Gajraj tasked with tighter security at Police stations By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
June 1, 2002

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CABINET has tasked Minister of Home Affairs Mr. Ronald Gajraj with ensuring heightened security at Police stations and outposts countrywide following the armed assault on the Alberttown, Georgetown Police Station Thursday night. One Policeman was killed and another injured in that attack.

Police Constable Andy Atwell was killed in a most despicable and heinous way shortly after 22:00 hours Thursday, when gunmen armed with high-powered weapons drove up outside the Alberttown Police Station in a `movie-like scenario’ and opened a hail of gunfire, gunning down the Policeman, injuring another on duty and riddling the building with bullet holes.

A Police statement issued yesterday morning said the gunmen drove up in two motorcars, one was in front of the station on Fourth Street and the other on Albert Street. They reportedly “blazed away at the Station from both sides”.

The Police said Constable Atwell, who was just entering the Enquiries Office, “was blasted in the hail of gunfire by the four gunmen, who emerged with long guns, from the white car in front of the Station”.

Atwell tried to evade them, but was caught by gunfire from the other car on Albert Street and collapsed in the Station compound, the Police said.

According to the Police, the gunmen then sped away in the two cars. Atwell seemed to have been hit by bullets at least four times with one bullet penetrating his chest. He was rushed by taxi to the Georgetown Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The other Policeman, who shot in the arm, was treated at the Georgetown Hospital and was subsequently discharged.

Police said the two other ranks on duty at the time had dashed for cover and managed to evade the “murderous gunfire”.

A large quantity of spent shells and warheads of various calibers were discovered at the scene. A small fire in the vicinity of the Station Arms Room was extinguished by a bucket brigade before the arrival of a tender from the Guyana Fire Service, reports said.

Relatives said Constable Atwell was renting a room in Albouystown, where he lived by himself. However, he used it only for sleeping and changing his clothes since most of the time was spent at the Police Station. It is understood that Atwell has three sisters and four brothers.

One of his aunts, Desiree, told the Chronicle yesterday: “Andy was a wonderful child, always willing, honest and pleasant”.

According to Desiree, Andy always showed everyone a `good face’, never frowned when asked to do anything, and regularly checked out his family.

His cousin Yulex, said Andy was like a brother to her and he was someone who always visited them where they live on Orange Walk, in Georgetown.

Domestic terrorism
The Government Information Agency (GINA) issued a statement yesterday afternoon saying that intensive investigations are continuing into the attack and that a number of suspects have already been identified.

Cabinet at its special session at the Skeldon Estate Training Centre yesterday morning condemned the brutal killing of the Police rank and the armed assault on the Alberttown Police Station.

Currently on an outreach exercise in Berbice, the Cabinet expressed its profound sadness at the murder of the Policeman, the fourth such victim in less than two months. It deemed Thursday night’s assault on the Police Station as “an act of domestic terrorism”.

“Cabinet views (the) incident as a dastardly act against the Guyana Police Force and the men and women whose constitutional duty is to maintain law and order and to protect citizens,” the Cabinet statement said.

It said that before travelling to East Berbice, President Bharrat Jagdeo met with Gajraj, Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr. Floyd McDonald, and other security officials.

Minister Gajraj remained in Georgetown to monitor the situation in light of the attack, the statement said.

Cabinet also reaffirmed its commitment to give all necessary support to the law enforcement agencies in the fight against crime and in bringing the perpetrators of this and other murderous acts to justice.

Cabinet has called upon citizens to give their full support in the fight against crime.

In the meantime, Minister Gajraj has expressed sincerest condolences on behalf of himself and the Government to the relatives of the late Constable Atwell.

Condolences to Atwell family
According to a GINA statement, Minister Gajraj has extended the offer of financial aid and other support to the relatives of Constable Atwell to assist in funeral arrangements. He also offered his condolences to the grieving relatives.

Gajraj, McDonald and other top ranks of the Police Force, the Army and the Guyana Fire Service visited the Alberttown Police Station yesterday morning and inspected the damage done during the attack.

“From the looks of the impressions left by the bullets in the walls, it is obvious that those responsible for what happened last night are well-equipped with high-powered weapons,” Gajraj said on the crime scene.

According to the Home Affairs Minister, it is clear that these very armed and dangerous criminals are out “not just to injure but to kill”.

Commenting on this latest in a series of high-profile criminal acts of terrorism and murder and a blatant disrespect for law and order, Gajraj said the situation has gone way beyond criminal practice, and is now a clear attack on the Police by criminals.

Gajraj said that there was a clear intention by the gunmen to hit the Policemen on duty given the level at which the shots were fired. He described this latest act by the criminals as “most outrageous and way beyond normal criminal practice”.

According to him, the type of sophisticated weapons used in the incident could have penetrated two or three walls at once.

The Home Affairs Minister also contented that the Police Force would not allow these Police ranks to be gunned-down in such blatant and heinous acts of criminality and terrorism. He gave the assurance that the Force would continue its intensive investigations.

Meanwhile, a South Sophia, Georgetown resident was remanded to the Camp Street Prison yesterday after he appeared in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court Two charged with the offences of robbery with aggravation, escape from lawful custody and larceny of a firearm.

According to the Police, James Parris, 27, was a “prisoner in custody” in the Enquiry Office at the East La Penitence Police Station early yesterday morning, when he managed to free himself from his handcuffs. He escaped from the Station with a firearm belonging to a Police rank.

The Police said that Parris, after freeing himself from the handcuffs, snatched an unloaded revolver, which was in a desk drawer in the Office, and fled.

However, other reports indicated that an off-duty Police rank had just removed the bullets from his revolver, and was lodging it with the Inspector on Duty, when Parris snatched the unloaded weapon and ran out of the Police Station.

He was pursued by a Police unit, which managed to recapture him in the Tuc Ville, Georgetown area.

Four rounds were discharged by the Policemen in their successful bid to recapture Parris. Parris was earlier arrested for robbery with aggravation and was in custody at the East La Penitence station when the incident occurred.