Ready to protest – Political anger rises at funeral for youth killed by cop in KellitsAugust 4, 2019
Former Mayor of Port Antonio Bennie White yesterday used a funeral service to declare his willingness to join other members of the People’s National Party (PNP) in protesting against the killing of Princeton Johnson, otherwise called Benji, on the night of June 22 in the town of Kellits, Clarendon.
An off-duty police officer shot Johnson under controversial circumstances.
A toy gun was later found in Johnson’s waistband.
Investigations are ongoing; the police officer implicated has not been convicted of any crime.
However, White, along with other members of the PNP who spoke at the funeral service yesterday, August 3, is convinced that a murder was committed.
“This crime should not go unpunished; someone must pay; the State is responsible for this murder,” White opined while delivering the eulogy for his nephew-in-law, Johnson.
The former mayor continued: “From east Portland, I will join with the PNP Women’s Movement and the former councillor [for Kellits Division, Gavin Hayles,] to stage the biggest protest when you are ready, to make sure justice is served.”
Moments before White made that declaration, a Clarendon representative of the PNP Women’s Movement, Evette Williams, promised to assemble women from across the island for a march through the rural town of Kellits.
“We are gonna march one day, and we are gonna cry out for you [police officer] because Benji’s blood is on your shoulder. I am gonna march through Kellits; I promise you that,” she told the congregation.
Williams, who described the deceased as a stalwart of the PNP, said she can empathize with the bereaved family because she too has a son who was killed by a member of the police force.
“I say to you mom [of the deceased Johnson], you are gonna rejoice one day. You are gonna see it; I can tell you; I am a living testimony… I find comfort in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I take all my burden to him and I leave it there,” Williams further declared.
Meanwhile, former PNP councillor for Kellits Division, Gavin Hayles, during a tribute at the funeral, chided the police officer responsible for what he thinks was a murder.
“…Benji’s blood is on your shoulder. You kill him today, but you cannot kill him tomorrow. How does it feel for you to take the life of another? He didn’t deserve it; to have this young man lying in the streets where he grew up… We will be leaving the vengeance to the Lord even though it is hard,” Hayles added.
He told the congregation that he gave Johnson a ride in his vehicle moments before the shooting transpired, adding that Johnson had told him that he was heading to a restaurant to purchase food.
Hayles said he later heard that Johnson was shot dead in Kellits, adding that he went to the scene.
The PNP members, in the meantime, were not the only ones who questioned the shooting of Johnson.
Reverend A. Duffus, while delivering the sermon inside Kellits Church of God, said: “The truth is, if when he died Benji had a real gun, I would say Benji’s death is justified. But to see him lie down like that and with what is said to be a plastic [gun], it is really sad. Somehow it could have been handled better,” he told the congregation, adding that – as far as he knows – the youngster slain was not a criminal and was not feared in Kellits.
The clergyman further reasoned that, if Johnson was suspected of being involved in wrongdoing, the police officer could have allowed him to continue running away and apprehend him at another time.
“If yuh nuh see him that night, you would see him tomorrow,” the clergyman posited, adding that Johnson lived in Kellits and did not usually leave the area.
Another speaker at the funeral, Hanisly Douglas, who also was Johnson’s employer, said the police officer knew Johnson well, because Johnson once helped to do work for him. Douglas also questioned whether the cop killed Johnson over a woman.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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