Gun victim’s mother: He felt more comfortable away from this area
One year after her son Stefan Burgess was gunned down, grieving mother Andrea Burgess holds little hope for a respite in the Island’s gun violence against young black men.
Mr Burgess, a 24-year-old father-of-one, was shot dead on January 8, 2012, at a residence on The Glebe Road.
Two gunmen descended on the house as revellers gathered for a birthday party.
The Royal Gazette she’d learned to live with her heartbreak, Ms Burgess said: “I don’t think it was intended for Stefan. I think it was intended for whoever answered the door.”
The Devon Lane, Pembroke resident believes many factors contributed to her son’s murder that night.
“He was a black male in his 20s who lived in the area and had friends from all over,” she said. “We live within the jurisdiction of where these things happen.”
Family and friends recently marked the anniversary of Mr Burgess’ death with a quiet gathering at the family home; police spoke recently with the family of the ongoing investigation.
Although loathe to use the word “gangs”, Ms Burgess said: “Anyone who doesn’t make the choice becomes a target. They hate them for that.”
She continued: “Stefan used to say he felt more comfortable anywhere up the country or down the country away from this area.”
Describing the options of her son’s demographic group as “choose or lose”, Ms Burgess said young men from gang-linked areas who try to avoid associating with gangs end up “hated and taunted”.
“The majority of it is just a power thing — making a name, getting recognition or brownie points, whatever you want to call it,” she said of the violence. “Doing anything, shooting anybody. It’s gang against community.”
Mr Burgess named his daughter Ryann after his 18-year-old brother Ryan, who died in a road crash in Orange Valley in February 2008, under circumstances his family maintain were no accident.
About to turn six, Ryann “fully understands” what happened to her father, said his sister Ebonie Burgess.
“When Christmas came, she had a bit of a rough time. She’s doing all right now, considering.”
A few arrests followed shortly after Mr Burgess’ death, in which a 25-year-old man was also injured. No one has been charged in the year since.
“Everyone knows what happened and who did it,” his mother maintained. “It’s a matter of evidence.”
Added his sister: “People know. I won’t say they’re afraid, but they don’t have balls enough to step up.”
Ms Burgess said she had taken solace in the spiritual help from Apostle Dwight Grant and his wife Naomi of the New Genesis Church.
The family are also consoled that Mr Burgess’ former employer Michael Dunkley is now Minister of Public Safety.
A Senator for the One Bermuda Alliance at the time of Stefan’s murder, Mr Dunkley delivered an emotional tribute to the victim last year in the Senate.
“He came to me numerous times and called me every other day for a few weeks,” recalled Ms Burgess. “I’d like to think he can help. I guess it’s step by step for him too.”
For now, the family waits until someone’s conscience troubles them enough to bring them forward.
Ms Burgess said: “The pain never goes away. I just adjust to it. I would like closure. I’d like to know who killed my son. They will get there — they’ve got to live with it every day, and when things go wrong in their lives, they’re going to have to ask themselves why.
“It takes a cold person to be able to take someone’s life. I pray for them, really. I feel sorry for them. They’re lost souls.”
Mr Burgess was murdered after dropping in at a house just after a football game, in an area commonly associated with the 42 gang. He had been injured before in a 2006 machete attack, but his shooting death last year ended an apparent ten-month lull on gun murders.
Asked if she felt any end to the violence was in sight, his sister replied: “It’s going to be worse. There are children growing up now without fathers, growing up with hatred and animosity to each other. Before, they used to fight. You would fight and live to see another day. But people hate each other now. People are dying. The generation coming up now, I feel sorry for.”
Both women conceded that young men from gang-associated areas faced a virtually impossible choice.
“You do have a choice, but it’s still difficult for them,” Ms Burgess said. “If you don’t join in, you’re taunted. No matter what, it’s still your own choice.”
Added her daughter: “You can’t go halfway and say ‘I’m just going to hang around here’. You’re either all in or you’re not. That’s where a lot of people make mistakes. They want to party, they want to hang around. But now you can’t be around people who are your friends. You can’t hang around in the street. All it takes is for you to be seen once with a certain person. That’s what people need to realise. Especially males.”
After losing three brothers — her eldest brother, Dwayne Harvey, died of natural causes in 1999 — she said she’d learned the value in “staying on the straight and narrow”.
Her mother said her faith and her daughter had kept her going. She warned young people not to underestimate the dangerous climate in the community.
“Your company can get you killed,” she said. “That’s for sure.”