Orange Villa: “I don’t want anything less than justice”


We were driving down to the Orange Street Jewish Cemetery (more about this in a later post). It was a busy Monday lunchtime, and on the way we were slightly delayed by a minor accident – two cars with rumpled radiators and rear bumpers. Nothing serious. But as we drew near to the cemetery, we came across a yellow tape, right across Orange Street, with another one further down the street. In Jamaica, that means only one thing.

The Jewish Cemetery, where volunteers from overseas were working on recording a part of Jamaica’s history, appeared to be in the middle of a crime scene.

I managed to slip through to the cemetery entrance, and was almost overrun by a group of military-looking policemen in black overalls, all carrying big guns and all laughing and joking among themselves. They had apparently just set up the yellow tape. They seemed very happy and were so busy talking they didn’t even notice me. Over the road, the group of buildings next to York Park Fire Station was quiet. A few curious people lingered near the tape. It was quiet, very quiet.

On guard outside Orange Villa: INDECOM's white van is parked near the scene of the shooting. (My photo, taken when I left the Cemetery)
On guard outside Orange Villa: INDECOM’s white van is parked near the scene of the shooting. (My photo, taken when I left the Cemetery)

“They got the wrong man.” When I came out onto the street a couple of hours later, one of the residents told me that the police had killed the man who ran the cook shop over the road. He told me they were chasing someone on foot, who ran into the lane, and shot 27-year-old Robert “Nakiea” Jackson by mistake. A report in the Star newspaper said that the police were chasing a man with dreadlocks, and that Mr. Jackson also wore locks. A relative says in the report: “A fry di man a fry chicken inna him cook shop. Dem claim say is a Rasta dem a run down. Dem just go in there, pull the gate and shoot the man two times.”

A van from INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations, which probes police killings and abuses) was parked near the concrete apartment blocks adjoining a small lane, while two or three policemen stood guard and two police cars flashed blue lights outside the yellow. (One question: Television Jamaica’s reporter noted that his crew spent over twenty minutes at the scene, and no INDECOM representatives had appeared. By this time, residents and many others had disturbed the crime scene. Why did it take so long for INDECOM to arrive? Were they alerted by the police in a timely fashion?)

A CVM Television report that evening showed a thick smear of blood along the pavement between the cook shop and the street, and a glimpse of a twisted body lying in the road. There was blood on the cook shop floor, where dutch pots stood filled with rice and peas and chicken. There was an empty bowl and fork, perhaps from a meal that Mr. Jackson had just eaten. A plaque with a prayer on it hung on the wall. Perplexed firefighters from next door mingled with a group of residents, who expressed their shock and anger and held up hastily written cardboard placards to the camera: “We want justice!”

Her eyes reddened, the dead man’s sister said: “One shot in the back, one in the abdomen – you took my brother at age twenty-seven.” Seven years earlier, she said, her brother raised some money to open the cook shop. It had been operating in the small community ever since. “The only thing he was guilty of,” she continued, in a clear and resolute voice, “was waking up on his day off to cook for his customers.” He had invested money in equipment over the years, she added, and his business was “something he was passionate about.”

“We have to do something about this,” Mr. Jackson’s sister said, suppressing the tremor in her voice. She had a message for Jamaica’s leaders and was determined to deliver it; and she did not speak in patois. The anti-gang legislation is not enough; there needs to be more legislation to control the “police officers who think it’s OK to come, scuff (sic) out a life and  not be held liable.” Kingston Central (the police division where she lives) is not full of bad people. She was holding the Prime Minister and the Police Commissioner accountable, she said. “I don’t want anything less than justice. Quick, expeditious, speedy…” 

On one wall of Mr. Jackson’s cook shop are paintings of former Prime Minister Michael Manley and Jamaica’s current Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller.

“I don’t have any trust in the lawmen,” the woman concluded. “I’ve given up on my country.”

This evening, residents set up a fiery roadblock in protest at Mr. Jackson’s death. They say they will not stop until the Prime Minister (who grins at them from Mr. Jackson’s cook shop wall), the Member of Parliament or the Police Commissioner come and talk to them. I hope they don’t have to wait too long.

Residents set up a roadblock on Orange Street this evening. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
Residents set up a roadblock on Orange Street this evening. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

INDECOM reports that 258 citizens lost their lives in incidents involving the security forces in 2013 – 39 more than in 2012 (48 more than in 2011) and a 17.8 per cent increase in one year. Ten Jamaicans also died in custody. 29 per cent of fatalities were in the Kingston/St. Andrew region. In October 2013, the police killed 40 Jamaicans. As of January 14, INDECOM was working on 1,900 cases of alleged police abuses, dating back to 2008; these are mostly fatal shootings, shooting injuries and assault.

I spoke to Susan Goffe, from the human rights group Jamaicans for Justice, about the issue of extra-judicial killings in Jamaica. Ms. Goffe responded: “The figures from INDECOM for the number of fatal shootings by the police in 2013 show a significant increase. And the level of use of lethal force remains at an unacceptably high level. As a society we seem prepared to accept the position that because we have a high level of violent crime, we must therefore have/accept a high level of police killings. Not so. We cannot kill our way to security. Each fatal shooting must be thoroughly investigated, but we also cannot ignore the patterns that have been established for so many years. Patterns which see continued impunity for police use of lethal force.”

Footnote: When I learned the name of the man who was killed (he was the same age as our own son) a memory returned to me. Several years ago, I was at a meeting at a government agency with a group of young entrepreneurs. A young man with short dreads approached me and told me about a new small restaurant he was setting up in downtown Kingston. He proudly gave me his card, brightly decorated with pictures of vegetables and fruit, with his phone number, and invited me to come and eat there. I admired his card and commented that his name reminded me of the cell phone company.

The name of his restaurant: “Nakiea’s Kitchen.”

Here are links to the relevant television reports:

http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/PrimeTimeNews.aspx/Videos/32185

http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=2603&section=watch


31 thoughts on “Orange Villa: “I don’t want anything less than justice”

  1. I am sorry that SisterJack has used a blanket description to paint the picture that all inner city communities have poor infrastructure with zinc fences and are abandoned areas full of crime “mayhem for crime”.
    SisterJack makes it seem like it is right for the police to enter an inner city community, shoot however they see then just simply say “we were pursuing a suspect that entered the community”.
    The community of Orange Villa does not fit the description SisterJack has given of these so called “mayhem for crime”.
    In the middle of my reply I over heard a women saying the postmortem for Nakiea was scheduled for 8:30am today January 27, yet still none of his relatives were informed. I see this as an attempt of perverting the course of justice. Is this the type of action you would expect of the law in a controversial killing.
    SisterJack i am so disappointed in your comment, I hope that you will never have to experience a situation such as that his family is currently undergoing.

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    1. Absolutely, Tyrone – I agree with you. As you know I am sure, this is a common perception of inner cities that just helps to perpetuate the divisions and misunderstandings in our society. It is a stereotype and it brands every single person living in the community as a criminal or potential criminal. I hate this labeling and I don’t get the feeling that Orange Villa fits that description (if anywhere does). Yes, there is a report in the Jamaica Observer today (you can find it online) about the issue with the postmortem, which is really very concerning. It seems that the family intervened quickly and did not allow it to go ahead. And yes, I’m disappointed in that response too, although I have heard it so many times before. I hope that SisterJack will read the comment by Nordia Fennel on the same article, and think about it. We need to stop this “labeling” of people and communities and various groups in society. It is destructive and harmful and does NOT coincide with our national motto, “Out of Many, One People.”

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  2. I remember buying a pepper spray because I was afraid to walk to the bus stop from my apartments to get work or even the supermarket and that was a 21/2 minute walk. I ended up using the pepperspray on a young man that resemeble my brother when he pulled a gun on me and my friend to rob us. I emptied the cannister in his face and paused cause he looked like my baby-brother [talking that me, slim-built, light skinned, clean shaven and very low haircut, full lips and round nose, he however was not as handsome as my brother to me, I still remember his face too]. After me and my friend ran in the opposite direction from him we ran into two security guards, outside the factory they were guarding taking a smoke and inbetween scared breathe we scared that a guy just had a gun on us around the, they ran inside leaving us to just stare at each other.

    So Patrina and I took off too towards the Kingston Craft Market, Kingston, where’s a police station for help, we running petrified looking behind us to see if the guy was chasing us and ran into two policemen lounging in a coaster bus assigned to take the ‘officer’ around and told this officers what happened begging them to help us, while franctiing pointing to where the gunman was, when it slowly dawned on me, they are still sitting in the bus talking to us through the window, the sargeant in the bus asked me for the empty pepperspray for inspection, while smirking how brave a young lady I am, Patrina just burst out bawling and they just sat there laughing how we got away from the gunman.

    That’s when I realised the pepperspray back sprayed on me, on my face, my hands and chest, so I needed to wash off and fast. I hollered at Patr, let’s go cause the lazy ass cops are NOT GOING TO HELP US!!!! And we stormed off, leaving them still sitting in the bus that my taxes pay for and said put gas in and these, with the words ‘To server and to protect’ on the side LIES!!!!!!

    My mom, was horrified when she found out and now these lazy ass liars murderers, murdered my brother, while he was cooking on his day off.

    My name is Nordia Pifer, Nakeia Jackson was my, is my baby brother by our mother and I cannot stress enough how this is affecting ALL his siblings, his father Robert Jackson, his girlfriend Samantha, there are no words in this hemisphere, in this universe that can ever come close to describing the hurt fumigating our whole entire family, none. May my brother’s brutal and unnecesary end be the END.

    N.B. Mrs. Portia Simpson-Miller [Prime Minister of Jamaica] called my mother claiming she will see this through completely and justice will be done and that the family has the Government’s support entirely…. PORTIA PROVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!

    N.N.B. No more lies, no more abuse of the corpse, no more laughing over his blood as it slowly dries in the ground, the ground where he just has his last meal, no more innocent children who are praying for a striving legacy, loving life and kissing dreams, to be demolished with shameless evil acts, by weak imposters dressing to kill in legal gear labelled POLICE!!!! NO MORE!!!!!

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    1. I am not saying it is important, but it is quite unusual in such circumstances for a family member or a resident to speak in standard English. I think also she spoke in standard English deliberately, because she thought more people would listen and take notice if she did so.

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  3. this is so terrible sad, I believe its another case of mistaken identity…the infrascruture in west kgn and these abandoned poverty areas creates a mayhem for crime and for the police to go into these areas, they are well charged up….when the police comes in, everybody goes running and there is all kinds of confusion, there are zinc fences and under house, abandoned refrigerators and all kinds of places to hide, so the police will fire at anything that moves….its a highly tensed and charged operation…..and so these accidents are always going to happen, it could be an innocent customer who was in the shop at the time…I am so saddened when an innocent life is taken, but what are we to do, these areas are crime laden….we have some very dangerous criminals in these areas, who will kill the police without remorse, so what are we to do?

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    1. Yes, that is a very good point about the actual environment in which the police operate. I have seen many inner city areas and I know how congested they are. The police were chasing a man who ran into the area so I think it is most unfair to blame the community in any way. This young man had been running his own business for seven years and was frying chicken at the time. He was killed and his body dragged out into the street where it was simply dumped in the road (this is shown in the CVM Television report). What are we to do? The police are to respect the lives of all its citizens. When pursuing an alleged criminal into a crowded community they should especially take care. Thank you for your comment…but I don’t agree that there is nothing to be done when an innocent life is taken.

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    1. It’s really extremely sad and difficult, and if you follow my blog you will know that these tragedies (large and small, but all important for someone) happen every day. I can never come to terms with it all… and am sad that you do not wish to return. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. What a terrible waste of a hard working young man’s life – it sadly seems to represent what is happening to the best of Jamaica more broadly. I mourn with his sister, the residents of Orange Street and I’m sure many good Jamaicans that this continues to happen.

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  5. Reblogged this on Jamaican Journal and commented:
    I am re-blogging this today as it is a must-read. Emma’s first-person account puts a human face on crime and “extrajudicial” killings. It reminds us that we can become immune to reacting to the daily headlines shouting at us about two or three more people killed (statistically about one in ten of them by police on an annual basis). Also, no words. Rob Ford is drunk again, this time speaking patois. Jamaican blogger Annie Paul was contacted by the New York Times yesterday and appeared in this story. Check it out http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/21/new-video-shows-torontos-mayor-using-jamaican-patois-in-obscene-rant-about-police-surveillance/?smid=tw-thelede&seid=auto

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    1. Thanks so much for the reblog, Kate. I think it helps to tell the individual stories. They are (were) all real people. As for Rob Ford’s Jamaican “bad words”… Whatever next!

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  6. To trust the police or not trust the police. Here when the police kill someone, they are naturally investigated, but they are investigated by the police, not a completely independent authority. This is a problem for me and others.

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    1. Yes, that is a problem. Having the police investigate themselves was a major problem here, especially with high levels of corruption. Our INDECOM has only been around for less than four years but is making good progress, although its staff is somewhat overwhelmed by the number of cases. There was a lot of resistance from the police “rank and file” (even legal action) in the first couple of years, but I think they have had to accept INDECOM as a reality now. You can read more about them at http://www.indecom.gov.jm.

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  7. Emma, I got chills reading this. You have put a human face on something that happens all too often and is too often reduced to statistics in the newspaper. Simply reading numbers can make people forget that people lose their lives, families lose their loved ones, which does not need to happen.

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    1. I think it is important to tell the human stories when we are talking about crime and human rights and the way that we deal with crime. Statistics are empty. That is why I always list the names of those who have been murdered every week, and if possible publish their photographs too. Every death leaves a trail of grief and loss – so many Jamaicans are hurting (including of course all those who are injured and still suffering physically). It is eating away at communities and society in general..

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  8. Something has to be done. The policemen have to be accountable. They are there to protect and not to kill. So much money is spent on this force,with what result?

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    1. Yes, Jean Claude – as Mr. Jackson’s sister said on CVM Television last night – something has to be done. The police have already killed at least 20 Jamaicans so far this year. Are we just going to go on and on like this? Are we aiming for 300 more Jamaican citizens to be gunned down in 2014, as the numbers are steadily rising? And that is a good point – a lot of money has been spent, seemingly to no avail. On training (including human rights training, much of it paid for by overseas governments), equipment, cars…

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  9. this happens over and over and over again… it plays like a broken record but I can never get over the pain and anger (yes anger) I feel whenever it happens. We have to be better than this as a people. We cannot continue to allow security forces to fight (perceived)”criminals” in lieu of solving crime. that is not security. We cannot continue to fear that our loved ones, if they miss being killed by gunmen, are sure to be killed by police… mi cyaan tek no more

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    1. Damien, I feel the same pain and anger, believe me. Writing this article really was hard. I think we SHOULD feel anger, though – but as Susan Goffe said, we just seem to accept it as the price we have to pay for our insidious violent crime problem (and of course, fighting fire with more fire never works, anyway). There were so many things about this particular case that angered and hurt me – including the police officers’ insouciance (they almost seemed pleased with themselves) when I arrived and was trying to get into the cemetery. I don’t know if you watched the sister talking on the CVM clip. Her testimony was amazing. My heart went out to her, even though she didn’t scream and shout. I wish they had run the entire footage of her commentary.

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