Shattered dreams, grief and anger in Lionel TownSunday, June 13, 2021
CLARENDON, Jamaica — Twenty-one-year-old Kevaughn Salmon's dream of being a soldier ended Saturday night during an incident that left him and his 17-year-old cousin Janoy Blair dead, six others injured and residents taking to the streets today in a fiery protest.
Salmon's mother Sherpon Baker struggled for composure, often losing the battle, as she spoke about the son she knew. He was a member of the Hayes Police Youth Club, was friends with many police officers and often went with lawmen to serve food to people quarantined because they had contracted COVID-19, she said.
“Mi affi keep strong enuh, mi affi keep strong because a nine a dem mi have, and one gone now lef eight. Mi no hear nutten from di police all now, dem plant all gun pan mi pickney, mi pickney weh do soldier test the other day,” she told OBSERVER ONLINE as she wailed, adding that Salmon had planned to make another attempt at the test.
The distraught mother said her son, who lived with his grandparents in Top Hill, in the community of Hayes, was returning from a grave digging exercise for his paternal grandfather when the incident happened.
Salmon and Blair died after the vehicle they were travelling in crashed into a light post in the vicinity of the Watsonton Church in Lionel Town. According to the police report, a team of officers was doing spot checks in the area about 8:55 pm when they signalled the driver of a Nissan AD Wagon motor car to stop.
The driver reportedly disobeyed, sped away and the police went in search of the vehicle, eventually finding a crash site with a number of people gathered.
According to the official police report, shots were fired at the lawmen as they approached, they returned fire but no one – neither lawmen nor the individuals at the scene of the crash – was injured.
The police reported that after the shooting stopped, eight people who were identified as occupants of the car were seen with injuries and were taken to hospital for treatment.
Salmon and Blair were pronounced dead on arrival while the others were being treated up to late this afternoon.
On Saturday night, as word of the incident spread in Lionel Town, residents converged on the hospital to get details on the occupants of the car.
Fuelled by reports that police had fired on the vehicle without provocation, they took to the streets in front of the Hayes Police Station from as early as 5:00 am today in protest.
They used debris and old tyres to block the road at three separate points. On at least two separate occasions a fire truck from May Pen had to be called in to put out the raging fires.
Superintendent in charge of operations in Clarendon Christopher Phillips' appeals for calm went unheeded and, at one point, as soon as soldiers cleared the blazing roadblocks residents had erected, they mounted them once more. Up to late this afternoon a joint police-military team was maintaining a presence in the community.
As the residents protested, they voiced their scepticism about the official account of the incident.
Charmaine Adams, who said her 17-year- old son Devonte is currently in hospital 'battling fi life', was so distraught she could not recall his last name. His account of the incident, she said, differs from the police's version. Devonte, she said, was among a group of eight young persons on their way to Lionel Town to drop off friends.
“While driving they saw a police vehicle chasing them. My son said stop di car and ease down and mek we talk to the police dem. When the car stop the police dem start shoot up di car so di guy drive off back so till him go crash up inna one light post,” she told OBSERVER ONLINE.
Her son, she said, has been good to her and before he was injured in the crash he had talked about them going into business together but she instead urged him to focus on himself, then help her when he became successful.
“Mi seh alright nuh worry yuhself because me know seh when you make it inna life you will help me. So don't take di likkle you have now and waste it pan mi, you soon come out inna life come help mi,” said Adams.
She is now waiting to see what the future holds for her son.
Saturday night's incident has been reported to the Inspectorate and Professional Standards and Oversight Bureau (IPROB) and, as with any police-involved shooting, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is investigating. So too are traffic investigators.
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