Gunmen blaze Brazilian restaurant
Two confirmed injured, policemen likely target By Nigel Williams and Kim Lucas
Stabroek News
October 23, 2002

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At least two men were shot and injured and a policeman narrowly escaped death after gunmen opened fire on patrons eating at a Brazilian operated restaurant.

Chaos reigned on Alexander Street, Bourda during the attack, which was launched by four heavily armed men at around 2:30 pm. They later escaped in a burgundy car only to hijack another on Cummings and New Market sts.

Stabroek News understands that at the time of the shooting, two policemen were eating in the restaurant. One of them was a colleague of Detective Lance Corporal Adrian London, who was gunned down execution style on July 11, on Joseph Pollydore Street, Lodge.

The two men who were shot - one identified as Brazilian Nivaldo Boyo, 40, a chef employed at the restaurant - were rushed to separate city hospitals.

Employees at the restaurant told Stabroek News that Boyo was shot in the back, while the customer was shot in the right arm. Police Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent David Ramnarine said a security guard from Croal Street, who was eating in the restaurant at the time was also shot.

At the Georgetown Public Hospital only one gunshot victim was found - Robert Ragunandan, 55, of 43 Croal Street.

The drama continued to unfold after the attack as the gunmen ditched the burgundy car they were using, PHH 4179 and hijacked another, PHH 4052, at the corner of Cummings and New Market Streets, Alberttown. Up to press time, the police were unable to say in which direction the gunmen had fled. The army's help was not sought.

Police sources, also, could not say whether any cordons were thrown up in an attempt to apprehend the shooters, two of whom, this newspaper understands, were identified as February 23 prison escapees.

The police said wanted bulletins had previously been posted for another of the gunmen, while the fourth man was unknown. However, an off-duty policemen who claimed to have witnessed the incident, said one of the gunmen sported dreadlocks and was a known deportee.

A mad dash for cover
An eyewitness said that as soon as the gunmen arrived at the restaurant, they began shooting indiscriminately for more than four minutes, clearing the entire street. The gunmen had parked their car in the middle of the road and all four men stood at strategic positions and started shooting.

One man claimed that the gunmen were heavily armed and were even seen changing weapons. Stabroek News understands that it was while peeping over his gate on Croal Street that a bullet grazed Ragunandan's temple. A young man who resides in the same yard said he saw when Ragunandan was standing at the gate as the shots were being fired. The youth believed that one of the gunmen might have shot the man after he caught him watching.

Employees said there were six patrons in the restaurant at the time of the attack - three Brazilians sitting at a table close to the entrance and three other men, one of whom they identified as a policeman, sitting at another table to the rear of the eating place.

One of the employees told reporters that he and three colleagues were in the upper flat above the restaurant floor, when two of the four gunmen entered the building. The gunmen immediately started shooting in the employees' direction, but none of them was hit.

"After seeing that, we run downstairs, but the man follow we and everybody do what they had to do...[we] hide under tables and other things," the visibly shaken employee related.

According to the man, when he got downstairs, he came face to face with another gunman. It appeared that the attacker who was at the gate had entered the yard.

Hector Medina, one of the waiters, said he was in the kitchen at the time of the commotion. At first, he paid no mind, but realising that they were under attack, the man said he dashed for cover under one of the counters in the caged section of the restaurant.

The cashier, Laura Furtado, speaking through Medina, told this newspaper that she was sitting close to the first set of customers when the gunmen entered the restaurant. She ran and hid in the bathroom. She said the attack did not last more than two minutes.

A waitress, who was behind the salad bar at the time, said as soon as the men reached the gate, one of them discharged a round at the glass case of the bar shattering it. There were a number of indentations on the metal heating pans, which were at the front of the business premises, as well as bullet holes through the carrot and pepper pans.

"Boy, at that time, I jump over the back and run to a corner." The woman saw the men go upstairs and when they returned to the ground floor, they "pumped at least six bullets" into Boyo's back. The Brazilian serves meat to customers and was in front of the brick fireplace at the time he was shot.

Boyo reportedly fell to ground bleeding profusely. The woman said about three minutes later, the two gunmen calmly walked out of the restaurant, joined their accomplices in the burgundy car and sped away.

Elderly woman dragged from car
When Stabroek News arrived at the scene, a large crowd had already gathered outside the restaurant. Moments later, members of the police Quick Reaction Group turned up. They were subsequently joined by the Target Special Squad. The police said eight 9 mm spent shells, six live 7.62 calibre rounds and three matching spent shells were recovered from the scene.

It was confusion inside the restaurant as the police tried to ascertain what had transpired from the non-English speaking foreigners. The Brazilians were adamant that no money was taken and that robbery did not appear to be the motive.

Shortly after the gunmen left the restaurant, news filtered in that they had swapped cars in Alberttown after pulling an elderly woman from her vehicle.

Reports suggest that the gunmen were forced to dump their original vehicle after someone opened fire at them, shattering the back windscreen.

When Stabroek News arrived at Cummings Street, the damaged car was seen in the middle of the road, with the shattered rear windscreen. The car had a few scratch marks on the exterior. Inside the vehicle was a green face rag along with a cassette. The police were seen lifting the floor mats and inspecting the trunk. Nothing else was unearthed. The car was later removed from the scene by a tow truck.

The Brazilian restaurant has become very popular in the last few months attracting many Guyanese and even people from the diplomatic corps.

The shooting incident was similar to the one last month at Natoo's Bar that claimed four lives. Gunmen in that attack had gone into the Kitty bar shooting wildly and apparently targeting a senior functionary.

Sources yesterday said that the policemen seemed definitely to be the targets of the attackers. Ten policemen have so far been killed by gunmen since the crime wave spiralled in April and numerous others injured. Last week, two policemen were injured after gunmen shot at them at separate locations and ran after them.

Sources yesterday again questioned the inability of the police to rapidly cordon off sections of the city to apprehend gunmen. The sources point out that the gunmen spent between two to four minutes outside the restaurant and the Brickdam and Alberttown stations would have surely been notified immediately. The gunmen in fleeing also hijacked another car and this would have extended the window of opportunity for the police before the gunmen could get onto escape routes to the East Bank and the East Coast. There was no sign of cordons being thrown up yesterday and up to press time it appeared that the police had no clue where the gunmen had disappeared to.