Cornwall in mourning

16-year-old student killed in brazen gun attack

Observer West reporter

Thursday, January 11, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James - UP to late yesterday evening, members of the Crime Investigation Branch were interviewing a man taken into custody in connection with Tuesday night's grisly murder of promising Cornwall College student Mark Williams.

Reports are that about 9:20 pm, gunmen ambushed the student's stepfather, a police corporal, at the intersection of Tucker and Meadows of Irwin roads, and sprayed bullets on the motor vehicle, he drove to pick up the 16-year-old student.

The student, who was returning from a bible class in John's Hall, St James, had just got off a taxi and was heading towards the vehicle when the shooting started. He started to retreat, but a bullet reportedly caught him in the chest.

The teenager was taken to the Cornwall Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The gunmen reportedly fled after the cop returned the gunfire.

According to a highly placed investigator, the cop, who is a witness in a murder case, had been receiving death threats in recent times.

An impeccable Jamaica Observer West source disclosed that they are probing to determine whether the ambush was a result of the matter in which their colleague is a witness.

Meanwhile, yesterday morning when the Observer West visited the Montego Bay-based institution, tears flowed uncontrollably down the cheeks of students and teachers.

Speaking at a general assembly at the prestigious high school, the dean of discipline, Robertino Gordon, encouraged the grief-stricken students to vent their feelings.

“Gentlemen [students] talk to your friends and all who want bawl, bawl. Nothing is wrong if we cry because we are all hurt. The guidance department stands ready to support who may need that kind of support,” Gordon assured.

And speaking from the same platform, Sidonie Jeannite, the school's guidance counsellor, rued the rampant violence in the society.

“What has happened is something that is taking over the society. I want us to find a way to assist the police force, to assist the Government to get the guns off the road. I want to say to the Government who leads us at this time that it cannot continue like this. It just cannot continue like that. We cannot be in a country, just 10 days gone [in the new year], and we are way over 40 murders. We just cannot continue like that. I don't know what they will be able to do... they are the experts,” the guidance counsellor said.

The school's acting principal, Lecia Allen, whose face was a picture of grief, noted that the entire school community was blanketed in gloom.

“To say the least, it is heart-rending to see that we have lost another member of our community. The school is not taking it well at all. Students are devastated, staff members are devastated. The staff members are in counselling, the students are in counseling. In fact, we had to have the entire upper school in counselling this morning,” the dejected principal lamented.

“This is indeed a sad day for us.”

She noted that grief counselling was provided by a trauma team from the Ministry of Education with “support from guidance counsellors all over”.

In the meantime, she described the slain student, who was involved in cricket and photography, as a good student who was discipline, cooperative and humble.

“There is nobody who had a bad word to say about Mark. Students from other schools also have to be in counselling because they were close to him, and he would have impacted their lives in such a way that they are grieving now. That's the kind of student that we have lost,” Allen remarked.

Yesterday, Minister of Education, Youth and Information Senator Ruel Reid denounced the murder of the student.

Reid, in a release from his ministry, said that the “brazen killing of the teen demonstrates the blatant disregard that criminal elements in the country have for human life”.

The ministry informed that Williams, who was preparing for his School Based Assessment and looking forward to graduation in June, has been characterised as a bright, friendly and warm young man who had a passion for learning and was very involved in activities at school.

The education minister urged anyone who may have witnessed the incident to honour this young man's memory by coming forward and telling the police what they know. This, he said, will assist in giving his family justice.

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