Western News

Tense Calm

Grange Hill residents move to address crime following last week's mass murders

BY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporter

Thursday, May 10, 2018

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GRANGE HILL, Westmoreland — A tense calm is prevailing over this community in the aftermath of last week's mass shootings which left seven people dead, including a two-year-old boy and another boy aged 11. More than a dozen people were also injured during the gun attacks.

The deceased have been identified as 22-year-old Tristan Brown; 21-year-old Joyan Myers; Odane Drummond, otherwise called “Ziggy”; Nadine Rowe and her 11-year-old child Nicoy Bourne; Sheldon Morgan Sr, and his two-year-old son Sheldon Morgan Jr.

The police have pointed to lottery scamming as the root cause of the bloody onslaught in four separate gun attacks in the Sterling, Fullersfield and the Top Lincoln sections of Grange Hill, last week Tuesday.

Speaking to the Jamaica Observer Westfollowing a well-attended stakeholders meeting at the Grange Hill Anglican Church Hall on Tuesday, commander of the Westmoreland Police Division Superintendent Gary McKenzie noted that the security forces have so far been successful in restoring order in the community following last week's carnage.

“At the moment there is calm and we intend to keep it that way. In fact, we have intensified our efforts, and this meeting is about ensuring that all the community members and important stakeholders are aware that they have a part to play. So, going forward, we hope that we can make the kind of progress that is necessary,” Superintendent McKenzie stressed.

But Westmoreland Western parliamentary representative Dr Wykeham McNeill expressed disappointment at what he described as the premature withdrawal of members of the security forces from the area.

“Quite frankly, you come in and if you come in and just do a face card, you have a lot of people just sitting back for you to leave and as soon as you leave they are just going to come right back at you again and its harder the second time. So what we are insisting on as a community, and me as a Member of Parliament, is that there must be sustained presence of the security forces. We can't have a situation where they don't have a police car or transport. We need all of these things, but it cannot be a short term,” Dr McNeill insisted.

“While the commander (Superintendent McKenzie) has given us his assurance, already some persons are saying the soldiers have gone. A camp was set up; we don't see them (soldiers). It cannot be like that. We need a sustained presence.”

Following the shooting spree in the community, there was an increased presence of members of the security forces in the area.

Listing the successes since the security forces flooded the area in a quick response to the mass killings, McKenzie said two of five wanted men who were listed by the police last week have since turned themselves in.

The names of the men released last week include four wanted for murder and one for shooting in the parish.

The police had also released the names of five other individuals whom they had classified as “persons of interest.”

Superintendent McKenzie disclosed, too, that a number of people, approximately 23, have also been arrested for various crimes committed in and around the Sterling, Kings Valley, Top Lincoln, and Paul Island areas of Grange Hill.

Last week, Commissioner of Police Antony Anderson, revealed that a person of interest and 13 others wanted for various criminal activities in the parish have been arrested.

During Tuesday's stakeholders' meeting convened by Dr McNeill, a committee was established to find ways to address the social issues dogging the community.

“Deal with that security issue, which is the responsibility of the state, then we will deal with the social issues which are our responsiblity as a community,” Dr McNeill said.

Among those in attendance at the stakeholders' meeting were justices of the peace, members of the clergy, school principals, teachers, and other community representatives.

Koren Fraser Williams, principal of Peggy Barry Primary and Infant School located in the area, observed that the community has descended so deep into disorder, that even the young students are now threatening to go for guns whenever they have disputes at schools.

Councillor for the Grange Hill Division Lawton McKenzie posited that the outburst of criminality in and around Grange Hill has been festering for the past decade with the advent of five squatting communities.

Dr McNeill, who argued that there are five hotspots in Westmoreland, noted that from as far back as five years ago he envisioned last week's catastrophe in Grange Hill.

In fact, he pointed out that on no less than three occasions, he had signalled to Parliament that the parish was “a powder keg which is about to blow up”.

“I saw it coming. It blew up in Grange Hill, but it could have easily have been in anyone of our five (hotspots) communities.

He reflected that about five years ago there was also a reign of terror in the parish by the Alma Gang, led by Torneal Haughton, alias “Malta”, who was killed in a firefight with the police.

“The gang was dismantled after the leader was killed in a shoot-out, but we have seen over the last two years an increase in problems not just in Grange Hill, but Westmoreland as a whole,” McNeill outlined.

The underlying cry at the stakeholders meeting was to take back the community from the grip of the hoodlums.

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