A shooting rampage by a lone gunman in Georgetown, Guyana, has left five people dead, another injuried and a nation questioning the operations of the Guyana Police Force.
Dead are Lance Corporal Michael Ford, 24, Const. Sherwayne Pantlitz, 35, taxi dispatcher Venessa Vyphuis, 38, and retiree Hugh Paul, 75. The shooter, a gold miner, Deryck Kanhai, is also dead. Taxi driver Paul Rahaman has abdominal injuries and is in stable condition at the Georgetown Public hospital.
Crime reporter for The National Communication Network in Guyana Nakasia Logan described the scene.
“The scene was very chaotic. Persons were climbing on trucks trying to get to where the gunman was while police were trying to keep them out,” Logan told Skedline.com. “It took three hours to intercept the gunman.”
Logan said there are unconfirmed reports that shooter Deryck Kanhai was mentally ill.
“His brother did say that about two years ago he shot himself and persons in the area reported he would walk around naked and he would come out and fire shots into the air,” said Logan. “These are just speculations. It’s not confirmed.”
The incident began at 1:30 p.m. on Tues. Nov. 12, Guyana police responded to a report that a man armed with two guns was discharging rounds indiscriminately on Middle and East streets in Georgetown. When police arrived, Vyphuis and Paul found dead and Kanhai had gone back into his home and began firing more rounds as civilians dodged bullets and ran for cover in what became a three-hour standoff.
The police made an attempt to arrest Kanhai by throwing tear gas into his home. Kanhai retreated by tossing the gas can back at the police and firing rounds. An exchange of gunfire ensued. A police press release stated that it was at this point in the gunfire exchange that Lance Corporal Ford and Constable Pantlitz were shot dead by Kanhai.
The statement said ranks then stormed the home of Kanhai where there was a gunfire exchange. Kanhai was fatally shot.
The police report that a shotgun, a .32 pistol and a .22 pistol were found in Kanhai’s home.
The motive for Kanhai’s outrage is still under police investigation. Guyana Police said it is rumoured he was having ‘woman trouble.’
“Speculations are that he was having domestic problems with a woman he was involved with,” said Public Relations Officer and Assistant Police Commissioner Ivelaw Whittaker. “But we are still investigating.”
Meanwhile, some Guyanese took to social media yesterday expressing the need for the Guyana Police force to better train their ranks. This call did not exempt local news reporters. News reporter and CEO of newssource.gy, Gordon Moseley, made his opinion clear in one of his Facebook posts.
“The Guyana Police Force has got to take a serious look at how it carries out operations and not allow its ranks to be placed in the firing line unnecessarily. During yesterday’s three-hour stand off, I did not hear any attempt at negotiation at any stage….you know, ‘We’ve got you surrounded. What do you want? We can help you. This does not have to be the end’…NONE OF THAT…And way too many police officers were out there without protective gear,” wrote Moseley in a Facebook post. “We’ve got to do a better job.”
Meanwhile the Ministry of Home Affairs noted in a press release it is looking to establish a more concrete special force.
“The incident reinforces the contention of this Ministry that there is a dire need for well trained Specialized Units in the Guyana Police Force to respond to similar types of incident. We are now more than committed to ensure that the SWAT team is established within the time frame stipulated,” the release stated.
Law student Yondessa Welcome said this move by the Ministry could have been made earlier.
“I’m glad they realized this but it is a bit disconcerting that they only realized this now. However as the saying goes: “better late than never.” I also think that our armed forces need to attract persons who have studied criminology and psychology with salary commensurate with such qualifications as part of this specialization process,” said Welcome.
Skedline.com was not able to reach Commissioner of Police Leroy Brummel.
Lance Corporal Michael Ford and Const. Sherwayne Pantlitz will be buried by the Guyana police force military style. According to Whittaker, their families will be given a lump-sum of cash under an allowance for ranks who die in the line of duty.
In the meantime, Guyana’s acting President Samuel Hinds said in a press release the people of Guyana should come together to reduce anger and frustration within the society.
“We must remember what it means to be neighbourly, to be our brother’s keeper lending an ear and a shoulder to those in need, comforting and consoling each other, ” wrote Mr. Hinds. “We have a duty to ourselves and to our nation to prevent violence in all form.”