James Lawes' shooters were ‘truly reckless'
The “reckless” gunmen who killed innocent newlywed James Lawes had tried and failed to assassinate a rival gangster moments before.
They fired indiscriminately into a group of men after losing their intended victim: a gang member suspected of killing one of their “soldiers”.
Mr Lawes and two other men who were shot outside Place's Place on Dundonald Street on March 19, 2010, had nothing to do with the conflict between 42 and Parkside and were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The gang member who eluded the shooters after they chased him along Court Street was a member of Parkside.
The Royal Gazette understands he'd been arrested for the January 2010 murder of Perry Puckerin, who police say was a member of 42. No-one has been charged in that case or in the case of father-of-one Mr Lawes.
Detectives believe Mr Lawes, a 26-year-old barber, had no links to either gang and nor had fellow Jamaican Maurice Martin or Bermudian Robin Stovell, the two men who suffered non-fatal injuries that night.
All three were gathered in front of an alleyway next to Place's Place bar when the gunmen struck just before 11pm.
The culprits were travelling together on a dark motorcycle and the pillion passenger jumped off before firing 11 bullets into the group of men.
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Pedro, from Bermuda Police Service's Serious Crime Division, told this newspaper: “The gunmen were clearly looking for people that they thought were members of an opposing gang. I don't think they cared who that was. The recklessness of that is what's so stunning, in a public place. Whether or not the shooters intended to hit all three men or none of them remains to be found. Only the gunman himself knows. What we believe is that they thought they were Parkside and there were just going to take them out. They had just chased a Parkside member on Court Street.
“Whether or not they thought Mr Lawes and Mr Stovell and Mr Martin were opposing gang members, we don't know. There is nothing to suggest that Mr Lawes was a gang member, nor Mr Stovell or Mr Martin.”
He suggested the shooters were “merely looking for someone to shoot” when they fired into the group. “We haven't been able to determine a particular reason for these particular men to have been shot at.
“It certainly seems as though the firing was indiscriminate, as if the shooters were merely looking for someone to shoot at that night.”
He would not comment on the identity of the gang member who was chased immediately before the triple shooting or on whether that person was a suspect in the Puckerin murder case.
But he said the killing of Mr Lawes did share traits with two subsequent gang murders in April and August 2010.
“It's the recklessness of it, with that shooting and obviously with the Kimwandae Walker shooting and the shooting of [Raymond Troy] 'Yankee' Rawlins,” said Det Ch Insp Pedro.
He added that one of the two guns used to kill Parkside associate Mr Rawlins at the Spinning Wheel nightclub on August 9 had been linked to the earlier murders of Mr Lawes and Mr Walker, as well as a string of other non-fatal shootings.
The semi-automatic 9mm firearm has not been recovered.
Det Ch Insp Pedro, the officer in charge of special investigations in the Serious Crime Division, said the ballistics evidence was not enough to charge anyone in the latter two unsolved murder cases.
“It's very difficult,” he said. “The public expects that we can convict people just based on the fact that the same gun was used. But we still have to prove a case around each individual instance.
“This is why witness appeals are so important. We can get the forensic evidence and make the links but it really requires people to step up in each individual incident.”
He added: “I hear it quite often: 'Oh the police know who did it, why don't they just go and get them, there's murderers walking the streets'. “This is where public assistance comes in. Yes, we may very well have an idea and 'know' who did it but we still have to get the evidence to put before the courts.
“We may very well know who did something but it requires people to step up and give evidence that will secure a conviction.
“We are not the ones who saw the incident, the ones who may know where the gun is, who can get up in the witness box and give the evidence to convict.”
The officer said some in the community were perhaps more willing to speak now that convictions have been secured in three of the 16 murders perpetrated since May 2009.
He said he was optimistic that those with information which could lead investigators to recover the gun used to kill Mr Lawes or find the men responsible for the shooting would “step up” and speak out.
“Generally speaking, without speaking to this particular case, I think some members of the community will take comfort from the fact that some people have been convicted of murders and that, in and of itself, may give them comfort to come forward and assist the police.
“I definitely think that's a factor. Before, obviously, we had very little assistance in 2009 and in early 2010. We really weren't getting any assistance from anyone but so many people have been affected in one way or another by the violence, that some people are saying 'enough is enough'.”
n Part five of our series on Bermuda's unsolved gang murders will appear in The Royal Gazette on Monday, September 26, when we'll focus on the April 2010 shooting of Kimwandae Walker. We want to speak to anyone affected by the shootings who has yet to see justice done. If you'd like to share your story, call 278-0133 or e-mail email@example.com.
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