Three bandits die in shootout with police
Constable injured
By Edlyn Benfield
Stabroek News
December 16, 2002

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Three unidentified bandits were shot dead and a policeman received a gunshot wound during a high-voltage shootout in the West Ruimveldt Government Scheme during the wee hours of yesterday morning.

Authorities are currently searching for a fourth bandit who is believed to have escaped with a quantity of firearms. It is thought that these same bandits were responsible for a robbery at a house not far from where the bloody confrontation occurred.

Reports are the shootout occurred at around 4 am after a police mobile patrol responded to an alarm raised by Leon Payne, 55, at whom the bandits had earlier fired two shots while attempting to gain entry into his home.

The visibly shaken man told Stabroek News that he was awakened at around 3:30 am by the sound of his dogs barking and went to take a look outside through a small opening in his front door.

Layne said he saw four men dressed in dark-coloured clothing walk past his home, located at 555 Hibiscus Place, and stop at the junction of that street and Ebenezer Drive. Almost simultaneously, a car passed and one of the men wearing a red headband - another was dressed in a green vest - immediately stooped down.

According to Layne, after watching the men for a few moments longer, he went into his kitchen but returned to the front door about two minutes later when the dogs resumed barking.

"I look outside again and I saw one o' dem trying to jump de front fence, so I take off the patio light," Layne recalled, adding that he then began shouting for "...thief, thief..".

At that stage, the men walked to Layne's gate and jumped over before proceeding to a window [on the southern side of the house] and using a large, wooden plank to break the glass. Thereafter, the men used the same plank to strike the wooden window bars in an effort to dislodge them, Layne said.

On seeing this, Layne retreated into his bedroom and armed himself with a cutlass he keeps hidden there for protection, and approached "...I pointed [the cutlass] at them in a threatening manner," Layne said. It was then that one of the bandits reached into his waist and drew what appeared to be a gun and fired two rounds into the house, Layne said.

Realising the situation was beyond his control, a frightened Layne withdrew and "...I tell my family to evacuate the house." Stabroek News understands at this point, Layne and his family, including his wife, young son and mother-in-law, ran through the backdoor and Layne and his wife jumped into their northern neighbour's yard while his mother-in-law and son hid between some flowers plants near the fence.

Just after they jumped into their neighbour's yard, Layne spotted a police 4x4 vehicle passing and called out to it. The vehicle stopped and the terrified couple explained what was going on to the officers who promptly took up strategic positions outside Layne's home and in the adjacent surroundings.

There was an exchange of gunfire between the police and the bandits and moments later the police brought out a body and placed it in their vehicle. They then checked out Layne's premises and told the family it was safe to return. Later, more shots were fired and the police brought out two bodies from behind the Layne residence where there is a canal separating the West Ruimveldt Government and Estate Housing Schemes.

By that time, several other policemen had arrived on the scene and a huge crowd gathered on Ebenezer Drive. Layne's mother-in-law was in a state of severe shock and had to be sent to the home of another relative.

The family complimented the police for their work and related that an officer later came and took a full report.

A police press release said that a policeman was shot and three bandits fatally wounded during armed confrontations yesterday morning between 3 - 6 am.

The release said at the time, a police mobile patrol was responding to the scene of a crime in the (West Ruimveldt) area where the bandits fired at a householder causing him and his family to flee and seek refuge in a neighbour's house.

When the police responded, they were greeted by gunfire and a police constable was shot in the left upper arm. The ranks returned fired and at the end of that confrontation, a bandit was discovered mortally wounded, the release stated. Later, around 5.55 am, while the police were still conducting investigations, one of two bandits who were hiding behind the house from which they earlier forced the family to flee, opened fire and the police returned fire killing both men, the release said.

The release added that a .38 revolver was found on the person of one of the men and the injured rank has been hospitalised. His condition is reported to be stable. The release added that the police are searching for a fourth bandit who may have escaped with a number of firearms.

"We suspect that this same gang attacked another residence in the area, earlier and stole a number of articles. Investigations are continuing," the release further stated.

Up to press time yesterday, the bodies of the slain bandits were lying at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) morgue and had not been identified. One the bandits was said to be a person for whom police had issued several wanted bulletins. This could however not be confirmed up to press time.

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