“STOP THE BLOODSHED,” he says.
By Staff Writer
In a heartfelt plea, Hon. Premier Wayne Panton has appealed to those persons responsible for recent fatal shootings and a string of other gun violence in Cayman to “stop the bloodshed.”
The peace and tranquillity of the Cayman Islands has been rocked in recent weeks by a number of shootings which have resulted in two deaths, and several incidents of armed robberies.
An intense ongoing police investigation has so far resulted in several arrests. Up to press time, two persons had been charged with murder.
“Right now, I'm making an urgent appeal to the people involved in the shootings. Please stop the bloodshed, life is too precious for these senseless acts of violence. No one has to tell me the pain of losing a loved one is real. It hurts. And it's forever. This isn't the game. There is no restart button,” Mr Panton stated in a national broadcast.
“The shocking outbreak of gun crime in the past two weeks, which has seen two young Caymanian men killed, and left eight other people wounded cannot and will not be allowed to continue. We cannot have our citizens living in fear.”
The scale of the recent upsurge of violence prompted the Premier to convene an emergency meeting with HE Governor Martyn Roper and all members of Parliament during which they were briefed by Police Commissioner Derek Byrne on what the Premier described as “this grave situation.”
That was followed by a meeting of the National Security Council which agreed on several measures being put in place as a matter of urgency to beef up security and public safety.
These include increased armed patrols in high incident areas and at liquor licensed premises, more vehicle traffic stops, and an increase in CCTV coverage on major roadways and known hotspots.
A reward of CI$50,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of perpetrators or the confiscation of illegal firearms.
While the police investigation continues, Premier Panton is also urging anyone with information to come forward with an assurance that their identities will be kept confidential.
“People know where the guns are,” he said. “If you want to save the life of your boyfriend, your child or a young man you care about, help us take these guns off the street.”
However, he acknowledged that “unfortunately, a culture has emerged in our community where people don't want to provide information to the authorities."
Mr Panton said, "We talk about transparency and government. Well, transparency and accountability is a two-way street. It's time for those who know where the guns are to do the right thing and to help take the guns off the street and out of our community.”
He called the incidents “extremely shocking and most worrying to members of the community.”
Another concern voiced by the Premier is the proliferation of social media rumours inflaming an already tense situation.
“It is also unfortunate that social media has been making the situation worse. Please pay attention to the facts, provided by the authorities. I would also like to ask everyone in our community, to refrain from circulating unfounded rumours and speculation. It causes far more harm than good.”
The spike in serious criminal activity, especially gun crimes with fatal consequences, have also alarmed the Hon. Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Progressives party, Roy McTaggart.
“The recent spate of shootings and murders has rightly shocked the community and is a grave concern for everyone living in these Islands,” Mr McTaggart said in a statement.
“We have had 16 people shot over the past three months. The two recent major incidents within a week of each other have left some ten people shot, two of whom were killed.”
Saying that all gun crimes are concerning, the Progressives leader singled out the recent incidents as “ruthless”.
“The use of a lethal automatic weapon to shoot indiscriminately in public is especially troubling. This type of crime is not something we are used to seeing, nor is it something that should ever become the norm in our society.”
Mr McTaggart added that he is satisfied that this spate of shootings is being taken seriously by the RCIPS and that measures are being put in place to beef up security.
The Opposition Leader said they fully support the measures agreed to address “these deeply disturbing gun crimes decisively”, and urged the community "to do their part to help remove these guns from our society."
“We must ensure that the evil of gun and gang culture is not left to fester and grow. It must be curtailed,” Mr McTaggart stressed.
Meanwhile, the RCIPS has confirmed in the early stages of its investigations that a 29-year-old man of North Side was arrested on suspicion of murder in relation to the fatal shooting on Martin Drive, George Town, on Thursday, Just 1st.
It was the second arrest in connection with that shooting in which 36-year-old Mark Andre Ebanks of George Town was killed.
Both suspects have been granted police bail with strict conditions as investigations continue.
The RCIPS has also confirmed that following what they described as “a proactive operation” in the vicinity of Mahogany Way in Prospect, a vehicle was stopped and a man, age 35 of George Town, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. That was connected to an aggravated burglary and shooting at a property on Adonis Drive in West Bay, on 26 June in which the occupant of the property was shot. Three assailants had entered the premises.
The police say no shots were fired while they were apprehending the suspect.
CAUSE FOR REFLECTION
While the police investigations continue, the crime surge has triggered deep community reflection on its likely causes and how to stamp it out before it worsens.
Premier Panton offered this perspective:
“I am keenly aware that the social ills, such as the inequity and the disenfranchisement that has led to a subculture of gun possession and criminality, didn't emerge overnight. Our government is committed to addressing the deep-rooted issues as a matter of priority. But right now our focus has to be restoring law and order, peace and tranquillity and getting illegal firearms off our streets. The police cannot do it alone. The government cannot do it alone. We must stand together as a community, and not allow misguided elements to reign terror and bloodshed on our community.”
In speaking directly to the perpetrators, Mr Panton implored:
“I want to speak directly to any person who feels like they're already in too deep. You might think to yourself, that there's no way out for you. But there is another option. Come forward. If you have information that leads to an arrest arrangements can be put in place to ensure your safety. Any information, no matter how trivial you may think it is, could be a huge help in solving these crimes and stopping your violence. Let's all worked together, kinder and gentler came on. Let us face this challenge together with a renewed commitment to do our part to break the cycle of violence.”