The last thing Eldon Simon, aka Kay-Lay-Lay, had on his mind when he arrived home from work in the early hours of Thursday April 24, was death—least of all, his own. Having worked the night shift as a security guard, he could hardly wait to get some much-needed sleep in advance of his day in court. He truly believed justice would finally be served him.
Simon never made it to court. Just hours before he planned to set off from his Bois Patat home for the Castries courthouse, only several minutes’ walking distance, 46-year-old Eldon Simon was dead.
Neighbours later claimed they had heard two gunshots. One reported seeing a lone masked assailant casually walking away from the scene of the crime. “He never ran,” the eyewitness said. “He just took his time walking past a garbage truck that was making morning collections.”
This brings to 12 the number of homicides for the year—four of them victims from Bois Patat and nearby Morne Du Don. Just two weeks ago a body was discovered in the Gros Islet area. Again the 22-year-old deceased had been a Morne Du Don resident.
Seven months earlier, while Simon was sitting at his doorstep, someone took a shot at him. Simon survived. The matter that in all likelihood would’ve been adjourned as have so many in the last several years, had been scheduled for a court hearing the very morning Simon took his final breath.
Marvin Gabriel had surrendered to the police soon after the doorstep shooting. He was charged with attempted murder, released and re-arrested with other suspects in a number of other cases, including the attempted murder of Kervin Anatole, shot in the head four months ago at Bois Patat.
Gabriel was also charged with a January shooting at New Village, Castries. His rap sheet featured several robberies and assaults.
Gabriel was reportedly at odds with Eldon Simon over a woman. But Bois Patat residents say Simon, who had recently become a father, had lately been trying desperately to stay out of trouble.
“He recently got a job as a security guard and was really trying to focus on providing for his child and girlfriend,” according to a neighbor.
Now residents are turning their attention to the justice system they say should have offered Simon protection, knowing full well he was being terrorized. They now want to restore their community’s former “good name,” which they say has been making headlines “for all the wrong reasons.”
One resident confirmed a gang feud involving young men from Morne Du Don and Bois Patat. Said another, the feud had escalated following a scooter deal that turned sour.
“But it is really turf that these guys are fighting for,” our source assured The STAR. “Drugs sometimes come into play, if one side’s stash gets stolen. But what’s been going on is more of a turf war.”
The majority agreed the main culprit is what pretends to be our justice system. They cite a particular incident over a year ago, when one young Bois Patat man was accused of theft. Even though the victim has since dropped the case, our source observed, the suspect still has not appeared in court and remains behind bars.
“The justice system is really hurting us,” said The STAR source. “Right now, these guys don’t want to go to the police when something happens because they know the case will drag on and on. Meanwhile, witnesses are afforded no protection whatsoever and are like sitting ducks waiting to be shot down. Thursday’s incident further underscores the need for a witness-protection program. We feel what passes here for a justice system is helpful only to the killers among us!”
Just last year a young witness was shot dead at Hospital Road days after he complained publicly about attempts on his life by individuals due to appear in court for attempting to murder him.
Recently the government acknowledged over 400 killings remained unresolved. Several individuals have been incarcerated for over eight years, without a trial date. Although allowed bail last year, the suspect in the famous Verlinda Joseph rape-murder had been languishing at Bordelais for close to eleven years. When he was set free, thanks to an undisclosed overseas charity that paid his bail, the grossly neglected DPP’s office announced he would’ve face trial last September.
That promise has not yet materialized. Controversy continues to surround Saint Lucia’s dysfunctional multi-million-dollar crime lab. More and more citizens are feeling unsafe, even in their homes—especially with the police grossly under-funded, undermanned and under-equipped. Meanwhile police morale diminishes daily. The country’s only security force is no longer a recipient under the arrangements of the Leahy Law, a situation that is the result of alleged violations of human rights, including extra-judicial executions, currently under investigation by Caricom’s IMPACS. A related report that the government promised would be in the prime minister’s hands in February has still not materialized, inexplicably.
Meantime Bois Patat residents have not yet given up all hope. Through their youth and sports club, they are still talking about taking back their community. They have been holding discussions centered on rehabilitation programs for some of their young citizens currently incarcerated at Bordelais.
“This is geared toward helping them reintegrate into the community when they are released,” a community member told The STAR. They have also been working at beautifying their area and are offering after-school programs to younger Bois Patat residents. Still, it is a long hard road. What with so many bloodstains all over their community, a few minutes walking distance from the city, many residents believe they’re building on shifting sands. The latest Bois Patat incident serves only to strengthen the belief that when it comes to justice in Saint Lucia, it’s every man for himself.
Small wonder that many are demanding action from the government, beginning with the dismissal of Justice Minister Philip La Corbiniere—whose main concern appears to be the press. Recently he threatened to sue a local talk show host whom he said had unfairly criticized him.
At time of writing, relatives of Winston Brown, whose body was discovered in a deep-freeze several months ago, are in the process of organizing protest demonstrations against what they describe as a “don’t-care-attitude by the authorities in the face of mounting violent crime.”