Following what some are describing as unnecessary force used by lawmen to defuse a situation in The Point on Tuesday, April 4, the Police are offering an explanation for their actions – which reportedly included shooting a resident with a rubber bullet.
According to a release put out on Wednesday, officers were called to Booby Alley just before 1 p.m. “to provide security to an official from the High Court of Justice.”
The statement says that person was present at a Point “to enforce a Court Order on the occupants of a property located in the said area.”
Officers allege that when they arrived, one of the occupants of the property, identified as Joel O’Marde, “refused to comply with the order and became aggressive, while openly hurling threats at the police and the court official.”
The Police says that officers made several attempts “to persuade and encourage Mr. O’Marde to comply with the order.” However, they further allege, “instead, he armed himself with a weapon and continued resisting and threatening the police and the court officer.”
Video clips that went viral on Tuesday afternoon showed O’Marde arguing boisterously with the Police while sitting at a front window, but do not show that he was armed.
However, the statement says that “in an effort to neutralize the threats and to prevent the situation from escalating any further out of control, the police resorted to using non-lethal measures to subdue [O’Marde] and take him into custody.”
The non-lethal measures apparently are a reference to the rubber bullet(s) allegedly fired by officers, who, sources say, entered the house from the back and surprised O’Marde.
The sound of at least one shot can be heard on the videos capturing the stand-off, before the defiant man – apparently hit – slumps out of view. Sources allege he was then dragged out of the house and thrown into a police vehicle parked a street away.
“The matter is still under investigation, and it is likely that charges will be brought against him,” the statement concludes.
Meanwhile, Alister Thomas, the United Progressive Party caretaker for St. John’s City West, notes that this confrontation is the culmination of the disrespect to Booby Alley families meted out by Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
Thomas notes that the residents were to be relocated to new homes for which the Browne Administration had received a grant from the Government of China. However, he complains, the people had no opportunity for consultation, or to be part of the design for this new development, which should have taken their social and other needs into consideration.
Accordingly, Thomas is asking for the blueprints to be shared now, as well as for compensation to be paid for the properties that residents have been pressured to vacate.
Browne’s breach of these promises, Thomas says, is what accounts for the distrust and the hostility being shown by the Booby Alley residents at this time, and he should be held accountable for the force that was displayed by law-enforcement on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, critics are saying the alternative housing promised by Browne to the dislocated residents has either not materialized or remains incomplete. As a result, many of the entrenched Booby Alley tenants and homeowners remain very reluctant to leave their community.