[Editor’s Note: The following is a letter that was sent to the Commissioner of Police, both Jamaica’s daily newspapers and was forwarded to Yaadinfo. This is a truthful account of a Jamaican driver’s experience on Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 12:15 AM]
It was the end of a long night at work. I dreaded the thought of having to drop home staff at this hour personally, but figured as the man in charge I had no choice but to.
Reluctantly, I began my journey down South Camp Rd. “Three minutes drive” is what I thought to myself, not knowing that those three minutes would have taken on the most hellish experience that I have ever had in all my years of existence.
I reached my destination safely and within the time frame I had imagined. On my way back, travelling northerly on South Camp Road, I “happened” upon a pothole that seemed to come out of nowhere. Trying desperately to preserve the extensive work and cost of my recently over-hauled front-end, I swung from the crater in the road. Righting the vehicle, I went back to my lane in the dual carriage way. The next few seconds happened so quickly I fear I’m now not sure if they were my over-worked brain playing tricks on me or my imagination gone wild.
Alongside me pulled a dark blue (and just as darkly) tinted van. I saw enough to know that the windows started to roll down and I heard the driver yell, “P***y, how yuh ah drive so pon d road??!?”. I retorted in like manner, but my thoughts must have flashed to the case of the x6 driver and gunshots being fired, for the moment I sped off, he drove up as well.
I did everything in my mind possible to shake him. I even conjured up scenes from all of the Hollywood blockbuster driving movies to assist my “escape” of the pursuing and overly persistent dark blue tinted van. Nothing worked. At some point during the chase I thought to myself, “this is definitely going to end badly”. It was at that point (I’m sure) when I realized that my only hope was to find the police or the nearest police station.
I “blew” past Up Park Camp before I realized it was there. Coming to the stoplight at the Tom Redcam and Caledonia intersection, I feigned right as if I was heading onto Tom Redcam. The blue van did the same. At the very last minute I headed straight, past King Alarm and onto Maruescaux Road. Disappointingly, the blue van did the same again. Heading down Marescaux Road I pretended I was going downtown and at the last minute, turned into cross roads. The blue van did the same. I PANICKED. I floored the vehicle and asked it for all the power and muscle it could give me from the V6 engine in its belly and she responded beautifully. I got to the Texaco gas station before the blue van had even hit the last corner, and made a right back onto Caledonia Avenue. Thinking that I had outpaced and outfoxed the pursuing blue van, I slowed. To my great dismay and chagrin, a quick check in my rear view mirror showed the relentless pursuit had remained just that, relentless. The blue van was coming, still, and with more gusto it seemed.
I gunned it. Weaving in and out of traffic, taking the right hand lane going up Tom redcam Avenue, were some of the tactics used by the driver as he chased me. My mind was now working overtime. Who is this that would go to such a length to win/have an argument. If I allowed myself to be stopped, what then? What wouldn’t this driver do to stop me? Should I just stop? Do I drive straight home?
The last question gave me my answer. With the “steeliest” of resolve, I determined that I was not going to be caught, and that in fact I was going to drive directly to the Half Way Tree police station, where is was certain that my pursuers would not follow and I could have the tables turned on them/him by having the police chase him instead.
As fate would have it, I noticed a police service van at the intersection of Arthur Wint and Tom Redcam, and reasoned to myself, “This is my last hope”. Again I asked of the vehicle, and she responded faithfully. All this while, the driver was still “on my tail”. As I got closer to the service vehicle, I impatiently kept pounding the horn and flashing my headlights just to get said service vehicle to stop and acknowledge me. Even with the police’s presence, the blue van would not stop. I caught up with the lawmen at the intersection of Oxford/Old Hope & Tom Redcam. Mercifully, they had recognized something amiss, and stopped.
I pulled alongside them and shouted anxiously, “offica, da blue van yah a run mi dung from way dung a south camp road, an mi can do nutten fi stop dem”. The officer jumped out of his vehicle, rifle in hand and at the ready, heading in the direction of the blue van (I presumed) to “protect and serve”. That’s the last thing I saw before looking away to put my vehicle in park so that I can now see the face of my determined pursuer and find out what on earth I could have done to make him want to chase me so.
Imagine my shock, when I looked back towards the “offica”, my “saviour”, and saw he was going back into his vehicle. In dismay, and with a whole heap of curiosity, I glanced behind, through my driver window, and looked into the “working” end of a 9mm pistol, paid for by my tax dollars, of course. The blue van/my pursuers, were the POLICE.
On the passenger side of my vehicle I heard somebody bark “P…Y…E, COME OUTTA D VAN!!”. I turned to see another police officer pointing a rifle directly at my head, awaiting an excuse to fire. At the same time, my head (once I turned back around form that command) had made itself “one” with my “tax-bought” 9mm pistol.
“WHY YUH DRIVING SO FAST”, “COME OUTTA D VEHCLE”, WHA YUH A RUN FAH’, YUH AVE GUN IN DEH”, WHO IN DEH WID YUH”, were some of the questions I remember being shouted at me from all angles by the “boys in blue”. They didn’t tell me to, but my hands were in the air. Twenty seconds (if as much) seems like a lifetime in these instances, and I felt I’d lived a lifetime since I stopped the marked service vehicle (which by the way, had driven off once the “offica” recognized the blue van occupants to be “squaddies). Again, they demanded I exit the vehicle. Thinking quickly I told Mr. “9mm man” that I couldn’t. Not that I wouldn’t, but that I CAN’T. He asked me why. I told him, “I have the seatbelt on and I don’t want to give you a reason to shoot me, thinking I’m going for a gun”. He lowered his pistol from my head to my mid torso, his squaddie with the rifle did no such thing.
Using my index finger (I took for granted they knew I couldn’t pick up a gun with my index finger alone) I released the seatbelt, and with my right hand I opened my door and stepped out. Shaking like a leaf, I must have bumped into the door at least three times before finally coming out. I was told to face the vehicle, and searched. When the search of my vehicle and person turned up nothing illegal, I was asked “why were you running”. I responded that not knowing who they were and seeing them chase me as they did, I was heading to the nearest police station. Asked why I’d have need to be running from the police, I rhetorically asked, “how would I know that a blue, dark tinted, unmarked hiace van was the police”? I was told I’d be taken to the police station to be tested for alcohol consumption, I responded gladly and glibly added “drunk man can drive so”? Mr. 9mm saw the wisdom in my question and decided against this course of action. Inquiring of my documents and identification, and being given them, I was asked where I worked. I answered. By whatever process he used, Mr. 9mm satisfied himself that I was of no more threat to him or public safety than any other road user who drives late at nights and struggles with the hard task of determining friend from foe. I was given back my documents and told I could leave.
If only this were the chapter from a very good spy novel or something of the sort, it’d would make for exciting reading. Alas, this is REAL.
These events happened to me on July 17, 2011 at approximately 12:15am.
Mr. Commissioner, is this your perceived idea of the operations of your street crime unit within the JCF. Is this how decent law-abiding, taxpaying Jamaicans are to be chased around the streets of Kingston after being disrespected and de-humanized by your officers? And lest we forget, is this the expected response of the service vehicle that I had the confidence to stop? That they would just drive off and leave me with the same people I feared, the people I tried so hard to lose that I felt I had no alternative but to take the afore-mentioned evasive measures just to escape. What if they were (REAL) thugs dressed as police???
Unofficial sentiments suggest that I came face to face with the designated “death squad” of the JCF. I never before knew they existed. Would a gun have been “appointed” to me at the end of the “shootout”? What if I had turned on a dark lonely road? What if I had not seen that service vehicle? Would I have made it to the Half Way Tree police station? How safe am I now from acts of retribution, since I dared to go public with my experience?
Many other “what ifs” float to the surface of my mind. I fear that the newspaper does not have enough space to print them all.
I dare say Mr. Commissioner, decent law-abiding citizens ought not be treated in this manner. And I add, in the fight against crime and criminality, there must be a distinct differentiation between the actions of the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. In pursuit of law and order, the PEOPLE are not expendable and must not be ostracized by elements of the state who are either rogues or a “law unto themselves”.