Witness says army fatigue, masks found near alleged gangsters' homes

Witness says army fatigue, masks found near alleged gangsters' homes

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 24, 2020

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A police witness has described items of clothing, including masks purportedly worn by members of the Westmoreland-based King Valley gang during their exploits, as being “in good condition and were being worn”.

The cop, who was one of three lawmen called to give evidence in the trial of eight men alleged to be members of the gang in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston, yesterday told the court that the items were found during a May 2018 operation in the King Valley community of Grange Hill. The operation took place “as a result of an increase in criminal activities happening in the general space, and men from the King Valley gang were persons of interest”, the officer said.

The eight men — Carlington Godfrey, alias Tommy; Lindell Powell, alias Lazarus; Rannaldo McKennis, otherwise known as Ratty; Derval Williams, also called Lukie; Hopeton Sankey, alias Bigga; Christon Grant, alias Ecoy; Copeland Sankey, also known as Tupac; and Sean Suckra, also called Elder — are charged in an indictment containing 11 counts.

According to the policeman, the first find was made during a search of the two-bedroom board structure that was home to Sean Suckra.

“While there, I observed a square hole in the [ceiling] of the roof; I then took a chair and stood, and with the assistance of a flashlight looked over and I saw two masks,” the witness told the court, adding that “a Tommy Lee Vendetta mask and a Halloween mask”, were retrieved and shown to Suckra.

“I said to him, 'A dem mask ya yuh use when yuh a go rob an kill people?' He held down his head and said, 'Mi nah kill nobody, boss',” the witness told the court.

He said after searching that premises, the police team proceeded to search another for accused Derval Williams, but came up empty-handed as he was not at his dwelling. A search of bushes in the vicinity of the men's houses, however, yielded a “duffel bag containing army fatigue clothing and masks, army fatigue camouflage pants, a long-sleeved camouflage army jacket, an army cap, a camouflage tam with two eye holes, a green balaclava, a pair of black gloves, a pair of elbow pads, a black belt, and an army-coloured water bottle” hidden in an old car, the witness told the court.

He said he then asked Suckra, who was by that time in the back of a police pickup, if he knew about them.

“He said no, he live around the other side,” the witness said.

The witness told the court that the articles were taken to the police station and placed in a black plastic bag and stored under lock and key in his office.

The prosecution's main witness, giving testimony in the early days of the trial last week from a remote location via live video link, had claimed that members of the gang, including himself, wore masks, gloves and army suits, as well as hooded pullovers while carrying out various robberies and murders. He also told the court that these items were kept hidden in an old car, in bushes, and at their homes. He said the men's mode of travelling was usually by motorcycle.

When the prosecution moved to have the two masks put into evidence as exhibits, defence attorney Everton Bird objected, stating: “I wonder whether the prosecution has laid sufficient foundation for revealing them at this point based on the words of the officer… before taking them out and surprising us.”

He argued that it had not been sufficiently established by the prosecution which alleged members of the gang were said to have worn masks and queried whether Suckra had been named as one of the individuals who wore a mask.

Trial Judge Justice Bryan Sykes, following that observation, wanted to know: “How would this become an exhibit at this stage?”

The prosecutor leading the evidence replied: “The witness indicated to the court that masks were worn. It is evidence also that the men he said were part of the King Valley gang, they wore masks also. Also, Mr Suckra, who the witness indicated is a member of the gang, it is at his home that these masks were found.”

Said Justice Sykes, “So your argument is that the witness said he wore masks, including Mr Suckra?”

“He said 'we', mi lord”, the prosecutor replied.

“But he said some of the gang members are dead. We, as a matter of grammar, could have included the witness and at least one other person to get the plural 'we',” Justice Sykes noted, reading from his own notes before pointing out that Suckra was not among those listed by the main witness as one of those who wore masks.

Prosecutors then asked for the items to be marked A and B for identification, instead of as exhibits. In the meantime, the prosecution is to recall the main witness to identify the masks.

Meanwhile, defence attorney Alexander Shaw, holding for Denise Hinson, Suckra's lawyer, sought to prove that the witness had attempted to incriminate Suckra.

“You said you asked Mr Suckra about the masks you found in his house, would his answer have been relevant?” Shaw pressed.

“Could be,” the witness responded.

“At what point would you determine its relevance?” Shaw questioned further.

“Upon writing the statement,” the witness replied.

“Do you rely upon your memory when writing the statement?” the attorney wanted to know.

When the witness replied, “Yes”, Shaw said: “But... you would agree that nowhere in your statement did you include any question to Mr Suckra about the masks.”

When the witness replied, “At the time I didn't think it was necessary,” Shaw responded: “At the time you were making your statement you didn't remember any conversation between yourself and Mr Suckra because there was none.”

He further contended that the police officer had neither labelled nor sealed the items, and could not be certain the items shown to the court were the same ones originally found.

Another police witness, who took the stand later that day, told the court that he, in March of 2018, acting on intelligence, found Suckra at a nightclub in Savanna-la-Mar and had taken him into custody on suspicion of having a firearm in his possession. He said Suckra, when cautioned, said: “Unnu a waste unnu time.”

The trial resumes today.


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