Seven die in shoot-outs
Two Mash Day escapees among dead
Large arms cache found in rented house By Kim Lucas and Oscar P. Clarke

Stabroek News
October 29, 2002

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Two Mash Day escapees were among seven men killed in a series of bloody shoot-outs early yesterday morning in the city and on the East Coast of Demerara.

Among the dead are Dale Moore - seen as one of the leaders of the February 23 jail-break quintet - another escapee, Mark Fraser, Lancelot Roach and businessman Frank Solomon. The other men have not been identified. The police said that Moore and another man died in a confrontation with them in Lamaha Gardens while Roach and Fraser were killed by unknown gunmen on the East Coast. The escapees are believed to have been key players in the crime wave that has swept the country since late February. A third escapee Andrew Douglas was found dead in a car following a shoot-out earlier this year.

Moore and another man were shot dead by police only a few doors away from the Lamaha Gardens residence of Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj. They had reportedly been holed up with a substantial cache of arms in a nearby house. Another suspected bandit was found dead in Le Repentir Cemetery; two more in a car on the Annandale Public Road, East Coast Demerara; another killed by police at a house at Section `M' Campbellville; and the seventh person, a businessman, died at the Georgetown Public Hospital later in the morning believed to be a victim of a failed carjacking.

Shoot-out in Lamaha Gardens

The drama began to unfold at about 4 am yesterday when heavy gunfire erupted in the quiet suburb of Lamaha Gardens, just three doors away from the Minister's home. By the break of dawn, two men - one of whom the police later identified as Moore - lay dead on the street. A burgundy Toyota Carina, bearing licence plate PHH 2636 had crashed into a lamp post close by the bodies.

It is believed that one of the gunmen might have been injured and escaped through Plum Park, Sophia - the ward at the back of Lamaha Gardens.

One woman took reporters to her yard, where she displayed a bloodstained shirt, believed to have been dropped by the wounded gunman in his escape bid. The woman said whoever ran through her yard after the shooting stopped to snatch some of her clothes from a line and left the bloodstained shirt behind.

"We had clothes on de line and they put it on and they left this," she said, while pointing to the shirt on the ground in her yard. Her broken picket fence was another mark of the hurried escape bid.

"We hear de shots firing, one after the other...about (4 a.m.). We couldn't come out. People here on they belly lie down, couldn't come out."

Another resident, whose home was caught in the crossfire, barely escaped with his life. He was woken up by the gunshots and dived for cover under his bed. After a while, there was a lull. The police arrived and the man said he felt safe to venture outside.

Just as he stepped out and was speaking to the police on his bridge, more gunfire erupted, sending him face down on the road. The police had reportedly spotted movements in the drain and opened fire.

"When I come out, everything was finished...But it start again (at around 5:30 am). They [the police] tell me lie down [and] I fall down on the road...It [the crossfire] smashed up the windows, the doors and mirror in my house," the elderly man stated.

The police subsequently conducted a search of a building two houses from the scene of the shooting and uncovered a substantial arsenal of arms, ammunition and radios.

Body in the cemetery

Then sometime after 6 am, as investigators were combing the Lamaha Gardens scene, word spread that there was another body in Le Repentir Cemetery. In the burial ground, the police found the body of a young man of mixed race, light in complexion and clad in a pair of blue jeans and a green bulletproof vest under a blue, red and white striped jersey. He has not been identified.

Upon hearing the news, Crime Chief Leon Trim told reporters: "A body was just found in the cemetery with a bulletproof vest and a gunshot wound. It is likely that he escaped from this...There has to be concerns that [the shoot-out] occurred next to the minister's house...I did not see the minister [but] the minister is safe."

Gun battle on the East Coast

At around 7 am, before crime scene investigators could have arrived in the cemetery, the police received word of the Annandale shootings.

When Stabroek News rushed to the East Coast Demerara crime scene, two men - Fraser and Roach - were dead in Roach's green Toyota Sprinter, PHH 7248. Roach was the son of a senior police officer, said to be in charge of the communications unit of the force.

The dead men had gaping holes in their heads and parts of their brains were splattered on the dashboard of the bullet-riddled car.

Fraser, sitting in the front passenger seat, died with his head thrown back and mouth wide open. Roach, who was in the driver's seat, was slumped on Fraser's shoulder. His scalp appeared to have been blown away.

There were 16 bullet holes to the front windshield of Roach's car, eight on the driver's side window quite a number more had shattered the other windows and pierced parts of the car.

Investigators told Stabroek News that the occupants of two cars - PHH 7248 and PHH 5642 - had opened fire on each other while travelling in opposite directions. Roach's car was travelling eastward, and the other car was travelling towards the city.

Ex-cop Solomon shot in head

After Fraser and Roach were killed, a police source said, the occupants of the other car turned around and headed past the two dead men, to the Annandale Market Road, some 200 metres away. Shortly afterwards, Frank Solomon was shot.

Solomon's Toyota Mark II, bearing the name `Serpico' on the front windscreen, was found nose first in a trench on the northern side of the public road.

Eyewitnesses said Solo-mon and a teenager were shot as the gunmen from PHH 5642 tried to swap vehicles. Reportedly wounded and under police guard at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation last night was Candace Lowe, 16, of Joseph Pollydore Street, Lodge. (See other story on page 16.)

"When they done do all this here, they turn back [towards the city]. De soldier past and slow down, look at the car and cut through by that sideline dam and then de [gunmen's] car pull off. De one dat do de shooting spin back here."

The car used by the gunmen was later found abandoned at the head of Agriculture Road, Mon Repos. A "banana" magazine and a single .762 bullet were found inside.

As investigators combed the scene, a taxi driver related: "We hear the noise, the banging of the car and the car (PHH 5642) come down there. As soon as it stop, three men jump out with guns. So we get scared. They see the [fright] on we face, so they say, `All yo doan worry, we is police.' Some bullets did fall and one of them pick it up. A fellow driver was over there, and they went to him to take his car to go. They say they chasing de bandits, Shawn Brown, [but] he say, `Man, I can't go, because I got to work.' They come over to me and they open de door. A short straight hair man... and this tall one, he look like Shawn Brown to me and he say, `Man, lef de man. Leh we ain't go with he.'" Who these men were remains a mystery.

Encounter with the army

The taxi driver said at that time, an army patrol pulled up and the gunmen from PHH 5642 placed their guns on the bonnet of their car and spoke to the soldiers.

"These men tek they gun and put on the car and they come they talk to the soldier and the soldier them drive way. Be time dat, another car, a Pandit that I know, drive in and ask what happen? So them chaps say, `We are police and we chasing Shawn Brown. We want a car' and de pandit say okay. Them (the gunmen) was taking him out the car, but he say, `No, I will drive the car' and they go in the car." Stabroek News understands that the gunmen headed south along Agriculture Road in the Pandit's car.

When contacted yesterday, a senior army personnel told this newspaper that there was no indication that the Guyana Defence Force patrol encountered any white car in the Agriculture Road area, since the area was out of boundary for patrol activity.

"However, it was reported this (Monday) morning that a patrol encountered two white cars in the vicinity of the Annandale Market Road. The occupants of both cars stopped the GDF patrol, claimed to be policemen and requested assistance based on an incident that had taken place [the shooting of Fraser and Roach].

The GDF patrol commander requested permission from Camp Buxton before responding, and [when the army patrol reached] the scene, he (the commander) reported seeing the same occupants of the two white cars and one of the cars was damaged," the officer stated.

Another army source said that the gunmen had identified themselves as policemen to the soldiers.

The taxi driver who transported the gunmen is safe.

Later in the morning a suspect was killed by police in Section M Campbellville when, in a continuing sweep of the area, they entered a house and were met by a person who threw a grenade at them, they retaliated and the person was killed. This man remains unidentified

Police also discovered a 9 mm pistol and a hand grenade at Oleander Gardens suspected to have been dropped or deposited by one of two men who were seen hurrying out of the city heading for the East Coast.

Police also stormed a house in Bonasika Street, Campbellville discovering 12 channa bombs, a car, a receipt for another car and four live rounds of ammunition.

The police are said to be checking the ownership of the various homes raided and the cars found.

Yesterday's shooting incidents followed the flight to freedom of kidnapped Keishar's owner Brahmanand Nandalall. It is unclear whether there is any link between his escape and the subsequent events.

With the deaths of the two escapees, citizens were yesterday wondering what impact it would have on the crime epidemic that has taken hold of the country. In the last eight months, dozens of people including ten policemen have been murdered and many others injured. There have also been numerous armed robberies.