever.
That's the date his mother, father, sister and niece died in a fiery attack by gunmen in the volatile section of the St Andrew South constituency .
Residents remember the blood-curdling screams of his 10-year-old niece, Sasha Brown, as she called out to her neighbours for help as fire ravaged the house she was locked up in seven years ago almost to the day.
The remains of the house at 3 Barnes Avenue are overrun by weeds and wild flowers. The almost tranquil scene belies the ghastly reminder of how cruel people can be to each other.
Randall was next door on the fateful morning, he tells the Jamaica Observer. He recalled the gunshots vividly; running from the house, down the street and into another dwelling for cover. He didn't know he was running away from what would be the scene of heinous and senseless killings.
The house was shot up and set on fire by masked gunmen. Gerald Brown, 60, his wife Dorcas, 50, and their daughter Janice, 25, were killed along with Sasha. The young girl's mother was living in another community nearby.
According to police reports, the thugs threw Molotov cocktail bombs into the house and then stood guard with their automatic weapons at the ready, preventing anyone from going to the dying family's assistance.
One neighbour recalled being in his house wanting to help but hearing shots being fired whenever moves were made towards the ill-fated family and their home.
At the time, the Kingston West police said the motive for the attack was unknown, but speculated that it was the result of an ongoing gang feud.
Residents showed the Sunday Observer the building where the gunmen stood observing their gruesome act, firing at would-be good Samaritans.
"It was the worst thing I've ever seen," said one man who declined to be identified.
"Trust me, sometimes I think about it and wonder how people can stay so. Wickedness that," he said, looking at the charred, weed-covered walls of the house which was once home to a happy family.
Randall hasn't been doing so well since. He makes a living doing leather craft, but that's not enough. He's had run-ins with the law and chalks it up to the absence of his parents, who he said always helped him out in a pinch.
Residents of the community have had to counsel him through the grieving process, which he admits has been a long one.
"It seems I'm not to die 'cause that could have..." he said, his voice trailing off leaving the sentence unfinished.
They weren't the best of times for a community which has seen more than its fair share of crime and violence.
Since then, the police have made significant progress in eliminating the criminal elements in that area and even the residents say they feel safer.
The Stinger gang, which allegedly carried out the Brown family murders and sustained a reign of terror in the area, has since been eradicated.
Its then leader, Marlon "Little Wicked" Mattie was killed by lawmen in 2008.
Two years later, the new leader, Ricardo "Government" Wynter, was shot and killed during a gunfight with police in Hellshire, St Catherine, on July 22, 2010. He had been listed as a major person of interest following the Tivoli Gardens incursion two months earlier.
Three of his top henchmen, who went by the aliases "Zilla", "Bulla Head" and "Gwaan Bad", were arrested by police a week after "Government's" death. Three others were nabbed by the St Andrew South police a day before the gang leader's last hurrah.
Even with those arrests, the gang stayed active, as one fallen leader was replaced by another. The last, Dacian Pellington, along with a crony, was collared by cops last December.
Though closure is a long way off and the memories of that morning are anything but distant, the residents are grateful.
"It's a long time since anyone talked about it, we just want to know that people remember and want to stop such things", said one man in the group that gathered.