A day of fear and chaos sparked by two murders

BY SHANAE STEWART
Observer staff reporter
stewarts@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

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The murder of a taxi operator and a Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) driver plunged the public transportation sector, in sections of Kingston and St Andrew, Spanish Town, and Portmore, into chaos yesterday, as their colleagues — seething with suspicion and anger — withdrew their services, inconveniencing hundreds of commuters.

Throughout the day, fear of reprisals mounted in the capital, forcing the JUTC to shut down the Half-Way-Tree Transportation Centre, while the education ministry urged schools to end classes early due to the impact the JUTC strike “is having on the ability of students and teachers to commute to and from schools”.

Mid-afternoon yesterday, family members, friends and several colleagues of 31-year-old Keeno Britton, also known as “Juvenile” the taxi driver who was stabbed to death Monday night on Washington Boulevard, allegedly by a JUTC bus driver gathered at the Total gas station in Half-Way-Tree to celebrate his life.

Britton, who was from Ambrook Lane, Kingston 10, died leaving 10 children, the youngest being one year old.

His wife, Nastascia Britton, was at the gathering and recounted to the Jamaica Observer the last time she spoke with her husband.

“I called him because my son was at school and mi seh, 'Babes, you see Gio?' and him say, 'Remember, Gio is at training,' and then him say, 'Babes, mi a go Duhaney Park now, so when mi a come up mi a go pick him up.'

“That was the last conversation we had. About 15 minutes after, I learned that he died,” she said.

“Seeing him, he may seem rough and you don't want to approach him, but knowing him, he was nice, easygoing, there for everybody, loved his mother, loved his kids, loved his family endlessly, and also his co-workers,” she said.

The distraught wife admitted that sometimes Britton would argue with some of his colleagues, “but by the end of the day them good again. Him come and him cuss them out and that's it. That's as far as it goes”, she said.

“His smile and his spirit were one of a kind,” she added.

According to Nastascia Britton, her husband started working as a bus conductor, then moved up to bus driver. “When they removed the 32 Coaster [bus] from the Duhaney Park route, he was the foundation of the shuttle [service] from Half-Way-Tree to Duhaney Park,” she said.

About 20 minutes after speaking to her, the Observer saw the slain driver's older brother, Dalton Britton, a few metres away from the gathering.

He told the Observer that he was trying his best to deal with the crushing news.

“Mi a try hold it, but every time mi see him picture mi waan cry, but a hold mi a hold it,” he said.

“It set a way where me and the man deh yah yesterday (Monday) a run joke, so when a man tell mi say him dead, mi a say a lie and run dem weh. Way inna eight o'clock, a man come and say, 'You know say Juvenile dead?' Mi just go buy seven Matterhorn and by you quint, mi done dem off. Right now mi nuh feel good. But mi hear say dem hold the guy and have him inna custody,” he said.

A man, who said that he was a colleague of the slain taxi operator and who declined to be named, was also in shock and unable to contain himself as tears ran down his cheeks.

Eventually he said: “Some bad driving thing gwaan and dem say like him pull up and the bus man come a him window and dem start argue and him mussi have a special drink and him mussi wet up the [bus] driver and dem say the driver go inna one bag and tek out a knife and stab him (Britton) in him neck,” he said, shaking his head.

“We just a hold a vibes right now. We cyaan work,” he said, adding, “A next driver, when them call him and tell him, him crash. Is like him space out. Juvenile deh a Half-Way-Tree from Wappy kill Phillup, and him teach me nuff things. Him always a tell me fi lef certain things alone. He was that type of person. Always a say nuh push no war,” the man said.

Amid animated chatter and singing in the crowd, one man was heard saying: “Bwoy, I don't know what kind of thing them deh pan, ennuh, but a foolishness. You can't just a kill anybody. Right now mi can a run taxi and a man can shoot mi, even though mi nuh have nothing to do with all wah a gwaan.”

His statement demonstrated the fear that gripped the city yesterday after speculation that the JUTC driver was killed in retaliation for Britton's murder, and several threats were issued, via social media, to taxi drivers operating along the Duhaney Park to Half-Way-Tree route.

According to the Half-Way-Tree police, about 10:24 pm Monday, 34-year-old Mikkel Donaldson, otherwise called “Biggs” of Bull Bay, St Andrew, who was employed to the JUTC, was killed shortly after Britton's murder.

Donaldson, the police said, had been dispatched to Oxford Road, St Andrew, where it was reported that a JUTC bus had developed mechanical problems.

“It is alleged that while he waited at the location, he was pounced upon and shot several times. He was pronounced dead at hospital,” the police said.

Angered by the attack, JUTC drivers decided not to work.

Throughout yesterday morning police were seen transporting stranded students to school.

It was later reported that taxi and bus drivers who opted to continue operations were charging double the normal fare. That resulted in the Transport Authority urging commuters to report all those who were charging the incorrect fare as it is an unlawful act.

Yesterday afternoon in Parliament, Transport Minister Robert Montague, who had earlier appealed for calm, told the House that the JUTC management was meeting with the drivers and their unions in order to resume service as soon as possible.

“We have had meetings with the unions, drivers, ministry staff and the police. They have consulted with the police, who have established a presence at all depots and along the routes. This is to provide assurance to the taxi operators, JUTC drivers, as well as the travelling public,” Montague said.

He also said that consultations have been held with various taxi associations in the Corporate Area. “They have assured normal service by their members. We have briefed the Opposition spokesman as well as other stakeholders.”

In addition, Montague appealed to the public to desist from creating voicenotes that seek to promote panic and spread rumours. “The constant rumours and allegations are not helping,” he said, and expressed regret at the loss of lives.

Opposition People's National Party (PNP) spokesman on transport Mikael Phillips urged calm among all players in the public transport sector and asked the police to ensure a safe environment for all workers and commuters.

Phillips also said the PNP was shocked at the killings, and expressed condolence to the families and colleagues of the murdered men.

He said that, while he understood the grief gripping the sector and the temptation to withdraw service, commuters should not be victimised.

The police have appealed to witnesses to come forward with any information they may have regarding the killings.


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