East Coast shootout
Quiet journey ends in chaos and death
By Kim Lucas
July 27, 2002
What started out as a quiet journey up the East Coast Demerara to the troubled village of Buxton to report on the activities of a GDF holiday camp for children turned full circle on Thursday morning when a busload of media personnel found themselves on the scene of a shootout between the police and a wanted man.
“Why don’t we have some armed escorts?” I had earlier asked jokingly of Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Colonel Christine King who was travelling with us. Less than a minute later, as our 15-seater minibus approached the Sheriff Street junction, alarm bells rung. Another minibus was hastily heading towards us, down the one-way lane.
The driver and passengers in that vehicle seemed scared. Many other vehicles had stopped. Some began to hastily turn around as signs were shown by passengers that there was shooting ahead.
“Proceed, proceed!” was the shout from members of the media. All thoughts of going to Buxton were abandoned. This was more immediate. Cameras in the bus were readied as media operatives braced themselves to pounce on the scene.
The army driver proceeded cautiously. Sporadic bursts of gunfire were heard and as the bus approached the University of Guyana access road, the first bloodied body was seen.
Another man was seen face down on the asphalt roadway, partly under a minibus, later found out to be his. The man, later identified as Rickford Cozier, appeared motionless.
Law enforcement officers were directing traffic away from the area. On both carriageways of the Rupert Craig Highway, vehicles were hastily retreating, not heeding any of the traffic regulations. It was absolute chaos.
Before the bus stopped, all cameramen were on the move, scaling the seawall, from where they could have taken shots in safety. At the time, it was not clear whether there were gunmen shooting from within Nando Gardens.
Some time later, caution was thrown to the wind as people converged on the scene, pressing forward to get a better view. It was at this point that the other body, that of wanted man Kwame Pendleton, was spotted behind a bullet riddled motorcar.
As the crowd grew, speculation became rife about the identity of the dead men. One man exclaimed:
“Is Lowe, is Lowe from Buxton. He used to wuk with Omai and is just de other day he buy a car...” The bystander goes closer and then exclaims again: “Yeah, duh is Lowe! Is Lowe f...ing lay down deh!”
Some time later, a buxom woman charges through: “Oh meh God! Is Leroy. Is Leroy Lowe... Hey, come leh we go.” She hails a taxi immediately to carry the news to Buxton. A source told Stabroek News that the police were trailing Lowe’s car, PEE 1951, since 4 am on Thursday. The vehicle made three stops, the police said.
It was followed to Nando Gardens.
This newspaper understands that Lowe’s car was under surveillance for some time, after reports surfaced that it was seen transporting wanted men.