Greene defends ‘Cobra’ operation

-says fleeing gang fired at cops

Police Commissioner Henry Greene is defending the actions of ranks during the operation to capture fugitive Tyrone ‘Cobra’ Rowe last Sunday in East Ruimveldt, where two persons were shot.

Greene, speaking with reporters on Thursday, defended the tactics of the police when asked why they opened fire when there were civilians around. “They [‘Cobra’ and his gang] were shooting at police,” he said, “Police should just allow themselves to be shot at and not respond?”

According to police, around 3pm on Sunday a police anti-crime patrol, acting on information received, confronted the wanted man and a group of five other men at East Ruimveldt Front Road, Georgetown. On seeing the police, ‘Cobra’ and two of the men began running and one of them subsequently opened fire. Police said ranks returned fire and shot Osafie Johnson, 17, during the exchange. A 9 mm Beretta pistol with three matching rounds was found in his possession, police reported afterward. Two of the group were arrested by the police, however, ‘Cobra’ and the others managed to escape.

Greene maintained that Johnson is a member of the ‘Cobra’ gang. “He (Johnson) was part of the gang and he was running with Cobra and yes he had the gun,” he said, adding that no rank will be facing disciplinary action in connection with the incident.  Johnson was shot in the back. “I like how we blow up this seventeen-year-old… It is a seventeen-year-old with a gun shooting at the police. We responded to it and he was shot and we recovered a weapon,” Greene said. Johnson has told Stabroek News he is no criminal and that he had done nothing wrong. He also denied any knowledge of ‘Cobra,’ saying he only heard the name when it was mentioned in the news recently.

A man who was caught in the middle of the crossfire said he noticed about six or seven police officers, including a female, running behind Johnson. He said it appeared to him that Johnson was trying to get home, since that was the direction he was running towards. According to the resident, the police officers, some of whom were in plain clothes, were shooting at Johnson. He stressed that the teen had nothing in his hand while he was being pursued.

Residents reported that over twenty shots were fired during the exchange and afterward three spent shells were evident as were several holes in fences. Many condemned the actions of the police, calling it unprofessional. One resident had said that children often played in the area where the shooting occurred.

A bullet shattered the bedroom window of Lorraine Dowding. Greene said he had since instructed the commander to assist the woman with her window “out of our compassion not that we are taking responsibility for what took place.” He emphasised, “There was an exchange of gunfire.”

He further said that there have since been reports of weapons being fired in the Back Circle area at nights but the persons who are condemning the police operation on Sunday never reported this.

He added that there are regular patrols in the area at nights but the perpetrators choose when to fire.
Meanwhile, commenting on Dexter Bentick, who was grazed by a bullet during the operation, Greene noted that it remained unclear who shot him. Bentick has repeatedly said that a rank – who he identified by name – had deliberately shot at him. “He was injured during an exchange of gunfire.
We don’t know who shot him but there was no deliberate firing here,” the Commissioner, however, said.

Greene was adamant that Rowe was spotted last Sunday but added, “I really can’t say by who.” He explained that the police are relying on informants to help capture Rowe, since the police do not know what he looks like. “We don’t have a picture of him but there are people who know him. We have informants who know him,” Greene said, noting that the efforts by police are hindered by the absence of a photograph.

He told the media that the number of members in the Cobra gang was unknown but “it seems to be developing and trying to recruit persons.”
So far, Greene added, the gang has been linked to gun robberies in the city and the murder of Ezee Runnings taxi service owner Davendra Bholanaught. Bholanaught died in January after he was shot in the chest at his Sheriff Street base while trying to fight off robbers. No suspects were ever held.

More than two months after his named surfaced, police on Tuesday issued a wanted bullet for Rowe. It described as 19-years-old and said he was last known to be living at Independence Boulevard, Albouystown. Rowe’s relatives had, however, told this newspaper that he was 17.

The police also stated that there was no photograph of Rowe available but gave a description of him as being medium built and dark in complexion.
The police have been unable to provide any other information to the media but the fugitive’s mother has said he had been living with his grandmother since he was an infant.

While expressing fear for her life, she maintained she did not know where he is and has not heard from him. Her statements were made after Rowe’s older brother, dray cart driver Jamal `Radio’ Beete, was shot execution style on June 19. Police have said that they have found no evidence to support any link between Beete’s death and the wanted man.

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