Police still hunting for gang
By Andre Haynes
December 5, 2002
The police and army are continuing their hunt for members of the armed gang who killed a traffic policeman during Tuesday's bullet- laden rampage down Regent Street.
Eighteen-year-old Police Constable Quincy James was pronounced dead on arrival at the Georgetown Public Hospital, where he was rushed after being shot down in a hail of bullets at the junction of Regent and King Streets while the gang proceeded to rob nearby Gobind's Variety Store and Cambio, escaping with more than $2.5M in local and foreign currency.
Contacted yesterday, Police Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent David Ramnarine said the police and army were yesterday engaged in a search for the gunmen, who vanished in the canefields of the East Coast Demerara Sugar Estates. Sources said that raids on specific houses in Buxton were carried out on Tuesday.
The attack caused panic and confusion on Regent Street as the men, said to have been between 12 to 15 in number, indiscriminately unleashed gunfire, and lobbed channa bombs, at vehicles, stores and even some persons as they made their escape.
Stabroek News understands that the drama unfolded first with the hijacking of at least two vehicles, one which was positively identified as having been used in the robbery, Bayridge taxi HA 9402; and another believed to have facilitated the gunmen's escape, Route 44 minibus, BGG 1031.
The taxi, is believed to have been hijacked somewhere on Sheriff Street by two armed men who pushed the driver into the back seat, while the minibus was, according to police, also hijacked at Regent and King Streets. The driver and the conductor of the minibus were held at Plaisance, ECD, during the pursuit by police. They remain in police custody and are said to be assisting with investigations.
The attack on Regent Street by all accounts began sometime around 9 am, when according to an eyewitness, the sound of what was thought to be a blown tyre, resounded. The eyewitness related that a single gunshot was then heard, a white car soon pulled up in front of Gobind's and six men, armed with "long guns", emerged. One of the men, the witness said, had a blue and black bag with him, which he slung across his shoulder as they proceeded into the store. Two gunmen, at the same time walked towards the junction where they wildly discharged shots from rapid fire weapons, causing chaos as stores shut their doors and persons ducked for cover.
James, the eleventh police officer shot dead this year, is believed to have been killed at this point near the junction, hit by at least ten bullets.
A source told Stabroek News that an off-duty Special Constable attached to the Tactical Services Unit (TSU) said he was standing at the junction of Regent Street and Avenue of the Republic when he saw a white Toyota Corona #PFF 4051 closely followed by a burgundy Toyota Corona HA 9402 turn into Regent Street from King Street. At that stage, approximately nine men armed with AK-47s and M70 rifles alighted and began firing rapidly in all directions fatally wounding James and injuring a number of other persons.
An employee of a nearby store recounted that he had been standing some 25 feet inside the entrance when the burgundy car slowly moved to the door and gunmen jumped out and entered the store where they continually discharged rounds. As he and another dove under the counter, he said there was an exchange between the men: "No, no, no....dis is not all! We got to get more money!"
This attack on the cambio was said to have been well-orchestrated, and much like the robbery at nearby Commerce House Cambio, where a teller was killed.
Stabroek News was informed that the driver of hijacked HA 9042, made his escape from the vehicle while the gunmen committed the robbery, running from the back seat. Gobind's and the other stores were open yesterday although Gobind's cambio remained closed.
The gunmen travelled up Alexander Street although it is unclear which routes they took to the East Coast. The two hijacked cars were found abandoned in Campbellville and on the Rupert Craig highway at Conversation Tree where volleys of gunfire went off.
It is believed that the bandits, using the remaining white car and the minibus, BGG 1031 made their escape to the Plaisance backdam. Sources said that the vehicles unloaded the men near the canefields.
Meanwhile, a source at GUYSUCO said that two workers, a ranger and a planter were relieved of bicycles at Sparendaam. Later four supervisors were subsequently held up at the canefields at the back of Better Hope and relieved of their motorbikes. The gunmen also abducted one of the supervisors, the source said, who they used as they navigated their way through the canefields. Two of the men rode with the supervisor, while nine men rode the three remaining motorcycles, three to a bike, the source said, while two other gunmen rode the stolen bicycles. This numbers the men at thirteen. Three motorcycles have so far been recovered.
Police have been criticised for their slow response. But Ramnarine referred to the statement by Deputy Commissioner of Police Winston Felix, who told reporters that "... a certain call or certain information ...may have tended to put the police in the wrong direction," as they responded to the scattered reports.
However, observers say that since the Regent and King streets shooting spree lasted at least two to three minutes and the bandits also lost more time making their getaway down Regent Street the police should have been able to close the exits to the East Coast, East Bank and key conduits such as Mandela Avenue. This should then have allowed the police to gradually close in on the two cars and mini-bus which aided the escape of the gunmen. The observers also point out that an all stations alert should have been put out and roadblocks could have been activated at the Sparendaam Police Station. The sources point out that the men - 12 to 15 of them by the police's own account - were able to get as far as Plaisance without the slightest hindrance or without any contact with the police or army. Questions have also been raised as to why the army patrols on the East Coast were not activated quicker to block the escape of the gunmen into Buxton and the surrounding area.
Escaping gunmen dropped live rounds, bullet-proof vests
The police yesterday recovered a quantity of live rounds and spent shells in a canefield behind Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, believed to have been left there by the gang of bandits who created havoc in the city on Tuesday morning.
Stabroek News understands that the party of police retrieved the items after a rural constable reported the find. Just Tuesday morning, shortly after the shoot-out in the city which left a young policeman dead, the Guyana Defence Force patrol found a stolen bike in the same location.
Sources said among the things retrieved yesterday were two flak jackets (bullet-proof vests) - one a blue, marked `Police' and the other, an unmarked green - one mini fragmentation grenade, eight 7.62 rounds of live ammunition and 38 spent shells of the same calibre. The ammunition, generally, can be used with self-loading rifles (SLR), AK-47 and M70 assault rifles.
This newspaper understands that a `Motorola' cellular phone, too, was found in the pocket of the blue bulletproof vest. Other items found were various articles of clothing and a pair of sneakers.
According to information, the items were found near the Lusignan Spring bridge, which leads into the canefield. One official told this newspaper that the discovery was made in the area where the army retrieved one of four stolen motorcycles. According to the source, the articles might have been inconspicuous on Tuesday at the time the motorcycle was located.
Four motorcycles were among a series of vehicles that were snatched and swapped Tuesday morning after a daring shoot-out and robbery in the city.