13-Year-Old Among Five Killed In St. Vincent Overnight

(CMC) – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Thursday said he remains confident that the police will solve the mass shootings in the capital on Wednesday night that left five people dead, including a 13-year-old boy.

“… we will get to the bottom of this and we will bring the perpetrators to justice,” Gonsalves said from Morocco, where he is on an official visit.

In a video statement released via state media, Gonsalves said he was addressing nationals “with a heavy heart” having received the news as he arrived in the North African country Wednesday night.

He said that he immediately got in touch with the Commissioner of Police, Colin John, acting Prime Minister, Montgomery Daniel and Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves.

“During the night, into the wee hours of this morning Morocco time, I was on the phone getting updates and giving advice and suggestions,” Gonsalves said, adding that he had spoken to the Cabinet from London on Wednesday before the shooting “about additional measures which we needed to take.”

Gonsalves added, “I also spoke to the Commissioner of Police. So, we were putting additional measures in place when this shooting came about.”

In a statement released during the early hours of Thursday morning, the Police Commissioner sought to assure the public that the country is still safe despite the spate of violence.

“The serious crimes that are being committed are by and large committed by a very small group of people against others of the same ilk. We advised persons to settle their differences in a more mature, civilised and amicable manner. Also, we strongly advocate that persons respect the rights to life of each other,” John said.

The shootings Wednesday night brought to seven, the number of people shot and killed here since Tuesday morning.

Kemon Roberts, 28, was shot and killed Tuesday morning as he walked to work. Police said 18-year-old Cole Oliver, is expected to appear in court on Thursday charged with Roberts’ murder.

Police are also investigating the murder of Kingsley “Crime” Shallow, who was gunned down while walking along the public road in Montaque, a village in the interior of the island.

The killings bring to 35 the number of homicides here so far this year. Last year, there were 42 murders.

In his video message, Prime Minister Gonsalves, who is also the National Security Minister, said “The first thing I want to do, of course, is to indicate to our people that we must be calm; we must not panic. We have to be resolute and tight on the criminals.”

“There are ramped up measures which have been taken as I speak to you. And for tactical and operational reasons, I can’t say what all those measures are but I want to appeal to the people of St. Vincent and Grenadines, people in the communities, to assist the police with any information you may have.”

Gonsalves said that the police are “on high alert” as are border control officials – Customs and Immigration.

“We have certain leads, I’ve been advised by the police and over the next few days, we will be able to get a better handle as to who and what are responsible for these killings. I want you to know that the government is resolved to get to the bottom of this and to continue to put the safety of our people at the top of our agenda.”

“This fascination with guns, the guns coming from the United States of America and the ease with which they come in and then it is mixed with drugs and other matters of vanity and all kinds of quest for power through the gun.”

“All of these things are an intoxicating mix. We have to look to see whether there are external involvements of one kind or another. But we’ll talk more about those things. We try to get to the bottom of it and be calm. Don’t panic. We are all together in this. We have our values for peace and security.”

“These acts of senseless killing, the young males who are involved in these matters must know that it can only end with grief for them as we have seen in this particular case.”

“I repeat we have to work together on this, the communities and the police authorities, the law enforcement agencies,” Gonsalves said, adding that the political leadership of the country is taking security seriously and he does so personally.”

“I want to extend condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. Lives lost, it doesn’t matter which lives, the loss of any life diminishes all human beings in the community.”

“I reiterate, however, that we will get to the bottom of this and we will bring the perpetrators to justice. Those who carried out the killings and those who are the authors, even though they didn’t pull the trigger themselves.”

Gonsalves urged the nation to be calm and fortified in spirit, adding, “Let us all unite in fighting this terrible danger of criminal violence”.

He said that the acting prime minister will address the nation.

“I know there’s a convocation this morning of the Cabinet, a meeting of the Cabinet. I will make every effort from my schedule to call in when they are meeting,” Gonsalves said, noting the five-hour time difference between Kingstown and Morocco.”

“And then of course, as I moved from one appointment to the other in the vehicle, I will be in touch with the acting Prime Minister and the Commissioner of Police. Thank you. Be calm, be safe, be fortified; be cooperative, be helpful. We’re in this together.”

In April, Gonsalves told a regional symposium on crime held in Trinidad that some men have chosen a life of crime because they have to mind pretty, high-maintenance women.

“The fact of the matter is that they are a small minority from the disadvantaged communities from which they come. Most of them, overwhelmingly, have chosen the life of crime. Let us not get away from that,” Gonsalves said.

“They have chosen to be murderers. They have chosen to kill and they do so by and large, because they want to make some easy money, they are in drugs, running crime. Some of them, in order for them to maintain ranks in the community, they get a fascination with guns, they associate with young women, some cases beautiful young women who are high-maintenance and they have to rob and steal and kill and deal with drugs in order to maintain them,” Gonsalves said.