A soured gun deal that left two men dead is at the centre of a war that has been played out, mostly in broad daylight, on the streets of the capital city, law-enforcement sources have revealed.
The Holness administration moved on Sunday to stem the bloodletting by so-called “super gangs” by imposing a state of emergency (SOE) across the Kingston Central Police Division, home to some of the warring gangsters, and Kingston Western.
The latest flare-up in Kingston Central was sparked by the brutal slaying of Lorenzo Campbell, 28, and Oraine Baker, 35, in the east Kingston community of Dunkirk, according to law-enforcement sources.
The police have confirmed the killings, but had no details.
However, The Gleaner understands that Baker, also known as ‘Ranger’, accompanied Campbell, also known as ‘Dadda’, to purchase guns for a gang based in downtown Kingston. They were reportedly robbed of the cash, tied up, and shot repeatedly around 10:30 a.m. on May 26.
The retaliation was swift, police sources said.
Just before 6 p.m. the same day, Jermaine Brooks, 33, was reportedly shot and killed by Campbell’s cronies along East Queen Street, metres from the Central Police Station, which serves as the headquarters for Kingston Central.
A 39-year-old bus conductor was injured in the shooting.
Since then, rival gangsters, aided by their affiliates, have reportedly unleashed a wave of brazen daylight reprisals that have left three others dead and at least 13 people nursing gunshot injuries.
Just before 5 p.m. on May 27, according to a police report, unknown assailants pounced on Shane Foster, 26 metres from his home on Rum Lane, also in downtown Kingston, and shot him to death.
The following day, a total of five people were shot and injured in two incidents. The first occurred just after 2 p.m. near the Pearnel Charles Arcade and involved two men, aged 28 and 42. The second occurred two hours later, metres from the SOE checkpoint in Rockfort, east Kingston.
A still-unidentified woman, said to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, was shot and killed in Dunkirk on May 30 after gunmen opened fire on a group of persons at a barber shop. Three persons, including an 11-year-old boy, were injured in the 4:55 p.m. attack.
Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson, who, along with army chief, Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, recommended the imposition of the SOE, acknowledged that the high level of violence in both divisions was “at a scale and nature that greatly endanger public safety”.
Jamaica has recorded close to 600 murders since the start of the year, a marginal increase when compared with the corresponding period last year.
But amid an overall 14 per cent decline in major crimes nationally since the start of the year, the Kingston West and Kingston Central police have recorded an uptick in violent crimes since January 1, Anderson disclosed.
There are 32 active gangs in the Kingston Central division, while half of the 48 gangs spread across Kingston Western are actively engaged in violent conflicts, he told journalists during a Jamaica House press conference Sunday.
“Seventy-four per cent of murders in these divisions are attributed to gang activities,” the police chief said.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in seeking to justify the use of emergency powers, said that there were signs that the gangs operating in the two police divisions were not confining themselves to “traditional geographical boundaries within communities, location, operation and affiliation”.
“This presents the possibility of super gangs emerging through collaboration,” he warned.