Morning shootout in East Ruimveldt
Gunmen riddle police vehicle with bullets, escape By Kim Lucas and Oscar P. Clarke
August 17, 2002
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The gunmen spoke French
Contrary to the police's statement, eyewitnesses claimed that the gunmen were travelling in two vehicles. Both cars were reportedly white, and while one acted as a decoy, the other stopped at the head of Pineapple Street, nearer to the East Ruimveldt Front Road, and waited on the cops.
"De bandits smart them. They park and wait on de police. They [the gunmen] come out de vehicle. They had on black [toques], bulletproof vests strapped with magazines and Timberland [boots] and camouflage clothes. Well armed. They fire over 100 rounds on them [the police]. Rapid, rapid. The police had no chance to fire back. So when they done fire, they walk back peacefully in they car. The police [backup] now coming up de Front Road and pass de [escaping] bandits. After de bandits done left, they [the ambushed cops] start firing back," recounted one eyewitness.
That same man told Stabroek News he saw two injured cops, one of whom he identified as Merai.
"It was so much ammunition that they dropping, dropping, dropping.
"They [the gunmen] pack magazine pon magazine and then de short one now, he going towards de police...in the street [but] de other three call he, `Allez, allez!' [meaning (Let's) go, go!] They talk to he in French and he come back and go in de car. It is not none of the escapees... To me they look like deportees," the man said.
During the shootout, residents of one apartment on Pineapple Street were rudely awakened by bullets whizzing past them. They had to drop to the floor to cover from bullets that had penetrated the walls of their homes. One of the persons who was forced to shelter was an 89-year-old woman.
James Fraser, the chief security officer at Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD), told this newspaper yesterday that he and his wife, Joycelyn were lying in bed at about 5:30 am when the shooting began. It was in front of their home that the police vehicle crashed into the lamp post.
"After I hear this gunshot, Paddai, paddai, paddai! I just decide to pull her [his wife] under the bed. It was constant gunshot. We didn't know what was taking place, whether it was bandits or police. Not until I get up back and peep down, I saw the policemen taking shelter here [outside the southern corner of his house]. About four taking shelter under here. They holler, `Police!'," Fraser said.
The front windows of his home were shattered by bullets, while the lower concrete walls at the south and northern sides were pierced. Fraser's wife said she was lucky not to have been in the yard, as is usual for her early in the mornings, or she could have been injured or killed.
Another resident said that just before the shooting, he saw the police chasing the gunmen's car north along Pineapple Street.
"The police were chasing some bandits and the guys fired back on them. The policeman [who was driving] like he get confused and crashed into the lantern post," the resident reported.
According to that eyewitness, at one point both parties were shooting at each other. The shooting lasted for about five minutes.
"We had to duck, because shots firing all over the place. When I came outside, the police were hiding in the bushes. I saw only two of them," the resident told Stabroek News.
A woman said that after the shooting ceased, she peeked out and saw four, well-dressed young men, speaking some foreign language. They were taunting the police, she said, seeking a confrontation.
She claimed that one of the gunmen was walking towards the vehicle, but was called back. "They just stamp off they shoes, flick they gun and go in de car and drive away," the woman told Stabroek News.
Some two hours after the incident, a police tow truck managed to pull the crashed vehicle from where it was lodged against the lamp post. By midmorning, a crew from the Guyana Power and Light Inc was replacing the damaged pole.