The aftermath of a police shooting in Waterhouse. (2000)

Blood and tissue stain a rag in a drawer at a home in Waterhouse. The police had been to the house about an hour before we arrived. The residents said they shot and killed a man in his bedroom.

I was invited by the “ghetto Priest”, Father Albert to go along on a fact-finding trip with the General Secretary of Amnesty International and his people. Father Albert is known in Jamaica for his work with rehabilitating former gang members in some of Kingston’s toughest areas. This trip with the General Sec. was to investigate the police abuse of civilians and the treatment of prisoners in Jamaica. We went to several different locations around Kingston talking with citizens about their various encounters with the police. Below is an excerpt from my notes taken on that September day in 2000.

(9/19/00) – We started out in Grant’s Pen so the General Sec. could talk to some of the community members there. While we were outside talking to this group of people we saw a Police Jeep drive by. A few minutes later 4 Policemen, 3 in full battle gear, helmets, bullet proof vest, M-16’s drawn (the Policeman in the Kaki uniform carried a Uzi) when they saw who we were they put their guns down, except for the guy in the Uzi. We told them who we were and what we were doing and they left. After about another 10 minutes we went on to Mandela town, a community just outside Waterhouse. The Church runs one of its many education centers there. We went into one classroom where the General Secretary spoke with one of the classes. He asked if any of the kids wanted to be a Policeman when they grew up, a few raised their hands. He talked a bit more about the police and then asked if any one of them had ever seen the police beating up anyone, all the kids raised their hands, there was about 40 or more kids in the class.

We left the center and were suppose to meet up with the Father at his next center in Seaview Gardens. By the time we had arrived they had already left to the next place. While we were there we noticed a crime scene across the street. There were about 5 police cars parked, apparently a body with multiple gunshot wounds had been found in an empty lot. This is turning out to be an interesting day, and it’s still early morning.

From there we went over to the Hunts Bay Police station to catch up with the Father and his entourage. When we got there they were just getting ready to go in and check on the prison conditions. The conditions were pretty bad, the cell was made to hold 28 people and there were 99 men inside. It was so hot, had to be over 100˚ all the men were in their underwear, the smell was also pretty potent. I can’t imagine being one of those guys in that hot cramped cell. The General Secretary went inside to talk with the prisoners and when he came out he had a look on his face. I imagine this guy has seen some pretty horrible things, but when he came out you could see he was really disturbed by what he saw. At the jail the Father had just learned of a shooting in Waterhouse, the Police allegedly killed a local Don in his bed. He was on parole and was supposed to check in at the Police station every day. Yesterday he had called in and said that he was sick and could not come into the station to report, so he was calling in. So early this morning the Police burst into his home and shot him dead as he was in bed. The place was totally ransacked all the furniture, beds, everything was tossed around by the police looking for guns, they didn’t find any. They looked after they shot the guy.

The place was a real mess, in the bedroom everything was tipped over and there was some blood spatter on the wall and ceiling. Some of the locals made sure that I got photos and even took me out back to get pictures of the bloody clothes, what a situation. It was pure chaos inside, the crowd in the house grew to about 20+ people all who were shouting out against the Police & Government. It was getting pretty ugly when the Police came back in, the Don’s baby-mother was screaming at them and then fainted and collapsed onto the floor. The Police quickly whisked me out the door with some other people before more tension could build up even more. Outside the Father said that when this story hits the newspapers it will most likely say that the Police were involved in a shootout and the gunman was killed. He also mentioned that they probably told the baby-mother that if she says anything, the same thing will happen to her.

After a heavy morning of dread we headed back to the Church and the Father took me to his favorite fish place on Constant Spring Road. At lunch I told the father I noticed his driver was carrying a gun, he said you can’t be too carefull, the restaurant we were at had been robbed twice, that’s the new thing he said, robbing people at a restaurants, but it’s also not being reported he said. A Chinese restaurant was also just robbed where two Police detectives were eating, the robbers took both their guns, pistol whipped then and robbed everyone.

It’s not as bad now in Jamaica, but crime is still a problem in some areas. This was a weird trip indeed, even for me, on my last day on the island seeing all these dread things really makes you think of the reality of daily life here in Jamaica. It was specially creepy to be in that house where just an hour earlier someone had been murdered.

Its truly like the Wailers sang in the song Time Will Tell, “It seems like heaven but your living in hell”.

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