Gang of five kills police officer
-- security measures to be tightened, says Home Affairs Minister
Guyana Chronicle
April 3, 2002

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THE gang of five prisoners that broke out of the Georgetown jail on February 23 last, yesterday afternoon shot dead well-known Police Officer Superintendent Leon Fraser and up to press time last night, an intensive search was under way for his killers.

Police Commissioner, Mr. Floyd McDonald said Fraser was shot in the head at Yarowkabra on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a city hospital.

Fraser, a leading figure in the Police Anti-Crime Unit popularly known as the `Black Clothes', was with a party from his unit that went to the area following a tip-off that the five "wanted and dangerous" escapees were holed up there.

Sources told the Chronicle that Fraser was blasted in the head as he advanced closer to scrutinise what appeared to have been an abandoned car in the area.

Reports are that he asked his support ranks to "hold back" while he moved forward and as he apparently pushed his head to peer inside the car, he was greeted with gunfire from inside the vehicle, a bullet hitting him flush in the face.

It was not clear how the bandits who were in the vehicle managed to escape or whether any of them was wounded.

Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj last night announced that he had since met and discussed with the leadership of the Police Force "with a view to review the measures that are in place to enhance security and have the criminal escapees brought to justice."

He appealed to citizens to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies as "there will be intensified anti-crime campaigns in areas where the criminals are suspected to be."

Police believe the killer gang was the same group that was Monday night responsible for at least two robberies and car hijackings in the city.

McDonald said the search for them was under way last night with "enhanced ground and air support". He said the men were heavily armed and called for the support and cooperation of all citizens to help in the arrest of the criminals.

The Police Commissioner said the policemen confronted the bandits at around 14:30 hrs and during the ensuring gun battle Fraser was killed.

"We have a number of units out in the fields, working assiduously to ensure that those persons are arrested. I wish to assure the general population that the police are doing their best to ensure that these persons are arrested", McDonald said at an impromptu news briefing at his office.

Commenting on how forceful the Police will be in their operation, he said that in accord with the rules of engagement of law enforcement agencies, "the level of force depends on the level of threat the person is faced with."

Gajraj joined the Police Force in mourning the loss of Superintendent Fraser and vowed that the "perpetrators will be brought to justice!"

Fraser joined the Police Force as a Constable, but was trained as a Cadet Officer in the Army. He served the Police Force for a number of years in its criminal investigative arm, and spent a period as a member of the Mounted Branch.

"He was a fearless officer who was much involved in and dedicated to the fight against crime and hardened criminals", Gajraj said in a statement.

He said the fall of Fraser "underscores the challenges confronting the security forces and emphasises the need for every citizen to become involved in assisting the security forces in their relentless and dangerous fight against crime and to uphold the laws of Guyana".

"The resolve of our law enforcement agency has been further emboldened by this tragic death of another anti-crime officer", Gajraj said.

McDonald said that based on information the Police have, the men may have been involved in series of car hijackings Monday night. He said the Police were "in the process of confirming" that this was so.

At around 20:40 hrs Monday, Woman Lieutenant Colonel Christine King, Staff Officer in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) headquarters responsible for Civil Affairs, was pounced upon by four armed men at 70 Anira Street, Queenstown, Georgetown.

She said she had gone there to visit her aunt and had spent just about half an hour.

She recalled that she was about to turn on the ignition key of her car to leave when she and a cousin, Donna Lambert Bailey, who was seeing her off, noticed a white car driving slowly along the street.

"My first reaction was that it was either Donna's husband coming with friends, or my little cousins coming with their friends. So I really didn't pay attention," a shaken King told the Chronicle.

But the car stopped and four armed men emerged immediately, dressed like members of the Police Anti-Crime Unit, she said.

"It was like a nightmare. When I saw them with these guns, I thought it was somebody playing a joke or something. These guns were short and carried straps", Lt. Col. King remembered.

Then she said a gun was pointed to her chest, and a harrowing voice commanded her to get out of the car and not to make a sound. One of the men snatched the chain she had around her neck, while another struggled to take off a bangle and a gold band she was wearing.

"After I realised that it was three men in front of me with guns, and I had no gun or anything, I told myself I better give them these keys before they beat or shoot me or something. I opened my hands and he took the keys", she related.

Lt. Col. King said she calmly started to walk into the yard when she noticed that one still had her cousin.

"When he saw me approaching, he said 'y'all don't mek a sound or else ah gone shoot y'all'. And Donna said 'okay mister, we wouldn't make noise'. And we continued walking calmly. And as soon as we reached in we slammed the door and started screaming", King said.

"My little cousins at the back heard us screaming and they ran out to the front. And when they ran out the men fired shots", King related.

King is a member of the Inquiry Commission set up to investigate the February 23 jailbreak. However, she said she did not think the attack on her was related to her appointment on the Commission.

The car that the men came in carried the false number plate PGG 6364. It was later identified as HA 9414, belonging to former Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Clarence Chue which was stolen sometime back.

King's car was found abandoned at Buxton, East Coast Demerara about an hour before midnight. When she checked it yesterday morning at the Vigilance Police Station on the East Coast Demerara, King said the CD and cassette players were ripped out, her cell phone was gone, as were the keys to her house and office.

The men did not even leave behind a slab of cheese and some food King should have taken home. The Army officer said even her hat and wig were missing. A set of military photographs in an envelope was scattered in the back seat of the car.

Meantime, from Buxton, the men reportedly hijacked a Mark 11 vehicle, PHH 3141, and proceeded to another part of the city where they robbed a Canadian citizen and his wife and hijacked their car.

The two had returned home from a bar-b-que at around midnight and no sooner had they pulled up in the driveway in their station wagon, than the men appeared.

They beat the wife and robbed the couple of a computer, cameras, a pair of binoculars and other items.

"They even took our orange juice", the husband said, nodding his head in disbelief.

The Police Force is offering at least $2.5M for information that could lead to the arrest of the five escapees. Police headquarters said there was a reward of at least $500,000 on the head of each of the five prisoners who fled the Georgetown Prison.

Those on the run are Andrew Douglas, Mark Fraser, Shawn Brown, Troy Dick and Dale Moore.

The five, who killed 21-year old Prison Officer Troy Williams of Stanleytown, Berbice and left Woman Prison Officer, Roxanne Whinfield critically wounded, are all linked to the notorious `Blackie' criminal gang.

The `Blackie' ring was led by Linden `Blackie' London who was shot dead when he was cornered in a Police-Army operation in an Eccles, East Bank Demerara guest house in February 1999.