By Michael Jordan
DEATH IN SHERIFF STREET
Saturday, March 1, 2003 was quiet until the gunshots rang out. I was living in Hadfield Street, Lodge, back then, and the brief burst of gunfire had come from the direction of Sheriff Street.
I guess we were a bit crazy back then. While everyone else would be running from the sound of gunshots during those years of mayhem, crime reporters like myself would run toward the danger zone.
Within minutes I was in a taxi and heading to Sheriff Street.
The area where the shooting had occurred was a short distance from the area where Mandela Avenue and Sheriff Street merge, but by the time I arrived, the scene was clear and someone told me to head to the Georgetown Hospital.
At the hospital, there was a police vehicle and armed ranks entering and leaving the Accident and Emergency Unit. From hospital staff, I learnt that there had been a shootout between a patrol and a group of gunmen in a car, and that one of the bandits, of Indian ancestry, was dead, while one of his accomplices was wounded.
“The coolie one had a wig,” a woman near me whispered excitedly. I then saw a policeman near the Emergency Unit and noticed that he was holding a ‘rasta’ wig.
I slipped into the Emergency Unit just as a hospital attendant was taking the wounded bandit in a wheelchair to the X-Ray Department. Part of his face was bandaged.
But who was the slain bandit? While I was pondering my next move, someone slipped a folded piece of paper to me. Written on it was the name and address of the man the police had killed.
By then, my colleague Dale Andrews had arrived and we headed to the South Ruimveldt home of the slain bandit…where we learned that the ‘bandit’ was no bandit at all. He was a 19-year-old University of Guyana student and his name was Yohance Douglas.
On that fateful day, Douglas was travelling with three other friends, Ronson Gray, Quacy Haywood and O’Neil King, along Sheriff Street, when a five-member police patrol intercepted and opened fire on their vehicle. Douglas was killed while the driver, University of Guyana student Ronson Gray, was shot in the jaw.
The police version of events was that they were looking out for a car which had reportedly left Buxton with five men, when they spotted the vehicle with Douglas and his friends.
It is alleged that the ranks challenged the occupants to stop but the driver ignored the order. The ranks alleged that they attempted to shoot out the tyres of the vehicle. Instead, one bullet struck the driver, while another pierced the rear number plate and back seat before hitting Douglas.
In the wake of public outrage over the killing of a UG student, policemen Gerald Alonzo and Mahendra Baijnauth were charged with Douglas’s murder in April 2003. Lance Corporal Baijnauth was also charged with the attempted murder of Ronson Gray.
But reports surfaced that the two cops were spotted happily shopping in Georgetown even while they were on remand. The shopping sprees ceased abruptly after the media got wind of the story.
On February 17, 2004, Alonzo and Baijnauth were ordered to stand trial for Douglas’s murder. However, the charges of murder and attempted murder were subsequently dropped against Baijnauth, while the charge against his colleague, Alonzo, was reduced to manslaughter.
Two years after the slaying, a jury found Alonzo guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to six years. He served four years in jail before being freed on appeal.
NO JUSTICE FOR JERMAINE
On Wednesday May 22, 1996, a young man by the name of Jermaine Wilkinson was shot dead in Albouystown under questionable circumstances by a member of an IMPACT police patrol.
After two days and protests, the policeman, Robert Beresford, was charged with manslaughter. He was placed on $40,000 bail. But four months later, the then Chief Magistrate, K. Juman-Yassin, committed Beresford to stand trial for murder. Attorneys for Beresford challenged the ruling, and meanwhile, the accused cop was admitted to the Georgetown Public Hospital, allegedly suffering from an undisclosed illness.
The High Court subsequently quashed the Chief Magistrate’s order, and placed the accused policeman on $150,000 bail, pending the start of his trial. To this date, that trial is yet to begin and the original depositions cannot be located.
The then Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Roxanne George, has been quoted as saying that the depositions for the case were never received.
KILLED FOR DEMANDING $20 IN CHANGE
On August 8, 2002, Rodwell Ogle, a food vendor from Rasville, Greater Georgetown, was visited by a customer that he had known from childhood. The man was ex-policeman Axel Williams.
According to reports, Williams made a purchase but came up $20 short and refused to pay. A quarrel ensued and Williams punched Ogle in his face. It is alleged that when the vendor returned the blow, Williams fell to his knees.
Embarrassed, Williams reportedly ran to his car, returned with a handgun and shot Ogle three times. Ogle succumbed in the Georgetown Hospital’s High Dependency Unit.
Those of us on the crime beat knew that Axel Williams was said to be a ‘hit man.’
Williams was reportedly detained briefly but released on orders from a senior rank.
The police reportedly sought advice from the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and it was recommended that Axel Williams be charged with murder.
However, that recommendation was changed and an inquest was ordered into Ogle’s death.
That inquest was reportedly never held. It was later learnt that, even after the inquest was ordered, the then Commissioner of Police Floyd Mc Donald had authorized that Axel Williams’s .32 pistol be upgraded to a 9mm pistol.
Then Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj would later acknowledge that he knew Axel Williams.
The alleged hit-man was later gunned down on December 10, 2003, while driving in Bel Air.
But let me end with a letter that former UG student Ronson Gray—shot in the jaw eleven years ago—sent to the media last week regarding the plight of 15-year-old Alex Griffith who was recently shot in his mouth by a policeman.
“Where are the members of the police force that stand for justice? Do they exist? As an ordinary citizen, it is very difficult to analyze the culture of the police force without coming to the conclusion; they are in it together, they protect their own. So, if the police protect their own, who will protect the people from the rotten apples?”
If you have any information about any unusual case, please contact us by phone or at our Lot 34 Saffon Street location.
We can be reached on telephone numbers 22-58465, 22-58491, and 22-58473. You need not disclose your identity.
You can also contact Michael Jordan at his email address [email protected].
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