The new year has only just begun but already we’ve recorded eight deaths—six of which occurred on what most Saint Lucians consider the holiest day of the week, “family day” – Sunday. Most of the killings occurred near the victims’ family home.
Yves Rene, 39, of Fond Mange, Marigot, was among those who perished on Sunday. News of his death was particularly sad but the actual circumstances are what really grabbed public attention. By popular account Rene was running away from the police with his hands up when he was cut down.
Witnesses later talked about a pool of blood where Rene fell and brain matter on nearby shrubbery. Alleged eyewitnesses recalled what happened in their presence around 11 a.m. last Sunday, shortly after a five-man police drug squad stopped their vehicle at the Marigot bus station, and started searching a group of young men who normally hang out there.
“The officers had positioned themselves, surrounding the area,” one of the young men recalled. “Then they ordered us to stand facing a wall. Rene was bareback, so they could see he was unarmed when he ran off. I saw a young officer bend down, he took aim and fired at Rene.
“The officer in charge forgot about the search. He just stood there holding his head.”
Rene was about ten feet from the search party, said one of his friends, when he was shot down.
“The officer shot him with a 12-gauge shotgun after ordering him to stop. The shot hit Rene at the back of his head, shattering his skull. He died instantly.”
The dead man’s older sister, Jeannine, described him as “a tradesman who kept out of trouble” and was generally liked in the area.
Additionally: “My brother was one before the last of five of us. He lived across from the bus stop with his girlfriend. He did mason work mostly, a little electrical, some construction. He was always working. He had a few five bags on him, not five pounds of weed. That was not enough reason to kill him.”
Rene’s mother, when she was told, could hardly believe her son was gone. Veronica sat alone in the balcony of her small wooden home, a cloth wrapped around her head. Her voice was weak but clear.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” she told this reporter in Creole. “He just came to give me tea and now he’s gone. He always comes by to help me around and make sure that I have something to eat. I’m sick and cannot walk around much. I keep going up and down to the hospital but they cannot do anything for me. They tell me I have chronic arthritis in both legs. Rene was good to everybody. I will miss him. He was such a great help to me.”