• Carnage followed just 48 hours after double gangland hit
• Police Commissioner insists: Public has no need to be afraid
By Morgan Adderley
Tribune Staff Reporter
FIFTEEN people were shot early yesterday morning in Montel Heights during a birthday celebration that turned into a nightmare.
According to police, ten of the victims were female and four were minors — the youngest of which is just ten years old. Up to press time, there were no fatalities and according to the Public Hospitals Authority only one person remained in critical condition.
Minister of National Security Marvin Dames described this as a “tragic and unfortunate incident”. Both he and Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson stressed that the target was a specific individual - not the general crowd.
The Tribune canvassed the Ethel Street community hours after the mass shooting occurred. Neighbours insisted the gathering was a birthday party for a pregnant woman. The uncle of the celebrant said seven of the gunshot victims were their relatives. The pregnant woman was not injured.
WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT
The moment of the shooting.
“They (were) having a family get together,” Devon Oliver, 37, said. “It was my niece’s birthday and her and her friends had a little gathering. And everyone was having a nice time and two males came from the back corner, come up…and opened fire on the crowd, hitting 15-16 persons, including a child.”
According to Mr Oliver, among the victims were parents, siblings, cousins, and friends. He added his family has lived on that street for “generations”.
“This road (Ethel Street) is a quiet area. Everybody on this road is actually family. We work as a team…it’s not no troublemaker on this road. Now the area itself, it do have its ups and downs. But on this road, we don’t have that type of violence on this road.
“It’s just sad to know, why would you want to open up shots or open shoot in a group with lone females? Because mostly it was females and kids. It wasn’t no big blast music. One lil’ box playing music. Women and children. I don’t know why they (would) do that.
“I pray God that everything work out well and they pull through,” Mr Oliver said. “And I praying for them. I would like for the public to pray for them, to pull them through.”
Police initially reported there were a total of 14 gunshot injuries, four males and ten females, with three victims in critical condition. The statement also said three other victims with non-gunshot injuries were admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital.
However, in a statement released Sunday evening, PHA said 15 gunshot victims were assessed at PMH. It noted six of the victims were discharged and one person remains in critical condition.
Mr Dames addressed the matter in an interview with The Tribune yesterday.
“It’s a very, very tragic and unfortunate incident. Certainly, given that it occurred while persons were at a function to celebrate and then you had this very unfortunate occurrence, it speaks to where we are in the country.
“Someone was shooting at a particular individual. And based on the information that we have, that individual ran into the crowd.
“So I want us to be extremely careful that based on what police know at present, wasn’t that the intent was go there and shoot up everybody.
“But it shows too the cowardice of these persons who are engaged in these kinds of activities,” Mr Dames said.
Commissioner Ferguson echoed these remarks during a press conference held Sunday afternoon.
He said police received a report of the shooting shortly after midnight.
“Additional information is a male was walking towards the party, when he was confronted by two men who (began) shooting at him resulting in persons being shot,” Commissioner Ferguson said.
He confirmed the targeted person was indeed one of the people shot, adding he sustained an injury to his leg.
The commissioner declined to confirm whether the targeted person or perpetrators are known to police.
However, he noted police “are aware” of who they are looking for and added police are “following significant leads”.
The commissioner also insisted this incident is not connected to the recent homicides in the country - particularly Friday’s double homicide. One of the victims in that double shooting was a man previously wanted by police for murder.
“We don’t have any intelligence, absolutely no intelligence, that suggests that,” he said.
Despite these incidents of violence, the commissioner underscored the public should feel safe.
“Members of the general public, I wish to advise that you can move about in your normal daily business. This is not a situation where persons are going around shooting anybody.”
When asked if he thinks the public feels safe, Commissioner Ferguson replied: “I feel safe and I think you feel safe.”
He admonished people to “be very aware of the company that you keep.”
He also warned the public to be “very careful of the misinformation” being spread on social media.