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Teen of Jamaican ancestry among Florida school shooting victims

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has confirmed that one of the 17 victims of the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was of Jamaican ancestry.

She is 17-year-old Helena Ramsay, the ministry said in a release yesterday, pointing out that the information comes following constant communication between the Consulate General of Jamaica in Miami and the country and federal offices.

According to an Associated Press report, Ramsay was soft-spoken, but also smart and a go-getter, her cousin Sefena Cooper said last Thursday.

The 17-year-old junior especially loved hanging out with friends and family, “and for this to happen is heartbreaking”, Cooper said, the Associated Press report continued.

“Although somewhat reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanour brought the best out in all who knew her,” another relative, Curtis Page Jr, wrote on Facebook.

“She was so brilliant and witty, and I'm still wrestling with the idea that she is actually gone,” he wrote. “She would have started college next year.”

Another cousin, Jamie Page, called Ramsay “a genuine, beautiful, and smart human being who had so much potential and the brightest future”.

“We extend deepest condolences to our Jamaican brothers and sisters and the families and friends of all victims as they mourn the loss of their loved ones. We continue to pray that the students, faculty and families who have been affected will find strength to overcome this traumatic and horrific experience,” Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, is quoted as saying in the release from the ministry.

Parkland, a largely residential area to the west of Broward County, has a small population of Jamaicans or individuals of Jamaican heritage, the release said.

The ministry said, based on the last official census conducted by the United States Census Bureau, there are some 201,665 Jamaicans in Florida.

Meanwhile, the former student accused of killing the 17 people at the Florida high school appeared in court yesterday for a procedural hearing — his first public appearance since he was held without bond on charges of premeditated murder.

Nikolas Cruz, dressed in orange prison garb, sat with his head bowed during the brief hearing before Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale.

The hearing dealt with whether to unseal a defence motion related to access to their client, a minor point in what is certain to be a lengthy prosecution and trial.

Cruz, 19, has been charged on 17 counts of premeditated murder, one each for the students and staff who were shot to death last Wednesday during a killing spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

He was remanded to custody without bail at a hearing last Thursday after his arrest the day of the shooting.

— Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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