Coroner’s Jury Rule that Police Officers be Charged with Manslaughter
Tuesday, July 10, 2012, Kingston, Jamaica – On Thursday, July 5, 2012, a Coroner’s jury at the Kingston and St. Andrew Coroner’s Court (KSACC) ruled that four police officers be charged with manslaughter for the death of Damion Roache. Warrants for the arrest of Corporal Fabian Johnson, Constable Omar Crossdale, Constable Garfield Wynter and Detective Corporal of Police Claudia Green were issued by the Coroner.
Roache was a 25 year-old mentally challenged man, who was shot dead by the police on November 15, 2002 in the Olympic Gardens community. The autopsy report showed that Damion received five gunshot wounds with four shots to the back.
Damion showed great fear of the police ever since he had seen someone being shot and killed by the police as a child. On this unfortunate day, Damion ran as he always did when he saw the police, resulting in his untimely and tragic death.
On November 15th 2002, the police were in the White Wing Walk area reportedly searching for wanted men. They reported that three suspicious looking men fired at them and they returned fire and Roache was mistakenly shot when he ran in the same direction that the men ran. During what one policeman described as a “running gun battle” none of the police personnel involved or any of the gunmen were injured. A civilian eyewitness however, gave evidence that the officers began firing as soon as Damian began running. None of the eyewitnesses reported seeing three men who engaged the police in gunfire.
After a long and arduous struggle, Paulette Rose, Roache’s mother, felt some vindication that those responsible for her son’s death will be made to answer for his death. Miss Rose’s journey through the courts began in 2004 when the first Coroner’s Jury returned a verdict of “accidental death”. At the first Coroner’s Inquest, crucial evidence had not been put before the Jury as the file before the court did not include all witness statements. Miss Rose, supported by Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), brought an application in the Supreme Court for a new Inquest to be held and was successful. The matter began again before the Coroner in 2008.
JFJ laments the length of time taken for the matter to be concluded at the level of the Coroner’s Court and hopes that the matter will move more speedily in the Circuit Court and that the rights of everyone involved will be protected.
JFJ is, however, heartened by the verdict despite the fact that it is nearly ten years since Damion Roache’s death and wants to urge other families in similar situations to keep striving toward justice. JFJ salutes the Coroner for his perseverance in seeing the Inquest to its conclusion. JFJ also commends the men and women of the jury who continued year after year to attend the KSACC until the matter was concluded. We encourage the citizens of Jamaica, not only to voice the call for justice but to play an active role in the administration of justice.