In search of their demons


In search of their demons


Sunday, April 05, 2020

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Some years ago, whilst pursuing my master's degree, I began attempting to understand the killers I was spending my life fighting. It was somewhat necessary for my studies and absolutely imperative to my job in law enforcement.

Part of this probe involved heart-to-heart talks with killers, armed robbers, rapists and a slew of others who spend their lives being parasites to the rest of us.

This article will focus on three of them, two who are dead and one who seems to be determined to follow their path.

Let us start with killer number one. He was a gangster who had been charged for a knife murder but was engaged in a plethora of other crimes, including robbery, gun trading and, of course, gang warfare.

He was a nice guy to talk to; I quite enjoyed his frankness and candour. I even took him to a taekwondo black belt class so he could show us how he would kill, rob, or harm us. This way I could assess our self-defence strategies.

I learnt a lot, not the least of which was that Jamaican men who kill with knives use the rear hand with a continuous stabbing motion that makes blocking difficult. But I figured out a defence.

Anyhow, what stood out in my mind was a conversation we had about a robbery that was planned so as to result in the death of several guards. Luckily, that did not happen. So I asked him how he would have felt killing men who had families, a future, the right to live, and who had never harmed him.

He replied: “I wouldn't feel good, but I did want di food.”

The 'food' he spoke of was the bounty of the robbery, which would have been a few millions split three ways, and the guards' guns. This taught me a lot. I realised that this person had to be selfish at a level that most will never understand. I also realised he was devoid of empathy for anyone who he did not actually love. Bear in mind this man was not starving, homeless, or naked.

Then there was killer number two. To be fair to this guy he would kill if something was in his way, but I cannot say if he ever did. His 'thing' was armed robbery. I also invited him to my class to show us how he would rob us. He taught us some stuff we had not thought of.

For example, these guys use two hands on their guns when they hold you up, they immediately turn you around from facing them and like to put you kneel down. This gives them more control over you and makes it harder for you to utilise your hands and feet to strike. So, we had to change some stuff. I do not know his shooting skills, because we were using a piece of wood carved like a gun. But I know that at five feet anyone can shoot you.

When we ended the class he told me that it is important that these guys I am teaching understand that it is not his intention to kill, nor is it the intention of most robbers, but simply to steal their victims' possessions. He said if he feels that the person is resisting he may shoot, and if he becomes fearful of being disarmed he definitely will.

So I asked him what happens if he realises the person is armed.

His reply: “Once I get the gun I would not likely kill him.”

My question then was: “What if you realise he is a cop?”

His reply was: “Kill him, straight.”

You can imagine my discomfort at his response. All male members of my family out of school, barring one, have served in the police force or the military. And the ones in school know damn well what is expected of them.

This made me realise, again, quite a few things. First, this guy does not seem to realise that people do not want to just give up their possessions that they or someone else worked for. Nor did he seem to realise it was totally unreasonable that he should benefit from some other person's sacrifice.

So we see the characteristics of killer number one coming out in killer number two — those being selfishness and a lack of empathy.

It also highlighted the brutality that was present in both. Yet, these were not ogre-type figures. They talked of violence and even killing as if they are logical, explainable, and justifiable, and even smiled while doing so.

Whilst studying to be a hostage negotiator some years ago, I had a lecturer who spent a lot of time focusing on the importance of identifying the mindset of a hostage-taker. I recall him focusing on people with anti-social personality disorders (APD), formerly called sociopaths.

A person with this disorder has the exact characteristics of killers one and two — selfishness, lacking empathy, and seeming normal, like you and I.

I once asked the lecturer if APD is a mental illness that can be cured or controlled. He told me it was not one at all, that it is a personality. His exact words: “They are just wired bad.”

Known serial killers, despots and other criminals, like Adolf Hitler, are considered to have had this disorder.

With this in mind, can we really hope to rehabilitate men like this? And if not, then what?

Killer number three was notorious but could not be convicted, as civilian witnesses feared his gang. His life of crime began in Hunt's Bay, St Andrew, and ended in Portmore, St Catherine, where he also met his end. He was a personable young man who spoke frankly and with regret about his life.

However, he would never give us a statement under caution. He would reason off the record and explained to me that he began because his brother was shot, and after raising hell he realised he was good at it. Other people noticed and recruited him to a Portmore gang, and a killer was born.

As time passed violence and gang activity became his culture. However, Portmore was probably not the best zone to practise this craft, as years of remand caused by multiple criminal charges brought about a rethink of his practices, or at least his geographic choice.

He told me once that he did not fear normal police officers or soldiers, but feared the squads that hunted him. In particular, he feared the squad led by Senior Superintendent of Police Anthony Hewitt in Hunt's Bay and a similar squad in Portmore.

When I asked why, he said: “Dem not just in di place, dem in deh fi war we.”

I realised what he meant and I have said it repeatedly myself: Killers do not just fear blue, they fear the blue tasked to target them.

I do not regard killer number three as a person who was suffering from a personality disorder. I consider him to be a man who became a killer because of his environment, and it became his culture.

He could have been rehabilitated if he were alive, but it would not have been right. He should have been removed from society, because he harmed it. He belonged in jail. He gave up his right to a normal life when he deprived innocent people of theirs.

The message from this article? Most killers cannot be rehabilitated. No killer deserves rehabilitation.

Let us build bigger jails for them to rot in.


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