BIG GANG BUST
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Fitz Bailey on Thursday said the writing is on the wall for another major anti-gang trial, this time involving the Tesha Miller faction of the St Catherine-based Klansman gang, following Thursday’s takedown of 13 alleged members.
The arrests bring to 31 the total number of individuals with alleged ties to that criminal organisation now in police custody.
Bailey told journalists during an emergency press briefing at Criminal Investigations Branch headquarters in St Andrew that the 13 individuals were rounded up during a major anti-gang operation at several locations in St Catherine which targeted the “section of the gang under the direction of incarcerated leader Tesha Miller o/c Hombre” which has its roots in the De la Vega City area of Spanish Town.
“It’s an anti-gang investigation, so they will be charged under the legislation. They are going through an administrative process; they will face identification parade, and those that have been identified, if they are identified, and we go through a process of interview, then the appropriate law will be applied. They are suspected to be involved in very serious crimes,” DCP Bailey said.
He said the individuals now in police custody are the sworn “enemies” of the rival Andre “Blackman” Bryan faction of the gang, 15 members of which are now serving sentences following a trial which ended this year. Bryan is among those convicted and sentenced.
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, who had tried the matter sitting alone, several times during the lengthy trial had voiced concerns about the number of defendants and the resources required and called on the State to establish a special facility for such matters.
On Thursday, DCP Bailey, who has responsibility for the crime portfolio, said during the operation one suspect, 29-year-old Suman McFarlane o/c Max, who reportedly “challenged the security forces”, was fatally shot. Cops said three illegal firearms and a quantity of ammunition were seized at the location. In addition, a motor vehicle, cash, luxury items and brand name clothing with an estimated value of $3 million were seized at a location in Old Harbour during the raid.
“Today’s operation culminated a nine-month-long investigation led by the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Branch, which resulted in a series of arrests over the period. Those persons are being held for several offences, including murders and shootings,” Bailey told journalists.
“Our investigation has linked the Klans gang to at least 800 murders since 2014. In 2018, gangs accounted for 80 per cent of the murders committed within our country. This year, 67 per cent of the homicides recorded have been attributed to gang violence,” the crime chief said.
Noting that the gang disruption strategy of the constabulary with support from the Jamaica Defence Force has been reaping success, DCP Bailey said “2024 will be a different year for us. We will be stepping up our activities. It doesn’t matter where they hide, we are going to find them”.
The Klansman gang is currently listed among the top five criminal organisations operating in Jamaica, with most of its activities centred in Spanish Town and surrounding areas. Its influence, however, has spread to Clarendon, Manchester, St Ann, St James, and Kingston.
“The JCF will continue its focus on disrupting criminal organisations wherever they are identified. We will use our skills, competencies and technologies in our quest to create a secure environment for our citizens,” DCP Bailey said, noting that Jamaica’s crime problem is the greatest threat to achieving the country’s 2030 goals.
Convicted felon Miller is currently serving 38 years and nine months at hard labour for orchestrating the 2008 slaying of then Jamaica Urban Transit Company Chairman Douglas Chambers. He was convicted in December 2019 and sentenced in January 2020. The possibility of a retrial is, however, looming because of two thorny issues relating to the interpretation of the legislation under which Miller — who was charged with the offences of being an accessory before the fact and after the fact for the killing — was convicted in the Home Circuit Court. The alleged shooter in that incident, Klansman lieutenant Andre “Blackman” Bryan, had been acquitted after a 6-1 majority verdict of not guilty was handed down in the Gun Court Division of the Home Circuit Court in 2016 following his trial there.
Miller’s legal team, on the basis of that acquittal, has been contending that a no-case submission for Miller should have been upheld, based on Section 35 of the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act under which Miller was tried.
In June this year, prosecutors, in their final submissions to an appeal mounted by Miller, entreated judges of the Appeal Court that if they find that Miller’s conviction has to be quashed, then the court should order a retrial.
That ruling is yet to be handed down.
In March this year the authorities’ quest to gut the gang recorded success when 15 of 33 accused members of the Blackman faction were convicted for murders, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and membership in a criminal organisation following a trial which began in 2021. The testimonies of two Crown witnesses, who are ex-members of the gang, helped prosecutors topple key members of the criminal outfit, including Bryan, who was sentenced to 39 and a half years behind bars when the matter concluded in October this year.