Case study of a killing: ‘Young man, aren’t you dead yet?’

Sheldon Gary Davis, aged 29, was killed by the security forces on Sunday, 30 May 2010 in Denham Town, West Kingston, after he had been taken into custody to be “checked out”. Talking to Amnesty International’s researcher in Jamaica, Sheldon’s mother Paulette Wellington, said: “It happened about a week after everything was finished in Tivoli. Sheldon and I were at home, when soldiers knocked our door. It was about 10 a.m. They said that they were just checking. They searched the house. When they saw Sheldon, they asked for his ID and questioned why he was walking with a limp. They said: ‘That limp may be from a gunshot wound’, but I explained them that he was unable to bend his foot since the age of six after a sickness and that he had been operated several times. They took him out. They said they wanted to check him out. From the window I saw that the police forced him in a jeep. There were four police officers in that jeep, but they were not the same who had searched the house. Less than an hour after I heard some gunshots on the opposite side of the building. In the afternoon, as Sheldon had still not come back, I started looking for him. I went to seven different police stations but nobody had seen him. On Monday, I went again. I took a photo of him with me, showing it to people, trying to find him. Nothing. On Tuesday, the same. Every day I started searching for him since the morning, as soon as I got up. I was unable to eat. I just wanted to know where he was. On Wednesday, in Kingston Mall, a policewoman checked in a book and told me that he was dead. I was shocked and started crying. She told me to go to the Blood Bank because it was there that he had been killed. I went there on Thursday morning. A police officer took long time to respond to me. Finally he told me that they killed him there because he was trying to take a soldier’s gun. When I went to identify the body at the morgue in Madden, I passed out. Then I went back to Denham Town police station. They gave me his passport back. I had been to that police station twice already and they never told me anything, although they had his passport! A police officer who was sympathetic took me aside and told me that the way they had killed my son was a wicked act. In those days, the police was using the Blood Bank to hold people. When I went there, some young men told me that they witnessed Sheldon’s killing. The police put him under a mango tree and shot at him. A police officer said in a rude tone ‘Young man, aren’t you dead yet?’. He shot him again. These witnesses are too afraid to give statements. The autopsy was done about a month after. It showed that he had been shot twice, once in the foot and once in the abdomen. I buried him on 4 July, on the day of my birthday. For long time after his death, my memory was gone. I cried every Sunday after church. Sheldon was helping me a lot. Now I am alone, in dire financial straits and I don’t know how to pay for my daughter’s school fees. I would like to put the guilty behind bars and sue the government. Why would a young man try to take away a gun when there were many soldiers around? And even if he had really tried to take the gun, you are in the army, you know how to defeat somebody who is trying to disarm you! You should be able to kick away his feet and hold the gun upright, fire a shot in the air and handcuff him. Instead the person to whom he was trying to take the gun from shot him twice! No one is an idiot!”