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Gun crime: do we care enough?

Since Kenwandee Robinson was shot dead in May 2009, Bermuda has lost the lives of 28 men to gun violence. OWAIN JOHNSTON-BARNES spoke to the friends of one victim, Jason Smith, to ask how they came to terms with his loss — and how the island can get to grips with its gang culture

Five years ago, the friends and classmates of Jason Smith were shocked and crushed by his fatal shooting.

While they worked to move forward, establishing an annual football tournament and scholarship in his honour, they were dealt another blow last month with the murder of a second classmate — Patrick Dill.

Mr Smith was fatally shot near the junction of Overview Hill and North Shore Road on May 1, 2011, while Mr Dill was shot outside of his Crossland Lane home on May 21 this year.

Both men graduated in the same class, they played football together, and police believed they were killed as a result of mistaken identity. No one has been charged in connection to either killing.

Mr Smith was the fifteenth fatal victim of the prolonged spiral of gun violence that began with Kenwandee Robinson in May 2009. Mr Dill was the 28th. Sharing his thoughts in an interview with The Royal Gazette, Daniel Woods, a friend and classmate of Mr Smith, said: “Now two members of our graduating class, who were by no means involved in that kind of lifestyle, have been tragically taken from us.

“It's really mind-boggling. You can't really fathom how this could happen.”

Mr Woods and fellow former classmate Kryshae Furbert said they knew Mr Smith since he came to Saltus, calling him a positive and charismatic young man.

“He was always smiling,” Mr Woods said. “He was funny, always playing pranks. When he wanted to tackle something, he was going to tackle it. If it was a football trick or a basketball trick — he really loved basketball — he would work on it until he got it down.”

Ms Furbert added: “He was never really upset. You would never see him frown or mad. He was always very positive.”

They said they were heartbroken when they discovered that Mr Smith had been killed. While they were regularly reminded of the shooting over the years, they said they were able to move forward, launching the Live Free football Tournament in July 2012 and Jason Smith Live Free Award (partial scholarship) in July 2011, named after one of his favourite songs and his overall approach to life.

“We are reminded of him not just on May 1 or the special days, but everyday we think about him,” Ms Furbert said. “He was the only one that was really missing.”

And while Mr Woods said emotions would flare up on Mr Smith's birthday and the anniversary of his death, he added: “Most of us have come to a stable point. We've gotten over that hump and we are trying to make the best of the situation.”

That stability was challenged last month when Mr Dill was fatally shot outside of his home. While both Mr Woods and Ms Furbert said they did not know Mr Dill as well as Mr Smith, his death marked another senseless blow to the community.

“When I was at the funeral for Patrick, it was tough,” he said. “But I think we have made it so far and progressed. As devastating as it was, it felt like the initial impact didn't have the same effect.

“I think that's the issue with Bermuda in a sense right now. It's a sad thing. Something like that should be hitting everyone much harder than it did.

“It's not something that can be fixed by one person. It takes a community effort, and it feels like the community has given up to an extent.”

Ms Furbert said community programmes were still needed to curb gun violence before it can take another life. “I think we need more preventive measures, more community programmes, because if we don't we are going to see this cycle continue. There are a lot of kids who have been left fatherless, and we need to stop the cycle where they grow up feeling angry.

“I don't want anyone else to lose a child, a friend or a brother.”

Both urged anyone with information about any of the fatal shootings to come forward.

“It's not something that's far from anybody,” Ms Furbert said. “This can happen at any time to anyone. Imagine if this was your brother or cousin — what would you want someone to do?”

Mr Woods added: “Bermuda's too small. This is something we didn't see coming for either Patrick or Jason. If you have information, there is no reason not to come forward.”

Unsolved cases: can you help the police?

Fatal shootings have taken place sporadically in the island's history, including murders of Shaki Crockwell and Jason Lightbourne in 2007 and 2006 respectively.

However, the frequency increased dramatically following the May 22, 2009 murder of Kenwandee “Wheels” Robinson.

Starting with Mr Robinson's murder, a total of 28 people have been shot dead on the island.

While police and prosecutors have landed convictions in connection to ten of the shootings, and individuals have been charged in connection to several other cases, no one has ever been charged in connection to ten of them.

Those cases include:

• Kenwandee Robinson — Shot on St Monica's Road, Pembroke, on May 22, 2009.

• Perry Mosley Puckerin — Shot at the Hamilton Parish Workman's Club on January 3, 2010.

• Freddy Maybury — Shot outside Woody's Sports Bar, Sandys on June 14, 2010.

• Colford Ferguson — Shot on East Shore Road, Sandys while working on February 4, 2011.

• Jason Smith — Shot on Overview Hill, Pembroke on May 1, 2011.

• Joshua Robinson — Shot at Jason's Barber Shop in Pembroke on June 23, 2012.

• Michael Phillips — Shot outside the Mid-Atlantic Boat Club, Devonshire on October 14, 2012

• Jonathan Dill — Shot on The Glebe Road, Pembroke on September 2, 2013.

• Erin Lee Richardson — Shot on Riviera Crescent, Southampton on April 23, 2014.

• Patrick Dill — Shot on Crossland Lane, Pembroke on May 21, 2016.

• Click on the PDF links under “Related Media” for a close-up views of the gun murder graphics

•Anyone with information about any of these or any other shooting incident is urged to contact the Serious Crime Unit on 247-1739, or the anonymous Crime Stoppers hotline, 800-8477

Flashback: the crime scene five years ago at Overview Lane, where Jason Smith was fatally shot (File photograph)

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Published June 10, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 10, 2016 at 2:02 pm)

Gun crime: do we care enough?

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