Many questions linger after seven deaths on Monday
Creen St fire may have link to events Stabroek News
November 4, 2002

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A week after last Monday's shooting spree which resulted in the deaths of seven persons, including two of the February 23 prison escapees, and which followed the escape of a city businessman from captivity, there are still many unanswered questions.

Acting Commissioner of Police Floyd McDonald at a press briefing on Monday last after the morning occurrences had said that police had shot prison escapee, Dale Moore and another man outside a Lamaha Gardens residence.

He also said that police had fatally shot Delon Nelson of Costello Housing Scheme, in Section M, Campbellville after he had lobbed a grenade at a police patrol from the yard.

However, mystery surrounds the deaths of prison escapee, Mark Fraser and businessmen Franklin Solomon and Lancelot Roach in seperate incidents at around 7 am that day on the Annandale public road.

Reports are that the men were shot by a group of gunmen in a white Toyota Carina T1 PHH 5642 who blocked Roach's path on the ECD public road as he, Fraser and a female identified as Candace Lowe were proceeding east along the roadway.

The vehicles, McDonald had said, were heading in opposite directions when they engaged one another in gunfire.

Solomon was later shot in the head a couple of minutes later by the same men in PHH 5642. The men, who subsequently identified themselves as police when they came upon an army patrol, later ditched the white car with a damaged right side tire at the head of Agriculture Road, Mon Repos. They then commandeered a taxi while telling the driver that they were policemen in pursuit of prison escapee Shawn Browne.

The commissioner at his briefing denied that the shooting was undertaken by police ranks. However, when pressed on the issue he posited that Roach and Fraser may have met their end as a result of a gang war. He was however unclear about the circumstances surrounding Solomon's shooting.

The body of another man later identified as Michael Singh of Los Angeles, California, USA, was discovered lying in the Le Repentir cemetery. His death was also attributed to the gang war.

At the time of his demise, Singh was clad in a green bulletproof vest and was lying on his back with legs crossed and outstretched arms. It appeared as if he had been killed by a single bullet to the back of his head.

The commissioner at the briefing had said that police had been alerted about the discovery of a body in the cemetery and immediately descended on the scene to conduct investigations.

Sequence of events
Relating the start to the morning's chilling events, the commissioner had disclosed that a police unit had at around 3:30 am reported on the radio that it had been fired upon by a car in the Bel Air/Lamaha Gardens area and had called for tactical support.

Ranks, he said, returned fire and eventually discovered a body later identified as that of Moore. Further operations were conducted and the body of another person was found in the general area.

A resident of Lamaha Gardens related to this newspaper that there had been two separate shootings. He said he had been awakened at around 4.10 am by gunshots forcing him to take refuge under his bed.

During a lull in the shooting, the man on learning of the arrival of police ranks ventured outside but as he was exchanging words with the law enforcement officers, a further burst of gunfire erupted at around 5:30 am. These shots fired by police were directed at a drain under a bridge from where they had seen movement. A short while later the body of a man was fished out from the drain.

The prevailing view is that the first round of shooting occurred after the escape of businessman Brahmanand Nandalall from the Lamaha Gardens house and was not done by the police.

At the scene, the presence of a burgundy Toyota Carina PHH 2636 which had crashed into a lamppost raised questions as to what its occupants had been doing. Questions abound as to how the car got into that position, who was driving it and where it was prior to colliding with the post. Reports suggest that the occupants may have been ambushed by persons other than the police while returning to the Lamaha Gardens base and after Nandalall had escaped. This, the sources say, may be what the 4.10 am shooting was about.

Sources also indicated that Moore and others, who had been occupying the Lamaha Gardens house for at least the last three weeks, were not there at the time Nandalall escaped and were returning to the location when they came under heavy gunfire.

Others, who are believed to have been occupants of the said vehicle and one of whom is believed to have been injured in the exchange, were said to have fled via the Sophia area. Evidence of this was seen in the neighbouring community east of Lamaha Gardens where a bloody shirt was discovered in a yard.

Police had said that tracker dogs had been deployed to capture the men but it seemed they turned up empty handed.

Commissioner McDonald said that it was while officers were combing the Lamaha Gardens neighbourhood for clues that word spread about the body in Le Repentir cemetery.

While at the cemetery awaiting the arrival of forensics personnel, police were again alerted to the shootings at Annandale to which they responded and discovered the bullet-riddled bodies of Roach and Fraser in the former's Green Toyota Sprinter PHH 7248.

Lowe, who had been a passenger in Roach's car escaped serious injury and fled the scene. She eventually arrived at the Beterverwagting Police Station nursing an injury to the hand, and was taken to the GPHC where she was admitted under police guard. She was later taken into custody to assist the police with their investigations.

Some 200 metres east of the first East Coast Demerara shooting Solomon's white Toyota Mark 11 was lying front first in a trench off the road.

Witnesses had recalled that persons in the white Carina T1, the car found abandoned at Mon Repos, had attacked the businessman and former policeman. After being shot he was rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) where he later died while being operated on. The ditched car, which persons at Mon Repos said had transported three heavily armed persons, had encountered an army detachment. The gunmen had told the soldiers that they were policemen and subsequently requested the assistance of a taxi driver in the vicinity to transport them. The men in the car, witnesses had said, had emerged from the vehicle after it stopped. They were all bearing weapons and ammunition. One magazine and a single 7.26 round were seen in the vehicle.

Ammunition finds
In the meantime, at around 8:15 am, the police discovered a 9 mm pistol and a hand grenade at Oleander Gardens suspected to have been dropped or deposited by one of two men seen hurrying out of the city heading east.

It was after this event that police stormed a house on Bonasika Street, Section K Campbellville, believed to have been one of the safe houses for the escapees. There they discovered twelve Molotov cocktails or channa bombs along with a motor car, PHH 6582. They also found at that location a receipt for another car and four live rounds of ammunition. This house had been occupied by four men whose movements had been suspicious during the period that they were there.

At 10:30 am, police, while continuing their sweep of the Campbellville area, entered a house at Section M and encountered Nelson whom they shot dead after he had lobbed the grenade.

Police in the meantime had entered the Lamaha Gardens residence thought to have been rented from a city realtor for some US$3,000 per month.

There they unearthed a large cache of weapons, communication equipment, ammunition and several other items including medical supplies.

They also found bags of channa - a clear link to the Bonasika Street channa bomb assembly line - and several books including two bibles. Commissioner McDonald responding to a question at the briefing had said that the arsenal was of concern to the police as it contained weapons not normally used. Referring to the Sniper rifle found in the Lamaha Gardens cache, the commissioner said that it showed the intention to pursue a certain line of activity and this was very worrying. He also shared similar sentiments regarding the channa bombs.

Nandalall escape
On the issue of Nandalall the commissioner had merely said that he "is alive and out of captivity," while offering no other information pertaining to his kidnapping and escape.

Nandalall, the commissioner said, had not been questioned by police but instead had had a telephone conversation with senior ranks after he had escaped. He has also not made himself available to the media.

However indications point to Nandalall escaping from the Lamaha Gardens premises shortly after 3 am.

It is not clear what occurred subsequent to his escape but it is believed that Nandalall immediately on release contacted his associates who came in two cars to collect him. A source had told this newspaper that Nandalall had called his people from a building in the area where a security guard had assisted him with a telephone call. The guard was said to have also called the police.

Sources have told this newspaper that at the time Nandalall escaped from the Lamaha Gardens premises, he was only being watched by the single guard as the others had left for a night out.

Creen Street fire
At around 3:50 am a house in Creen Street, raided by police on several occasions on the assumption that wanted men frequented it, was set alight by persons unknown.

Reports suggest that a Molotov cocktail or channa bomb is believed to be responsible for the blaze. Evidence from the scene points to the likelihood of such an occurrence.

The channa bomb was said to have been lobbed through a window into the second floor sitting room situated on the western side of the three-storey building, resulting in a suite catching afire.

Occupants of the house, neighbours recalled, were heard shouting for help following which they began exclaiming fire!.

Owner of the property, remigrant Guyanese, Hilda Barry, told Stabroek News that she and her daughter Roxanne were asleep at the time when someone raised an alarm that her home was on fire.

After smelling the smoke she went downstairs and saw the blaze in the sitting room which prompted her to quickly ascend the stairs to alert her still sleeping daughter.

While it is unclear as to how she escaped the blaze, her daughter Roxanne is said to have jumped from a third floor window. She was subsequently hospitalised with a broken back and legs.

Reports placed a dark coloured vehicle in the vicinity surveying the area early Monday morning. The presence of an unidentified man at the corner of Norton and Creen Streets shortly after the fire started was also noticed.

Later in the morning, as the news of the shootings surfaced, a female was said to have left the burnt out premises hurriedly in a taxi.

Reports suggest that there were telephone calls to the Creen Street property from the Lamaha Gardens locale. It is believed that the place was burnt down because it was perceived to have had some connection with a certain crime.

Police probe
Police, according to the commissioner, had initiated investigations into the likelihood of a connection between the Creen Street fire and the other events of Monday last.

Police were also said to be investigating the origins of the arms and ammunition and also the connection of Roach to the escapees, including the possibility that he had furnished them with communication equipment. Roach was the owner of Lance Wireless Service in Orange Walk and he was said to be skilled in communications.

Police are still to definitively say who rented the houses in Lamaha Gardens, Bonasika Street, Section K and in Section M Campbellville.

They are also yet to pronounce on the possible origins of the weapons and ammunition found in Lamaha Gardens and also if they had arrested anyone in connection with the Annandale shootings.

They were also said to be investigating the presence of the shooters' abandoned car at Mon Repos.