Soldier likely shot during crossfire
Buxton/Friendship uneasy over mystery gunmen
By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
November 25, 2002

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The army was yesterday still probing how one of its soldiers was critically wounded on Saturday night in Buxton/Friendship and the prevailing view is that he was hit during an exchange of gunfire between villagers and mystery gunmen.

One man, clad in a bulletproof vest and military fatigues, was killed in the incident and up to yesterday he was unidentified.

Saturday’s shootout was one of several that have plagued Buxton/Friendship following the October 28 incidents that left two of the February 23 escapees dead.

In the wake of the wounding of the soldier, Secretary to the Defence Board and Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon paid a visit to the area yesterday. He was the first high-level government official to visit Buxton/Friendship since the start of a joint army/police operation.

Private Ryan Thompson of Princes Street sustained a gunshot wound to his head which resulted in a compound fracture of the skull.

According to reports coming out of the Public Relations Office (PRO) of the GDF, Thompson was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and is said to be in a stable but critical condition. He is reportedly slipping in and out of consciousness.

Meanwhile, the body of the man who was picked up on the Buxton/Friendship Railway Embankment was lying at the Newburg Funeral Home last evening still unidentified.

A release from the police said that they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the unidentified male on the Friendship Railway Embankment road around 8.55 pm on Saturday.

The release said that the body with what appeared to be gunshot wounds to the head, face and left shoulder was clad in a camouflage suit with a green bulletproof vest.

Reports from the GDF said that the circumstances are still unclear on how their soldier was shot.

An official from the PRO’s department said that the soldier, who was on patrol, was shot at around 6.20 pm on the embankment. Following the shooting, the GDF patrol came upon the body of the unidentified man.

It was following this that the patrol found an abandoned open back Toyota pick-up with the false number plate DFD 4673 at the Buxton Post Office Road. The police release said that the vehicle is in their custody and they are investigating.

The GDF said yesterday that the vehicle was used to transport gunmen and at the time of the discovery the men had fled the scene.

The circumstances surrounding the shooting incidents on Saturday evening are still unclear and up to yesterday the villagers of the Buxton/Friendship area were in an uproar over the developments.

Stabroek News understands that the men in the open back pick-up opened fire on the villagers and gunfire was returned during which time the soldier was shot.

It is understood that the GDF ranks did not use their weapons in that incident.

The villagers yesterday said that gunmen from outside the village had begun shooting at residents resulting in the unidentified man’s death and the soldier being shot. The unidentified man is thought to be one of the gunmen in the open-back pickup. According to villagers, the gunmen were also dressed in army fatigues and some them had on military hats while others had black head ties.

One woman recalled that she had seen three of the gunmen on Friendship Road and became suspicious as they were walking in a strange manner. “You all these is not soldiers?” the woman said she questioned the men. When one of them approached her menacingly and asked her what she had said she said she quickly replied “yeah, yeah you all is soldiers.” The woman said that one of the men ordered her to go on her way and shortly after she heard rapid gunfire causing her to seek cover in a trench.

“They coulda shoot me. Imagine all dem army men in this area and people still coming and shooting up,” the woman said.

Residents yesterday said that more than one vehicle load of gunmen in military fatigues entered the village and were involved in the shootout.

Some residents along the Friendship Road showed this newspaper an alleyway through which gunmen ran firing shots all the time. They also pointed to evidence of the intense gunfire on some of the fences in the area. They also said that a grenade was launched in the area underneath an abandoned house leaving a gaping hole in the ground.

“Is so when the gunshots start firing we had to duck for cover how we frighten,” a resident said while another said, “when me went to pull in me door is like a lef just standing deh, a coulda nah even move.”

The residents were angry yesterday about what they term the inactivity of the GDF patrols which they say are immobile in the village. They pointed out that even though the patrols were there gunmen are still entering and are engaging in gun battles resulting in the deaths of persons who are not Buxtonians or residents of Friendship.

It was only on November 12 the body of a man was discovered in the area after a similar raid by gunmen. The body of Randolph Chapman, of Linden and South Ruimveldt, was discovered in Buxton with gunshot wounds and he was also wearing a bulletproof vest. Reports had suggested that Chapman and a group of men entered Buxton in the wee hours of the same morning that his body was found and were involved in a shootout with persons unknown.

Residents were also upset about the manner in which they were treated yesterday by some GDF ranks who were on patrol at the back of the Friendship Road. They claimed that the soldiers cocked their guns at them threateningly. According to them there were villagers who were farming in the backdam and the soldiers were preventing their relatives from taking water and food for them.

Meanwhile, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Luncheon along with acting Chief of Staff of the GDF, Colonel Edward Collins paid a visit to Buxton and adjoining areas yesterday.

According to a report from the GDF PRO’s department, during the visit Dr Luncheon was briefed about the joint operation between the police and the GDF.

The report said that Dr Luncheon is the first high-level government official to have visited the area since the commencement of Operation Tourniquet. The visit, the report said, came in the wake of the shooting of the army rank on Saturday night by criminal elements. It is the first such casualty, the report said, sustained by the GDF since the start of the operation.

Stabroek News understands that Dr Luncheon stopped briefly on the embankment and spoke to some men there.

And Colonel Collins along with a team of senior officers including Dr Deane, the force’s medical officer, visited Private Thompson and another GDF rank, Vinton Sarius, who is also hospitalised.

The GDF PRO’s department said that during the visit Col Collins met Thompson’s parents and assured them that the army will do everything within its power to ensure that the best treatment is provided for the shot soldier.

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