ALLIGATOR POND, Manchester — Thousands of New Year’s Day late-evening revellers got the shock of their lives when a police shooting, which left one man dead and another in hospital, triggered a riot and an attack on the Alligator Pond Police Station by angry missile-throwing residents.
When the riot broke out, family members of Anthony Richards, otherwise referred to as “Lawyer”, were still trying to come to grips with the news that he had been shot dead by the police. The 26-year-old mason was shot just 50 metres from his home, in close proximity to the famous Little Ochi Restaurant on the Alligator Pond fishing beach.
Damaged cars on the compound of the Alligator Pond Police Station. (Photo: Gregory Bennett)
RICHARDS… shot dead by police in Alligator Pond
Richards’ close friend, 22-year-old Roshaine Dixon, was hospitalised with gunshot wounds and up to late yesterday there was no word regarding his condition. Dixon, residents said, had just “finished cutting up seasoning” inside the kitchen at the Little Ochi Restaurant where he was employed and was heading home for a shower — with plans to return to work for a late-night shift — when he was shot.
When the Sunday Observer visited early yesterday afternoon, the area in front of the police station facing the Alligator Pond square was cordoned off, forcing traffic to divert using side roads through the community.
But smashed windscreens and side windows of several parked cars — including a marked vehicle — burnt debris in front of the station, and hundreds of large stones as well as the broken remains of bottles thrown at the station by angry youth, bore testimony to the mayhem that prevailed intermittently through Friday night into Saturday morning.
At the nearby Little Ochi Restaurant normality was rapidly returning, with meals being served to a steady stream of arrivals including tourists.
Friday night’s incident occurred even as the annual New Year’s Day Alligator Pond festival, which some residents claim dates back more than 100 years, had reached its climax some time after 8:00 pm. Some revellers were reportedly getting set to leave, but many others were still driving into the secluded fishing community when all hell broke loose.
The initial shooting followed by the attack on the police station and what those present claimed was a “barrage of gunshots” triggered widespread panic, with hundreds of people running in different directions and taking refuge in private homes.
Yesterday afternoon, police officers at the station declined to comment on the police shooting and subsequent riot, but referred the Sunday Observer to members of the high command who were in Alligator Pond.
The senior officers included the head of Police Area Three, Assistant Commissioner Kingsley Robinson and Assistant Commissioner Granville Gause of the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI), which investigates police shootings. The two held separate meetings with residents along the beach urging their co-operation in the quest to find out what really happened.
Robinson later told journalists that there was an “understanding” between the police and residents “that things are back to normal”.
He pledged that the police investigation of the incident would be carried out with “utmost integrity” and he urged those with information to come forward.
In a release circulated yesterday afternoon, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) quoted the Divisional Commander for Manchester, Lascelles Taylor as saying that the actions of the police which led to the fatal shooting of Richards and injury to Dixon followed calls to the police that a robbery was taking place and help was needed.
“When the police responded, the robbers were pointed out by citizens. The police then attempted to apprehend the robbers when the deceased pulled a gun on the police while Dixon attacked the police with a knife. We recovered a Taurus 9mm pistol, and a magazine containing five 9mm rounds,” Taylor said.
The release confirmed that police personnel involved subsequently had their hands swabbed, and were taken off front-line duties.
Alligator Pond residents, who spoke to the Sunday Observer yesterday, insisted that the two young men were “innocent” and that they had no weapons on them. They say Dixon was on his way home from work when he came across Richards. Both were said to be leaning on a fishing boat and chatting when two policemen described as “outside police, not from Alligator Pond police station” came up. Residents claim the police opened fire after frisking the two men.
“‘Lawyer’ dead wid im two hands up in the air,” one man told the Sunday Observer, dramatically extending his arms overhead to demonstrate. Residents alleged that Dixon’s life was only spared because “im form dead” after being shot.
Marcia Johnson, a cousin of the deceased who shared the same yard, described Richards as a “very jovial and quiet person who don’t give no trouble… yu only see him smile…”
Residents say that after the shooting, angry residents ran to the police station and started throwing stones, bottles and “anything dem could find”, smashing cars and causing external damage to the station. There were unconfirmed reports that bottle bombs (molotov cocktails) were also thrown.
Residents say the police responded with gunfire and tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd.
The attacks on the station reportedly continued throughout the night and intensified in the early morning before calm was restored.
Assurances from the police high command and Member of Parliament for South Manchester Michael Peart that full and fair investigations would take place, apparently helped to bring calm.