Suspect claims mistaken identity in gun chase

| 13/12/2016 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Jonathon Welcome

(CNS): A 23-year-old man from Bodden Town has denied that he was the man police say pointed a gun at them and members of the community in April, when he fled after being stopped by armed officers. When he appeared in the dock Tuesday, Jonathan Welcome told a jury he was not the man that two officers claimed was armed with a handgun, which he pointed at them and bystanders during the alarming armed chase in School Road, and that it was a case of mistaken identity.

Welcome is charged with possession of an imitation firearm with intent to resist arrest. As the case opened Tuesday, two police officers gave evidence that they had chased an armed man, who fled when one of the officers asked to talk with him.

The police officers said they were on patrol in the School Road area of George Town when one of the officers recognised Welcome, who was on the street talking with two other men at around 1:25am on 17 April. The second officer, who was driving, stopped the car but he did not know Welcome.

The first officer, who said he had known him for several years, told the court he had called Welcome over. As the young man approached, he asked the police officer, “What happened now?” But as that occurred, the second officer was getting out of the patrol car and saw the suspect had a weapon under his shirt tucked into the waistband of his trousers. As the suspect realised the police officer had seen it, he took off running.

The first officer chased after him and then heard his partner call out, “Drop the gun, drop the gun!”

Realising that the man he believed to be Jonathan Welcome was armed, he went for his own weapon, but because he was chasing him, he struggled to release the gun from the holster. Meanwhile, his partner, who was further behind, had pulled his weapon but was concerned about firing because of the bystanders in the area.

The gunman the officer claimed was Welcome carried on running down the street, despite instructions to drop the weapon. Rather than dropping it, he waved the firearm around and pointed it at the people and back at the police officers, who were by then trying to chase him at a safe distance, taking cover behind cars in an effort, one of the officers said, “to avoid being shot”.

The suspect continued running with the gun clearly visible, and as the people took cover one bystander yelled out, “Woman get down! Can’t you see he has a gun?”

Although the second officer managed to get to his side-arm, he too was afraid to fire because of the homes nearby and the people around. As a result, the gunman got away and although more officers joined them, the police were unable to find the man that night.

The first officer was certain it was Welcome. He said he had known the young man since 2010, he said, and just a few weeks before he had engaged in a conversation with him for ten minutes or more. Although it was nighttime, the street lights were bright and he had a clear look at him.

Unable to track the suspect that night, the police put out a public alert. A few days later they tracked him down at his girlfriend’s house at another address in George Town.

However, the court heard that the police never identified the two men Welcome was talking to before the chase or the witnesses who had seen the chase, and the second officer was never asked to identify Welcome from a parade or from pictures. In addition, the CCTV footage taken from the area was unclear, so the only evidence the court was presented with came from just one officer.

When Welcome took the witness stand in his own defence, he stated that the suspect wasn’t him and he knew nothing about the incident. He claimed that on the night in question he was alone at his home in Bodden Town sleeping. He said he had gone to the Eva-Glow bar earlier in the evening and was home by around 10pm and knew nothing about the incident.

He said his picture was posted all over the news, so when the police came to arrest him, he had been reluctant to come out as he knew they thought he was the gunman and they would not believe it wasn’t him. He admitted that he had not told the police during his interview that he was at home that night and that he was not the man. Instead he answered all questions with “no comment” because that’s what his lawyer told him to do.

The case continues.

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