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Simmons claim: I was in fear of my life

Bar owner: Carlton Simmons (File photograph)

A bar owner charged with attempted murder told a court yesterday he feared alleged gang leader Jahkeil Samuels was armed with a gun when he stabbed him.

Carlton Simmons, owner of the Ambiance Lounge in Hamilton, told the Supreme Court: “I was afraid. I was in a panic. I was in fear of my life.

“I had just been threatened by someone who I know is more than capable of killing, who I knew has killed, who I knew is a leader of a gang that has killed many people.

“For the first time, that threat was directed at me.”

However, Crown prosecutor Nicole Smith challenged Mr Simmons’s claim that he did not know where the weapon he used came from and said that he had pulled the weapon from his pocket moments before the stabbing.

Mr Simmons denies the attempted murder of Mr Samuels, 32, and an alternative charge of wounding Mr Samuels with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Mr Simmons testified that he first met the victim in 2009 when he worked to combat gang violence. He said Mr Samuels admitted being the leader of the Parkside gang.

Mr Simmons said: “At that time we had numerous conversations about whether or not there would be violence. By his own admission, it was his decision if there would be violence or not.”

He said that Mr Samuels had told him several times that he carried firearms.

Mr Simmons claimed Mr Samuels told him on one occasion: “I don’t fight people. I kill people.”

But the two remained on speaking terms until 2014 when Mr Simmons said they fell out when he refused to lend Mr Samuels money.

Mr Simmons said he was going to work at about 3am on August 12, the day of the alleged stabbing, when he saw Mr Samuels going into Ambiance on the city’s Angle Street.

Mr Simmons added he sent a text message to the Commissioner of Police, which read: “Jahkeil Samuels is on island. We should talk ASAP please.”

He said he called Hamilton Police Station minutes later, told an officer that Mr Samuels was at the club and asked if they could send police to the area because customers felt unsafe. Mr Samuels waved Mr Simmons over to him later that morning and the pair spoke over the bar.

Mr Simmons said the conversation began with Mr Samuels voicing respect for him.

But as the chat continued, he claimed Mr Samuels said that people wanted Mr Simmons dead and he was the only one stopping them.

Mr Simmons told the court: “Basically, he was saying if I didn’t take care of him, then he’s not going to stand in the way.”

He said he told Mr Samuels to meet him by the kitchen and that Mr Samuels was already inside with another man when he got there.

Before Mr Simmons could go in, he saw the second man pass Mr Samuels an object, which he tucked into the waist of his pants.

Mr Simmons said: “I didn’t enter the kitchen. At that point I didn’t feel safe. I held the door open and asked them to come out.”

The three men walked towards the steps leading out of the club, but at the foot of the stairs Mr Simmons said Mr Samuels stopped and said: “F**k this. We are going to do this right here.”

Mr Simmons said they were joined by a fourth man as Mr Samuels began to threaten him.

He added: “He was saying he could have me killed and his people want me killed.

“I have got to pay up. I have got to give them money.”

Mr Simmons said Mr Samuels punched him in the face and reached towards his pants as if to pull out a weapon.

He added Mr Samuels told him: “I’m going to shoot you right here. I will f**king blow your head right off.”

Mr Simmons said that after what he had seen in the kitchen, the threats made him feel certain that Mr Samuels had a gun.

He said: “At that point I panicked. Out of fear and instinct to survive, I attacked him.

“My intention — the only intention I remember at that time — is prevent him from getting the gun. That’s the only emotion I remember having.”

Mr Simmons said he remembered landing the first blow, but little else.

He added he had suffered several injuries, including a head wound that required more than 30 staples.

Mr Simmons denied being comfortable around Parkside members, but said some did come to Ambiance. He said: “The first year they were not allowed to come in at all.”

But he added that after some “continuously lobbying” and protests that they had not caused fights or problems people linked to Parkside were allowed to visit the bar.

Mr Simmons said: “There were some exceptions made for some individuals who were not directly involved in proven crimes. I will say it like that.”

The prosecutor suggested CCTV footage showed Mr Simmons pulling something from his back left pocket moments before the stabbing.

But Mr Simmons maintained he did not know where he found the weapon, or what it was.

He said: “I don’t know where it came from. At some point clearly I had it.

“I do recall stabbing him with an object. I cannot identify if it was a knife. At one point I thought it was a bottle.”

The trial continues.

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