Teenager admits stabbing ‘Town’ rival

  • ferry terminal in Hamilton

    ferry terminal in Hamilton

MP: Income inequality at the core of Island’s violence problem

Turf wars between young black males show Bermuda’s underlying racial inequality, according to MP Rolfe Commissiong.
He spoke out after a 17-year-old stabbed a teen from his Pembroke South East constituency was sentenced for the crime in Magistrates’ Court.
Their fight was said to be fuelled by neighbourhood gang rivalry.
“This horrific incident is illustrative of continued societal failure,” Mr Commissiong told The Royal Gazette.
“The fact that we may be seeing these behaviours now taking root among another generation of young black males from largely working class backgrounds is frankly distressing and offers us no cause for complacency.”
The Progressive Labour Party MP said the impact of growing income differences was being ignored.
“In the Bermudian context, black Bermudians have always been at the bottom of the pyramid with respect to income. The types of growing income inequality we have experienced over the last two decades has only reinforced this trend.
“This is why this phenomenon is colour-coded, and largely ring-fenced around working-class black neighbourhoods.”
Mr Commissiong said discussion had been hampered because the Government, its support base and “black supporters who mimic mainstream white views” don’t want to acknowledge the racial difference in Bermuda.
He was quick to acknowledge that “personal responsibility, parenting, absentee fathers, low marriage rates, inadequate education and the absence of religious affiliation” also came into play.
“But we need to understand, in my view, that those issues are symptoms of the cause rather than the cause itself.”
He called for a discussion of income inequality and the need for racial equity in the Island.
“Until we do so, we will continue to see these behaviours replicate across generations,” he said.

A teen was stabbed by a former friend because gang associations pitted them against one another, Magistrates’ Court heard.

Leshaun Wolffe, 17, punctured Tijuan Swan’s lung in the attack at Albuoy’s Point Ferry Terminal on August 1.

The Kitchener Close, Sandys resident yesterday pleaded guilty yesterday to the unlawful wounding of his 16-year-old former friend.

Tijuan is considered a member of the Parkside gang because he comes from Middle Town Lane, Pembroke, the court heard.

Crown consul Maria Sofianos described the situation as “peculiar”.

She said it was a case of “Town versus West”.

“The two are supposedly god-brothers,” she said. “They know each other, and were friends at one point, and now they have a history of these incidents.”

The attack occurred at 4pm as Tijuan walked with three friends to Albuoy’s Point, where Wolffe was waiting with some friends at the dock.

Ms Sofianos said Tijuan carried a cane because of an old injury and raised it in Wolffe’s direction after Wolffe crossed his path.

The two began fighting. Tijuan only noticed a knife in Wolffe’s hand once they’d separated.

The victim was taken to the hospital by taxi, bleeding from his side.

Wolffe was later arrested at home.

Interviewed by police the next day, Wolffe said he’d found the knife on the ground at the ferry dock, and subsequently flung it into the water.

Ordinarily such an offence could draw a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment, Ms Sofianos told the court.

But she suggested the complainant may have gone to the terminal looking for Wolffe — and that the cane had been raised as an improvised weapon against Wolffe.

Wolffe also struck a single blow rather than engaging in a sustained fight, she added.

This prompted Mr Warner to respond in West Indian slang: “So it was just one stab — a ‘jook’.”

Defence lawyer Elizabeth Christopher said the gang references came from police officers, not from Wolffe.

She described him as “vulnerable” and the rivalry between the two as “part of the cultural damage, in which our youth think certain things are expected of them”.

Mr Warner responded: “This is all part and parcel of the ongoing conflict we have between groups here in Bermuda.”

Wolffe apologised for putting his mother through pain, adding: “I have made up my mind to grow up and make wise choices.”

Said Mr Warner: “Clearly from what I’ve heard, your choices previously have not been good ones.”

Gang activity led to retaliatory violence that could only end badly, Mr Warner added.

“I’m not being cruel, I’m being factual. If you continue in this, you are going to end up dead. That is the history of this group behaviour and violence.”

Mr Warner noted Wolffe’s youth and lack of previous convictions and sentenced the teenager to two years’ probation.

He was placed on curfew for the first three months and ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device during that period.

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Published Feb 27, 2013 at 8:37 am (Updated Feb 27, 2013 at 8:37 am)

Teenager admits stabbing ‘Town’ rival

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