Southside weeps for 11-y-o girl slain by gunmen

Observer staff reporter

Saturday, June 24, 2017

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TEARS flowed freely yesterday in the Kingston Central community of Parade Gardens, better known as Southside, as relatives and residents mourned the brutal killing of 11-year-old Taysha Hughes Thursday night.

Taysha, a Grade Six student of Holy Family Primary and Infant School located in the same community, was among three people who died in separate incidents following a clash between the rival Southside and Spoilers gangs in the inner-city community.

The three deaths were among seven reported in Kingston between Thursday night and yesterday morning during violent clashes.

The other two killed in Parade Gardens were identified as 26-year-old Richard Allen, who, like Taysha, resided at Fleet Street, and Nicholas Malcolm, otherwise called “Thick-a-Back”, of Wildman Street.

The Kingston Central police said about 10:00 pm, Malcolm, a reputed area leader, was among a group of people on Wildman Street, when a car drove up and the occupants opened fire. Malcolm, who was hit several times, died on the spot.

A 12-year-old boy was also shot and injured in the incident.

Half-an-hour later, while the police were processing the Wildman Street crime scene, they were summoned to Fleet Street where armed men invaded the community and opened fire, hitting five people. All five were taken to hospital where Allen and Taysha succumbed to their injuries.

Police theorised yesterday that the second attack in the community was in reprisal for the killing of Malcolm.

When the Jamaica Observer visited the community yesterday there were few dry faces as men, women and children mourned for their loved ones.

The cries became louder when police inspector Jacqueline Ricketts, who urged them not to retaliate, invited the residents to a devotion two yards away from where Taysha was murdered. Police chaplain Clive Campbell led the grieving residents in a devotion after which they held hands and prayed.

By this time, Taysha's mother Julia Herd, who had left the community after her daughter was killed, returned to the area. Crying uncontrollably, she held on to a family friend and had to be comforted by Inspector Ricketts.

Resident Raymond Walker, who assisted Taysha to the hospital, said he had just returned home from church and was speaking with a group of young men when he heard a barrage of gunshots.

“I was so shocked. I saw when the little girl fell on the ground crying out help, help, help! I couldn't even move to help her [immediately]. It pained my heart to know that a young miss was cut down by the hands of gunmen,” Walker said yesterday, as his voice trembled.

Walker, who has been residing in the community for almost 30 years, said the area is usually a peaceful one. “The devil just let loose; I don't know what could have caused this to happen last (Thursday) night for them to put a gun on a little girl and kill her. They don't have any love, it is really heartbreaking for me,” said Walker, who added that the situation took such an emotional toll on him that he could not make it to work yesterday.

He said he last spoke with the little girl on Monday this week. “I said 'Angel, I want you to behave yourself and don't follow bad company and I want you to take in your lesson because I want you to come to be somebody good in society' and she said 'yes, Uncle Raymond'.”

“It is very tragic. I knew her from she was a baby. These men are not preserving the future. If you see children and you doing these things, you no have no heart,” said another resident as he sipped a cup of alcoholic beverage.

Holy Family Primary and Infant School Principal Christopher Wright, who visited the crime scene yesterday morning, said Taysha was a hard-working student.

“She was always jovial, she would greet you with a beaming smile,” Wright said. Students at her school, he said, had taken Taysha's untimely death very hard.

“This is really, really sad. This one has touched me deep down in my soul,” Wright said, while noting that he had been anticipating working with Taysha who was slated to repeat Grade Six in September.

Wright said personnel from the Ministry of Education, however, counselled the students and teachers.

Senior guidance counsellor Marcia Richards also described Taysha as a pleasant student.

Flowers and condolence noted decorated Taysha's desk and the chalkboard, while some of the students sat in silence as they remembered their classmate.

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