Soldiers busted!

Soldiers busted!

Two held after ganja seized from military vehicle following shoot-out

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, October 15, 2020

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GUTTERS, St Elizabeth — Two Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers were taken into police custody yesterday, following a reported shoot-out and seizure of a large quantity of ganja in Gutters on the St Elizabeth/Manchester border on Tuesday night.

Acting commander for the St Elizabeth police, Deputy Superintendent Leroy Minott, told the Jamaica Observer by telephone that the soldiers engaged the police in a “gun fight” about 9:30 pm. Ganja and two firearms were allegedly seized in the operation.

The Constabulary Communications Unit (CCU), in a release, said the ganja seized weighed about 1,500 pounds. The St Elizabeth police, however, estimated the amount as 2,000 pounds.

“The police [were on] a narcotics operation [when] a JDF vehicle was intercepted. Two JDF soldiers [aboard the vehicle] engaged the officers in a gunfight. They were subsequently apprehended,” Minott said.

The CCU, in its release, said members of the Jamaica Defence Force assisted the police in the operation. “Reports are that about 9:30 pm a police team comprising of members of the Narcotics Division and the Westmoreland Division, assisted by members of the JDF, attempted to intercept a minivan in the area. However, the occupants of the vehicle reportedly fired upon the team and discarded packages as they attempted to flee.

“The vehicle was eventually intercepted and two men — who were later confirmed to be members of the Jamaica Defence Force — were arrested. The ganja and the vehicle the men were travelling in were seized. The vehicle is the property of the Jamaica Defence Force,” the CCU reported.

A release from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) initially said that the incident happened at Vineyard, which is close to Black River, in south-western St Elizabeth. But the army subsequently issued a release correcting itself, and corroborating the police version that the incident happened in Gutters.

The JDF release appeared to suggest that internal monitoring within the army triggered the anti-narcotics operation.

Said the JDF release: “The joint police/military team went to Gutters to intercept the soldiers who were suspected of carrying a quantity of marijuana. Both men were arrested and are currently in the custody of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. The operation and arrest is a demonstration of the JDF's robust internal monitoring system as well as the strength of the continued partnership between the JDF and JCF. The JDF continues to work closely with the JCF in their investigation.”

The JDF release made no mention of a gunfight.

The incident came as a shock to taxi operators and a vendor in Gutters, who spoke to the Observer on condition of anonymity yesterday.

“Solider and police are here to protect us, and if soldier smuggling drugs then what do they leave the civilians to do. Them [soldiers] wrong to be caught up in this...” the vendor said.

A taxi operator heard gunshots in the neighbouring community of Pepper.

“Mi stay a mi home and hear two gunshots, not loud. I couldn't tell which direction it a come from, but mi call mi wife and ask her if she hear, and [she said] she nuh hear nutten. It [drug bust] left mi fi wonder, because [these] are two military men,” the taxi operator said.

Another taxi operator chimed in, “A di fuss mi a hear bout this, but all a wi a human being.”

His reasoning was quickly challenged by a third taxi operator who encouraged people to stay clear of wrongdoing. “Who knows better must do better, nuh matter if yah soldier, police or pastor,” he said.

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