‘I am still trying to tell myself it is not true’
A week after Omari Stephens rushed from one end of the Corporate Area to “rescue” his mother, Susan Bogle, in August Town, St Andrew, after he was told shots were being fired at her residence, he confesses he is now living in a zone between shock and denial.
Bogle, 44, was killed at her home in an incident involving a joint police/military team.
“I was at work and I got a call that shots were being fired at her residence. So I rushed from work with the intention of rescuing her, because I was thinking she would have been traumatised. But when I got to the fence… the police prevented me from entering the yard, saying there was a shoot-out — it was a crime scene. So I said, ‘Okay, I just want to check on my mom because she is mentally ill,’ ” Stephens told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
“She wasn’t in the house. I ran out and I went to the hospital and I saw her there. It was quite shocking, I am still reliving the moment. I am still trying to tell myself that it is not true,” he said, the tears filling his eyes, warring with worry and pain.
In the background, the dilapidated two-roomed, board structure, which was home to Bogle and three other relatives, stood forlornly. Its shadowy presence a direct contrast to the “jovial” woman the Observer was told once lived there.
The door to Bogle’s small bedroom swung from its hinges, revealing the space where she spent her last horrifying hours, which has since been scrubbed clean of her blood — but for one or two splatters left on the door — and emptied of all its contents and the remnants of the life she lived there.
It is alleged that soldiers, last week Wednesday, some time after 3:00 pm, were chasing an individual who ran into Bogle’s yard, where, during an exchange of gunfire, she was struck.
Her only sister, Keisha Bogle Small, told the Observer that she has had sleepless nights since her sibling was killed. Although August Town is known to have violent conflicts, she never thought that her sister would die by a bullet.
“I live further down; I used to live here. It is very heart-rending. It is three of us, we grew up together, used to go to school together. I didn’t think I would lose her this way. I thought she would succumb to her sickness and die, but not die from gunshots,” she said.
“She can speak for herself and she knows what she wants. She is very feisty, she is also jovial. She will make you laugh, but she is also a get-to-the-point person.
“She is a fun-loving person. The entire August Town knows her, because she used to go to parties and so on,” Bogle Small reminisced.
Gazing at the structure which has no backdoor and only a crude window, she questioned the story of how her sibling died.
“They said they were chasing gunmen, but it is a one way in and one way out [dwelling]. So they would never look to go in there, they know the area, they know who lives here. They know there is no gunman living in this yard,” she pointed out.
“It is very tragic. It is very hard to eat, to sleep; I keep hearing her screaming, because her neighbours heard when she got the shot — she cried out. I keep hearing her. Every night I wake up at 2:00 am and that is it, I cannot go back to sleep,” she said.
In the meantime, Bogle Small said while the promise from Prime Minister Andrew Holness of a new structure to house her remaining relatives and financial support could not replace her only sister, her death has brought hope and light.
“God see and knows all things, and we might not know what he is doing, but he is doing something good. He is opening a lot of doors, not just for this family, but for other families in the inner-city who have been through this. We really appreciate that he is going to fix the place so they can be more safe and comfortable. Nothing at all [can replace my sister], no money, nothing at all can replace her. It is really sad, but I think her death has brought a lot of light. She did not die in vain,” she said.
Yesterday, Holness, who paid a visit to the area in the company of Member of Parliament for St Andrew Eastern Fayval Williams, committed to giving a monthly stipend for a year to Stephens, who was the caregiver for his mother and her three relatives, in addition to erecting a proper home.
“I have committed to giving you a proper structure that can accommodate them, and I think that will be a good start. I encourage you to keep up your advocacy, keep the memory of your mother alive, and you know there are a lot of people who may want to politicise, and that is fine, you are in a democracy, everybody has the right, but you have to make sure that what you do is best for what you want and for the greater good,” Holness said.
Stephens, who expressed doubt about the circumstances that led to his mother’s death when asked by Holness, “So you are not of the view that it was a shoot-out or stray bullets?”, he replied, “Absolutely not”.
The prime minister, in noting that his “intervention” was not to “make any judgement on how it happened”, reassured that “the process will come to justice”.
“You can rest assured there will be no cover-up or anything like that. We will make sure, first of all, that between the Jamaica constabulary and the Jamaica Defence Force, there is full cooperation. I am personally following it every time we meet. In fact, the issue came up at the National Security Council and I gave the charge,” Holness said, adding that the chief of defence staff and the commissioner of police were of the same inclination, without his prompting.
“These issues are tragic and unfortunate and we must investigate them fully and have them ventilated, and justice must be served. You have my assurance on that,” Holness said.
“Thank you for taking the time to be here. As my family and myself face this tragedy, we appreciate everything you have been doing. It has been a trying time; we are just seeking justice so that things like this don’t repeat itself. We are grateful, it is promising, and I will just hold you to your words,” Stephens responded.
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