FIVE gunmen were yesterday shot dead in a gunfight with members of the security forces in Bedward Gardens, St Andrew, bringing immediate relief to some residents of nearby August Town, who claimed that men from that area have been terrorising them.
A member of the Jamaica Defence Force was shot and injured during the operation which occured just after 4:00 am.
Members of the constabulary and military say they will continue targeted operations in Bedward Gardens to nab others whom they believe eluded them in yesterday’s operation.
The dead were yesterday identified as: 48-year-old Colin Mingoes, alias “Speng”; 24-year-old Oniel Dixon; 20-year-old Ackeem McLean, alias “Tilo”; Taffari Dell; and Julanie Palmer.
Police reported that three submachine guns were among seven firearms recovered following the security operation.
According to head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Corporate Communications Unit, Senior Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, the deceased were members of the dangerous Berry Gang, based in Bedward Gardens and that there was evidence that others gang members fled the scene, based on spent shells that were found at the scene that did not match the weapons recovered.
“The Berry Gang operates in the area and in recent times they have been provoking the residents of August Town by going into the hills and firing at them. On Sunday, they fired at one of our [security] checkpoints [so] they decided to go in search of these men. The operation was planned and when they went into the area, the first contact resulted in a gunfire. Shortly thereafter, there were several other contact with criminals.
“At daybreak when police searched the area, they found five men, who were later pronounced dead. They searched the area further and so far they have found seven illegal weapons, a number of assorted ammunition and they also found a number of cellphones. They also found a location believed to be their operating base. The members of the security forces are in the area continuing with the operation and the search because they believe there are other threats and weapons…,” Lindsay said, hailing the joint team for using superior training to manoeuvre the hilly and difficult terrain.
She, meanwhile, commended residents of August Town for holding the peace and pointed fingers at the Berry Gang for causing trouble in August Town.
Police said one of the men, who was believed to have evaded the security forces, was a man known as “Boom”. Commanding officer for St Andrew Central Senior Superintendent Marlon Nesbeth said intelligence indicated that Boom was part of the group yesterday morning and had actually fired at police and soldiers. Nesbeth was adamant that Boom has to be caught.
“We are still searching and we expect that we will be able to find him within the space as men are still in there and we will continue our operations. The threat is that these men are adamant that they want to create mayhem. They have killed innocent people and that is what they wanted to do on Sunday night. They come across into August Town, in particular spaces that their rival gang members are, to carry out reprisals and other acts of criminality. We had to be very steadfast to create that sort of a buffer.”
An emotional girlfriend of Ackeem McLean, one of the deceased, claimed yesterday that he had been in bed sleeping beside her when explosions rang out. She said he got up and went outside to survey the environs. She said shortly after, she heard more explosions. She only hoped that it wasn’t him on the receiving end of those bullets. She claimed that he did not sleep with a firearm and did not go outside with any either.
Speaking to the Jamaica Observer, one resident of August Town described the five deceased as terrorists.
“Dem deh man deh fi dead long time, man. Plain and straight! We can’t continue so. A terrorist them. Every night a gunshot. Dem nuh have no respect fi di law, so you done know. Man can see so much police and soldier inna di place a night time and a fire up so much shot same way? This will send a message to them big time. It will show dem seh no care wah you do, your time will come one day.”