Guyana Chronicle
December 4, 2002

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HEAVILY armed men went on a rampage in the City yesterday, robbing business places and terrorising shoppers and staff alike before fleeing the scene in one of the most daring and dramatic escape bids by gunmen since the February 23 jailbreak.

A policeman was shot dead in the drama and at least three other persons were injured in the early morning incident which led Police into the backlands of several East Coast villages in search of the men.

Quincy James is the 11th Policeman to have been shot and killed since the crime wave which gripped the country following the infamous Mash Day jailbreak.

Three business places on Regent Street - the Esso Gas Station at the corner of Regent and King Street, and Gobin's and Alim Shah's stores opposite the gas station were attacked while evidence of the heavy gunfire was left on other business premises.

Eyewitnesses recalled hearing the rapid gunfire around 9:00 hrs in the bandit's bid to escape which sent them diving for cover.

Some ran into stores which were open for business while others simply crouched where they were, fearing that they might be caught in the crossfire.

One man, who was totally oblivious of the events then, recalled sprinting with other groups of persons who were running for cover.

He said that though he was not aware of what was transpiring, he saw it only fitting to run for safety and then ask questions.

There was a heavy build-up of traffic in the vicinity of the scene as drivers quickly slammed their brakes and desperately tried to divert through other streets.

A man commented that the gunmen apparently mis-took the busy shopping area on Regent Street for the "wild-west" and began shooting indiscriminately while another commented that the daring shootout was like a scene he saw in the "ganster movies".

As word quickly spread about the shooting, storeowners shut tight the doors to their premises. Employers and employees alike were visibly shaken and terrified when this newspaper visited the scene sometime later. Some stores even had to lock frightened customers inside their premises and away from the hail of bullets.

Assistant Superintendent of Police, Mr. David Ramnarine, in a release yesterday afternoon, said the Police are investigating a series of incidents which include several reports of hijacking of vehicles and the fatal shooting of a Policeman by bandits, which occurred between 9:00 and 9:30 hrs yesterday morning in the City.

Ramnarine said the first report stated that about 9:00 hrs, a burgandy coloured motor-car HA 9402, was hijacked on Sheriff Street by two armed bandits who placed the driver in the back seat of the vehicle and drove into town.

According to him, it was reported subsequently that minibus BGG 1031 was hijacked in the vicinity of Regent and King Streets, by two armed bandits.

The Police release said another report indicated that "three unmasked bandits, armed with long guns entered Gobin's Variety Store and Cambio at the corner of Regent and King Streets and discharged several rounds, causing the businessman and employees to run and abandon the property, leaving the sum of 2.5 million dollars and an undisclosed amount of foreign currency, unattended".

"It is alleged that the bandits stole the money and escaped in the vehicle which were previously hijacked and waiting," the Police asserted. This newspaper was unable to confirm if the money was actually stolen.

The Police release also stated:

"Simultaneously, two heavily armed bandits attacked and fatally shot Police Constable 19219 James of Traffic, Brickdam, who was on traffic duty at the same junction. He was shot several times in the chest and was pronounced dead on arrival at the Hospital.

The bandits continued firing indiscriminately while making good their escape in three motor vehicles, spraying bullets onto several business places and vehicles which were in the vicinity of Regent and King Streets, causing damage to some. A channa bomb was also thrown into the store (Alim Shah) which caused a fire, which was extinguished by the employees.

At the junction of Regent and Wellington Streets, the bandits fired several shots at the Guyoil Gas Station, damaging a diesel fuel pump and a police booth.

On arrival at Regent and Camp Streets, they opened fire on a Traffic Policeman who was on duty but he was not hit.

The Policeman dashed for cover and received minor injuries during the process. The bandits then hijacked motorcar PHH 5550 at the said junction. One of the vehicles, motorcar HA 9402 was later found abandoned at Stone Avenue and First Street, Campbellville, with extensive damage done to the front portion. It is reported that the bandits escaped in a white motorcar after abandoning this vehicle. PHH 5550 was later found abandoned at Conversation Tree, East Coast Demerara, while minibus BGG 1051, which was hijacked at Regent and King Street, was detained by the Police at Plaisance, East Coast Demerara. The driver and conductor of this minibus are in Police custody pending enquires.

Information at our disposal suggests that the bandits used this minibus to take them to Plaisance backdam where they hijacked four motorcycles from estate employees.

Resulting from these incidents, two persons, presumably innocent bystanders at Regent and King Streets, received injuries. One received a gunshot wound to the left upper back and is receiving medical attention while the other sustained bruises to the face and was treated and sent away.

Fragments of a channa bomb were found at the scene of the shooting on Regent Street. Police are continuing an exercise in pursuit of these bandits, in the backlands of the East Demerara Sugar Estates with a view to apprehend them."

Meanwhile, this newspaper was informed that at least two of the gunmen were seen strutting along Regent Street during the shootout.

"It was like a gangster-style movie," one witness stated.

The Esso gas station in Regent Street came under heavy gunfire in the brazen attack and two Molotov Cocktails (channa bombs), made with 'Heinekin Beer' bottles were reportedly thrown into the service station.

Pump attendants there noted that luckily there was no explosion. The Esso Gas station was also sprayed with bullets and at least three large windows/showcase panels (glass) were shattered. Bullet holes were visible on one of the four fuel pumps in the station. According to a Pump Attendant, the bullets pierced one fuel pump which was not working at the time and which did not contain fuel. He said if the bullet had pierced any of the other three pumps, it might have caused an explosion.

A number of vehicles were damaged in the shootout. A vehicle parked opposite the gas station, which belongs to Broadway fashions, was riddled with bullet holes.

Meanwhile, an employee at Alim Shah's store recalled that as they tried to close the store, two armed men ran in and ordered them not to move or they will be shot.

"We didn't move, but we lie down flat on the floor on our belly...they opened a back door at the side where everybody managed to get away at the back...," one of them related.

The employees said one of the men then opened a channa bomb which ignited and burnt some of the cloth, which were on sale. They said the men were unmasked.

This newspaper also understands that when the bandits abandoned their vehicle on the Railway Embankment Road, they headed down to somewhere between Plaisance and Better Hope on the East Coast where they escaped into the GUYSUCO canefields. There, it is understood that the gunmen took away four motorcycles from Field Supervisors of GUYSUCO who were at the time working in the backdam/canefields.

A senior official of the LBI sugar estate admitted that the bandits seized four motorcycles belonging to GUYSUCO and which were being used at the time by four Field Supervisors doing their routine duties in the canefields aback the Better Hope/Plaisance area.

The official, who prefers not to be named, told this newspaper that the Field Supervisors were on duty in the backdam when they encountered the fleeing gunmen who took away their motor-cycles with ease. The bandits took one of the Field Supervisors with them, apparently to guide them through the backdam while the other bandits sped through the backdam on the other three motorcycles.

Sources told this newspaper that upon reaching the Lusignan/Annandale backdam, the bandits abandoned two of the motorcycles while they allowed the badly-shaken and traumatised GUYSUCO employee to ride away on his motorcycle.

It is understood that none of the Supervisors were harmed physically, though badly traumatised and terrorised. The Police recovered the other two abandoned motorcycles while the bandits apparently abandoned the fourth closer to the Buxton area.

And in another twist to the drama, the bandits, apparently realising that all of them could not escape on the four motorcycles, stopped two other GUYSUCO employees in the backdam (Better Hope) and took away their bicycles. They rode away on the bicycles somewhere up to the Chatteau Margot/Success area (backdam) where they abandoned the cycles and subsequently escaped on foot, believed to be through the village.

By the end of the almost one-hour high-profile drama, the daring bandits had used almost all of the modes of ground transport -- bicycle, motorcycles, car, minibus and on foot - in their desperate bid to escape.

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