Bandit fired at our chests -Gobin
'Customer' whipped out gun By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
June 5, 2002

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Kennard Gobin, proprietor of Commerce House Cambio on Regent Street who was shot several times during the armed robbery on his business last Saturday, said it was only by a miracle that he is alive today.

His cashier/accountant Ramnauth Persaud aka `Jack' was shot dead by armed bandits who escaped with a substantial amount of local and foreign currency. Persaud leaves to mourn a wife and three children.

In a telephone interview, Gobin expressed thanks to the men who took him and Persaud to the hospital. He said he did not know who they were, but was nevertheless grateful to them.

Recalling what transpired, Gobin said that he was seated at his desk and other staff members were in his office when they heard gunshots coming from the road. A man, whom they thought was a customer, was standing, in the cambio.

When the first shot was heard, he said, they thought it was a blown out tyre but when there was a second and even more, the staff ran for cover. Gobin and Persaud made an attempt to close the door to the cambio. When they entered the outer office, Gobin said, the `customer' standing there pulled out a handgun and told them to drop whatever they had in their hands and put their hands in the air.

"He started shooting and demanded money. Jack told him `don't shoot. Take the money' but he kept on firing". The bandit, he said just kept on shooting at their chests and upper body. Gobin sustained gunshot wounds to his chest and both hands.

He said that the bandit "was in no hurry" and kept on insisting that the money he had taken was not all there was in the cambio and if he did not get all he was going to kill them. When he felt that he had collected enough he said "it is time to go". Gobin opined that the bandit left not because of the amount of money he had, but because he had no more bullets left in his gun.

While he did not see a second person because he had fallen to the floor, Gobin said that there were two bandits in the cambio as the one who shot at them was talking to another person. Before they left, he said, the bandit asked him for a gold chain but he said he wasn't wearing one. He then tried pulling a gold ring off his finger, but it was too tight and he left without it.

Gobin said that as soon as the bandits left, in pain and bleeding, he ran out of the cambio onto the road where some men placed him in a car and took him to the Georgetown Public Hospital. He said that they put him to lie in the car and one of the men held his head in his lap. Persaud was taken in another car and succumbed to the gunshot wounds.

Gobin had employed the services of a security guard through the Guyana Police Force Special Constabulary, who was armed with a sub-machine gun and wore a bulletproof vest. At the time of the interview, he said he could not understand what had become of the guard because he had not fired a shot throughout the robbery. He said that it had been reported to him that the guard ran to the back of the building and was actually looking into the office from a window and saw when he and Persaud were shot. From that angle and protected by a concrete wall, he said, he felt that the guard could have opened fire on the bandit/s.

Expressing concern about the security of businesses on Regent Street, a number of proprietors said that they were scared not only for themselves but for their staff as well and wondered whether it was feasible to hire security guards as they were being overpowered.

Selwyn Prescott, proprietor of Pressy's Enterprises on Regent Street told Stabroek News that his employees were traumatised by the event.

A staff member of a nearby business recalled a customer asking why people were running helter-skelter when shots were being fired. But when he saw one of the bandits through the doorway holding an AK 47 weapon, the customer jumped over the counter and ran to the back of the building.

From reports, workers from several businesses were so traumatised that they had to be sent home. Some businesses, including ACME Photo Studios, situated obliquely opposite the cambio did not reopen for the rest of the day.

Yesterday, a number of questions were being asked on Regent Street, including why it took the police so long to get there when Brickdam Police Station was a two-minute drive away. According to reports, the bandits were on the ground for some ten minutes.

In response to this, police spokesman, Assistant Superintendent David Ramnarine, told Stabroek News that the police responded in ample time in relation to when they received the report of the robbery.

One businessman said he saw when the two white cars, with untinted glass windows, arrived but thought the occupants were members of the `Black Clothes Police' because they were dressed like them and carried their guns in the same way. On Thursday night persons in two white cars shot at the Alberttown Police Station killing a policeman and it is believed that the same criminals committed Saturday's attack.

The businessman said that two of the bandits, wearing helmets and bulletproof vests, "took up positions, like guards" at the junctions with King Street and Avenue of the Republic.

He said that apart from the late arrival of the police, the City Constabulary, which has responsibility for security in the city was just opposite. He was not aware that the constables had engaged the bandits at any time during the robbery. "Is that what we pay rates and taxes for?" he asked. Mayor Hamilton Green had told Stabroek News on Saturday that the firepower of the bandits was superior to that of the Constabulary.

The businessman said that when the two cars left, heading towards Camp Street, the bandit posted at the Avenue of the Republic junction was left stranded. He escaped by firing shots while running down the street. No one could say exactly where this bandit went, but spent shells were picked up in the vicinity of the Indian High Commission/Bank of Baroda and Central Garage on Avenue of the Republic.

Some expressed concern, too, that while people had been running for cover and away from the scene where the shooting was taking place, others were running to the scene and could have been shot.

Knowledgeable sources told Stabroek News that an AK 47 weapon, which the bandits appeared to have in their possession, had the capacity to fire 800 to 1,000 rounds in one minute and all it took was a few seconds of squeezing the trigger to eject 50 to 100 rounds.

According to some workers in the neighbourhood, what was alarming was that the bandits appeared to have taken up strategic positions in the yards of some of the businesses. No one could say how many men were there; some said they were about eight, others felt there were more.

Meanwhile, Commerce House Cambio has not reopened for business since Saturday. This is the second time in three years that the cambio was robbed. On the first occasion some $13 million was taken. Businessmen on Regent Street are calling for a police presence on the busy street, which is one of the central shopping areas in the city.