Leon Fraser killed in shoot-out with gang
Force intensifies manhunt
Stabroek News
April 3, 2002

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Controversial Police Superintendent Leon Fraser was yesterday afternoon shot dead on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway during a gun battle with five persons thought to be escapees from the Camp Street Prison.

In what seemed to be a well-planned strike, the attackers apparently concentrated their fire on Fraser and retreated from the area immediately after. It was unclear why the police team was unable to pursue the attackers and searching for the gang would have been a difficult prospect last night for the police, sources say.

According to Commissioner of Police (ag), Floyd McDonald, Fraser and a party of policemen from the Anti Crime Unit had responded to a "tip off" that the five escapees from the February 23 jailbreak were on the highway. Initial reports were that the bandits might have hijacked a number of cars on Monday night before moving to the highway. (See other story on page 3.)

The commissioner said that at around 2:30 pm yesterday, the ranks confronted the wanted men and Fraser was fatally shot in the head.

McDonald could not say if a single bullet killed the police officer. He also could not say if any other police officer was injured in the shoot-out.

As a consequence, the commissioner said, the police -- with enhanced ground and air support -- were combing the entire area in search of the wanted murderers. McDonald stopped short of disclosing whether the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) was involved in

the operation.

The police dragnet was confirmed by a commuter on a Number 43 minibus who while returning to Linden last evening saw four police checkpoints.

According to the passenger, at one of the checkpoints in the vicinity of the highway police outpost, several heavily armed officers stopped the vehicle and ordered the occupants to raise their hands above their heads. They then proceeded to question the driver.

Stabroek News understands that after he was shot Fraser was rushed to the St Joseph Mercy Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The officer was considered one of the most feared policemen in the country and was reviled in sections of the community because of his perceived link to police brutality and extra-judicial killings. In other sections of the community he was seen as a staunch crime fighter. He had been involved in several high profile anti-crime operations including the siege that eventually led to the death of notorious criminal Linden London. News of Fraser's death sent shock waves throughout the country yesterday.

When Stabroek News visited the officer's Eve Leary home, relatives and friends were expressing their condolences to Fraser's family. The man's wife was too distraught to speak to this newspaper and other persons directed this newspaper to forward all questions to the Commissioner of Police and the Public Relations Department of the force.

Fraser was said to have joined the force as a constable and was trained as a cadet officer in the Guyana Defence Force. He spent some time in the Mounted Branch of the force before moving to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and then the Anti Crime Unit known as Target Special Squad. There had been a previous attempt on his life in 1998. (See other story on page 1.)

The fallen officer represented his country in Trinidad at the Benson & Hedges Rifle Shooting competition where he won several medals.

Yesterday, there were several pockets of persons on street corners discussing Fraser's death. On Norton Street where the Lyken Funeral Home is located and where Fraser's body was taken there was a large crowd voicing mixed views on the police officer's demise.

Fraser, one of the officers said to have been involved in the shooting deaths of several police suspects, was one of the most talked about members of the police force.

The force has since intensified its search for the wanted men and has dispatched several ranks to the highway area where it is suspected Fraser and his colleagues were fired upon resulting in his fatal wounding.

The state of the police operation was evident yesterday from the number of heavily armed police ranks who occupied areas along the lower highway in the vicinity of the entrance to the old glass factory and the South Dakota racing circuit.

Several heavily armed ranks including CID officers and a truckload of policemen in full riot gear who were dispatched to the area from the city were clearly visible along stretches of the highway.

Up to late last evening the officers continued to occupy the area apparently awaiting a signal to begin combing the area.

Residents in the area also recalled seeing low-flying aircraft passing overhead. However, they were not knowledgeable of the activities, although they had noticed an increase in the number of police on the highway in the last two days. There had been several reports that the Mashramani Day escapees - who killed a prison officer and wounded another in their flight to freedom - might have been in the area.

Questioned as to level of force the police would use to apprehend the five criminals, McDonald said that the rules of engagement for law enforcement agencies were similar to those put out by the United Nations. He added that the level of force depended on the level of threat a rank might face, "but our primary aim is to get them arrested." According to him, the five might be aided and abetted by other persons. He said that the force was calling on all citizens to cooperate and support the efforts of the police to apprehend the five bandits.

A statement from Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj described Fraser as "a fearless officer who was much involved and dedicated to the fight against crime and hardened criminals."

The statement disclosed that Gajraj had since met and talked with the leadership of the force with a view to reviewing the measures that are in place to enhance security and have the criminals brought to justice. The statement urged citizens to cooperate with the law enforcement agency as there would be intensified anti-crime campaigns in areas where the criminals were suspected to be.

The minister said that 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 statement said that the resolve of the country's law enforcement agency had been further emboldened by Fraser's tragic death and promised that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

Both Gajraj and McDonald expressed condolences to the wife, relatives and friends of Fraser.