How far should a father go?

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Roger Leon did not come to the STAR with the intention of sharing his ordeal with our readership. After all he’s been through in the last couple days, the furthest thing from his mind was to attract more public attention to himself and his family. He showed up at our offices for one reason only; to collect a particular newspaper. It was quite a feat to pry from him his recent experiences with the law. He and his 12-year-old son had recently been in the news, after they were shot by gang members. By Leon’s account, the police report of the incident had been vague.

“Other people are being threatened,” he said. “But they won’t say anything because everyone is fearful for their lives. There’s something they say: ‘Who see don’t see; who don’t see, don’t see.’ No one wants to die. Nobody wants to be the next victim.”

On Thursday, June 13, Leon recalled, he was with his son when he observed a group of men near his house, one of whom had threatened him over a fence he had erected.

“They had their guns,” he said, “but I was looking to enter the house, not thinking they were coming to shoot me. My son opened the door. I was behind him. Then they started firing at me. If I had run into my bedroom they would have come in after me. If I ran out, they would have all just opened fire on me. I kept struggling until I closed my door. That’s why I’m not a dead man.”

His assailants didn’t seem to care about the presence of the young boy. They stopped shooting only when Leon cried out in pain, having taken bullets in both shoulders. He later found a bullet had grazed his son’s head.

“They probably thought I was dying and ran away,” Leon recalled. “Up to a day like today, my house is in a mess. I can’t go there, I don’t stay there. But I have no other place to go. My intent now is to go somewhere far away from St Lucia.”

After the incident one man was arrested, then released after 72 hours.

“They never charged him,” said Leon, “even though I told the police I saw who shot me.  Since I’m the only one saying I saw who shot me they have to keep in mind their own considerations, like if they should charge him. The system just wants you to try to commit yourself.  When you retaliate they will say what you did was premeditated, and you’ll be the one behind bars. With that knowledge, I went to everyone I knew who could assist me in doing the right thing. I have no trust in the justice system, or in the police.”

With his life now under threat, his job and financial security have begun to suffer. He owns a small tire shop and also works as a contractor with N.I.C.E. Since the incident, his collgeues fear for their own safety when he’s around.

“They have a problem with me,” said Leon. “They’re afraid because of me. They think if someone comes to do something to me they’ll get hurt too. It’s affecting my job, it’s affecting everything. I refuse to work inside the tire shop. It’s a small space, and being in there, there’s no escape.”

Leon hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in a long time but he says his main focus is putting his traumatised son at ease.

“I’m worried about our safety,” he said. “I’m not comfortable anymore. Each time I have to be looking over my shoulder. I want to leave here, go somewhere else and live in peace. But it’s hard to do that because it’s a whole competition. If it’s witness protection or if you’re a witness for the Crown you’ll stand a better chance. If you’re not, and it’s just people looking to kill you, if you die you die. That’s how the system sees it.”

With his attackers living literally a few feet away from his own home, Leon feels time is of the essence for his family’s safety.

“I see him every day, and you find they gang up, and they’ll sit down and watch,” he said. “You cannot feel safe in the toilet, whatever you’re doing you have to do it quickly, because at the end of the day you don’t know what they have in their mind or what’s coming next. I don’t know why law enforcement allows people to be involved with gangs in this country.”

This is not the first time Leon has found himself in such straits . At 19, he had his thumb sawed off, for reasons that he

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