One Kingston family is seeking justice after their loved one was allegedly beaten by Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers on Ash Wednesday along Rose Lane in downtown.
Tevin Riley, 26, was walking with his girlfriend Meisha Malcolm in the Hannah Town community around 9:20pm, when a single gunshot rang out. The area, which is under a Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO), already had a heavy police-military presence and soldiers quickly mobilised.
“The police dem said is a soldier issue and dem cyah do nutn. Soldier dem nah talk because dem know weh dem do,”— Riley, recalling his ordeal in an interview with BUZZ.
Malcolm, who has a child with Riley, explained that when she saw the group of soldiers she stopped in her tracks. She said the soldiers then turned to her partner walking beside her. The couple was worried about their sick, one-month-old daughter, who was at the home of her grandmother earlier in the day, just metres away.
“Aye bwoy, weh yuh gunman fren dem deh?” Malcolm recalled the soldiers asking before taking Tevin and pushing her into the yard and slamming the gate shut. Riley and Malcolm said they were only walking with a bag of baby wipes and diapers. The bag was taken, and Riley, surrounded by soldiers in the cover of darkness, said that’s when the assault began.
According to Riley, he was punched in the face, hit with a blunt instrument across his back and thrown to the ground. He was then kicked multiple times after he fell; his swollen, bloodshot eyes and bruises are testimony of his ordeal. As a result of the beating, he is unable to open his left eye.
Meisha, who worried for the safety of her partner, said she screamed “murder”. The gate was reopened, and she saw Riley on the ground. “Get up offa di grung bwoy,” the soldiers allegedly said.
‘Yuh try wash out di eye(s) wid water?’— A policewoman allegedly asked the injured father after he was beaten in Hannah Town, Kingston.
Interestingly, Riley was allowed to leave after the beating, and the two headed to Meisha’s mother’s house—where the baby was staying. The bizarre incident wasn’t over, however, as the soldiers returned, attempting to gain access to the house by kicking the door.
“Weh di bwoy deh? Come out yah!” the soldiers demanded. Reluctantly, Meisha and her mother let Riley out and he was taken away. Riley said he was among 18 boys and men that were taken en masse Wednesday night (Feb 26); however, he was the only one not processed—despite having his IDs and being injured.
Riley and the other men were not taken to the nearby police station, but held at the outpost, in the cold, without instructions. He said his cellphone was confiscated and turned off. No pictures were taken, neither were Riley’s fingerprints collected—the 26-year-old factory worker was told to sit, so, half-blind and injured, he did. Nothing else was said to him.
To make matters worse, Riley is epileptic and was without his medication.
According to Riley, the soldiers showed no remorse for their actions, and refused to take him to the hospital to get treatment and allegedly told him to “go file a report”. He said at one point they denied ever touching him.
“The police dem said is a soldier issue and dem cyah do nutn. Soldier dem nah talk because dem know weh dem do,” Riley told BUZZ. “One policewoman ask me ‘Yuh try wash out di eye(s) wid water?’ and mi di affi laugh. A suh unno treat people?”. He was not provided with water to “wash out” his eye as asked by the female officer.
Following the hours-long wait, Riley said he was put in the back of a police jeep and left at the checkpoint to walk home the next morning.
Meanwhile, the other detained men said they were treated like common criminals; robbed of their dignity and humanity and are soliciting the help of human rights advocacy group Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) with their case.
Both the JCF and JDF have repeatedly faced accusations of abuse due to societal labels of inner-city men as gangsters without proof or justification.
Riley’s family said they will not rest until justice is served and plans on filing a lawsuit against the JDF as well as the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). Riley was treated at a private facility, after which he made a report to the Denham Town Police, as well as the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).