Police turned up at the Mambo Bar on Barr Street, Kitty more than half an hour after two men with high powered rifles opened fire leaving a woman dead and three men wounded, according to residents, although a police station is less than a five-minute walk away.
They said that had the police response been immediate they might have been able to track down the white car that the gunmen reportedly fled in early Sunday morning.
The Kitty Police Station is located around the corner on Alexander Street which connects Barr Street to Sandy Babb Street. Another street, Shell Road is located between Barr and Sandy Babb streets.
According to residents, ranks could have been deployed in several directions whether in vehicles or on foot while awaiting the assistance of back-up ranks.
“Just imagine 45 minutes they took when it would have taken a rank (minutes) to walk here (to the scene)”, a resident said while noting that from all indications ranks lack basic investigative skills. The resident said that he could have used a motorcycle to ride to the police’s Eve Leary Headquarters and be back long before the police arrived.
The resident recalled that he was awake in his home when he heard fifteen to eighteen loud sounds which he immediately recognized to be gunshots. He said that believing that the bar was under attack by armed robbers he ducked for cover and laid low until he felt it was safe for him to emerge. He said that seconds after the gunshots he heard a car pull off followed by silence. According to the resident at no time did he hear screaming before or after the shots were fired.
The resident told Stabroek News that he knows the number for the Kitty Police Station and so he dialled it. He said that he did not wait for the person at the other end to say anything, instead he immediately said that there was a shooting and gave the address before hanging up.
Based on what this newspaper was told, other residents also called the station and the police emergency 911. There was no response to the 911 number and calls to the ambulance number also went unanswered.
The resident said that when he went to the bar he met a sobbing man with a woman lying half dead between his legs. The resident was referring to Essequibo miner Raymond Lall and his now deceased wife Shelliza Basir-Lall. He recalled that the man who had several bullet wounds was sobbing.
Based on what he said, two other wounded men were at the back. He said that according to his count there were about 12 persons in the bar at the time of the shooting. The injured were then placed in taxis and rushed to the hospital.
The resident said that when he called the police he anticipated that the response would have been immediate and given the time of the night, traffic would not have caused any delay. He said that he was counting on a fast arrival and the setting up of roadblocks to capture the shooters.
He added that the first set of police arrived nearly 45 minutes later “when everything done” and the ranks immediately began talking to persons, presumably the owners. The resident told Stabroek News that the police who arrived were TSU ranks. About ten minutes later, he said another vehicle with TSU ranks arrived, adding that he did not recognize any of the ranks who were on the scene as being from the nearby Kitty Police Station.
He said that the two vehicles stayed on the scene until the Crime Scene ranks arrived some time later. The police’s late arrival was corroborated by a second resident who gave the timing as at least half an hour after the shooting. He recalled hearing at least ten gunshots, one after the other. He too said that they were very loud.
Rapid response by the police to these serious crime events has long been a problem. Critics have argued that the police have experienced dozens of these types of attacks in the last decade which should have allowed them to develop a modus operandi including the immediate cordoning off of parts of the city. Police stations are supposed to be so networked that the minute a report of a major attack is received they can co-ordinate a response. Nine months after Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee announced sweeping security reforms, analysts have said there seems to have been little operational impact.
Police in a press release on the shooting had said that around 0020 hours on Sunday, Shelliza Lall, 33 years, of Charity, Essequibo Coast, was shot and killed, by two masked men, one of whom was armed with a firearm. The release said that investigations revealed that Shelliza Lall, her husband Raymond Lall, Badatunde Nedd and Permanand Persaud were at Mambo’s Bar when the suspects entered and discharged several rounds hitting them. The woman and her husband were taken to a private hospital where Shelliza was pronounced dead on arrival while Raymond was admitted. Persaud and Nedd were admitted at Woodlands Hospital. The police did not say what measures were taken immediately after the attack.
The woman sustained three gunshot wounds according to a post-mortem examination. She was laid to rest yesterday.
Nedd has since told this newspaper that there was no time to see who or from which direction the gunshots originated. He said that when he heard the shots all he did was look for cover.
The couple was socializing with friends at the city bar after conducting business in Georgetown.
Who were the targets? Three days after the shooting this is unclear. Like Raymond Lall several of his relatives and friends, Nedd was confident that neither he, nor any of the others that were in his company on Saturday night, was the target of the attack. Instead, he was of the opinion that his group took bullets which were intended for someone else.
Contacted about this yesterday Crime Chief Seelall Persaud said that investigators are still unsure as to who was the target of the attack. He said too that at the moment police are checking on some information and also conducting a background check of the couple.
A source close to the case said that from all indications someone sitting at the table that the Lalls were at was clearly the target. Based on the count given to this newspaper there were at least six persons sitting at that table including Shelliza and another woman.
Stabroek News was told that when the gunmen arrived they first encountered two men sitting at a table outside. The men were ordered not to move while the gunmen walked up to the bar’s doorway and opened fire. “Them people get shot at close range”, the source said. This indicated that the gunmen knew what they were doing and who they wanted to kill, whether it was the intended target or whether it was just to send a message to whoever had wronged them.
Meanwhile, the crime chief said that so far police have not linked a man who was arrested with an automatic gun early Sunday morning to the incident. He said that the man was arrested on the West Ruimvedt Front Road with a 9mm Luger pistol and ten rounds. A haversack with the items was found in a motor car around 0430 hours.