Four masked gunmen stormed the Ramada Princess Hotel’s Casino during the wee hours of yesterday morning and carted off an undisclosed amount of cash and left five persons, including a police officer, wounded in their wake.
However, a man identified as Wayne Griffith, was held as the robbers made their getaway. He remained in police custody up to last evening. Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum said investigators were up to late last night on the hunt for the three other suspects, who they have identified.
The attack, which occurred around 3.45am at the Providence, East Bank Demerara facility, prompted a call yesterday by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry for urgent attention to be given to crime, particularly ahead of next month’s independence celebrations, for which thousands are expected to return and stay at hotels like the Princess.
During the raid, which lasted for several minutes, four casino employees, Eon Garraway, 32, who is a clerk, James Gregory, Orlando Knights and Udairan Sookraj, were shot to their left hand, left foot, left hand and right hand, respectively. They were treated at the Georgetown Public Hospital and discharged. However, Lance Corporal 17352 Andrew Richardson, who is attached to the Brickdam Impact Base, remained admitted at the hospital after he was shot to the abdomen. Up to late yesterday afternoon, he was still admitted as a patient in the Male Medical Ward in recovery after undergoing surgery.
The Guyana Police Force said in a statement that four gunmen entered the casino and discharged rounds into the air. They held up the security guard who was on duty and took away his shotgun and ammunition.
According to the statement, the men then ordered everyone to lie on the ground and took the security guard to the cashier cage, where they held up the cashier and took away an undisclosed amount of local and foreign currency.
It was during this process that the perpetrators discharged rounds indiscriminately, resulting in four employees sustaining injuries, the statement said. Three patrons of the hotel’s casino—Melissa Ferguson, Jermaine Mason and Roshel Fraser—were also assaulted by the gunmen.
Police ranks responded to a report received and confronted the bandits at the hotel, where there was an exchange of gunfire, which resulted in the police officer being shot, the statement added.
Stabroek News was told that Griffith was held after he reportedly found himself trapped in a maintenance room. He is reported to have attempted to take off his mask and leave the premises, but the police were alerted and he was promptly arrested. A search was conducted on his person and a shotgun was recovered. Up to press time, he remained in custody and was cooperating with the police in investigations, this newspaper was told.
Speaking to this newspaper yesterday, a patron said he was in the casino with some friends when he heard someone ordering everyone present to lay on the floor. He said at first he thought it was a joke until he saw one man armed with a gun. “I try to hide my money in my boots then another one come around me and say, ‘Fat man what you have there? Pass what you got’ and I throw my phone and give him,” the visibly traumatised man said.
This newspaper was told that during the attack, one of the patrons called the police, who were close by, and they responded promptly.
The hotel was open for business as per normal yesterday but when Stabroek News visited detectives were present taking statements. Efforts to speak to a hotel official proved futile.
Blanhum said during yesterday, investigators visited the suspects’ homes in search of them but they were not located. However, according to him, a quantity of wet clothing was recovered and information is that the men had returned home after the robbery and changed before fleeing.
The vehicle which was used to transport the men to the scene, and which bore licence plate PRR 2545, was found on a dam, located at the southern corner of the premises. The men apparently gained entry to the hotel’s premises by driving up a dam, before scaling the fence.
Blanhum said the vehicle has been dusted for fingerprints. The vehicle was reported stolen last Sunday from Buxton.
Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon Assistant Commissioner (Administration) David Ramnarine and other senior officers of the force visited the injured Lance Corporal Richardson at the hospital, where they offered him words of comfort and encouragement, the police said in a separate statement.