Editorial: Peace to the bloodless bounty hunter

There is never any shortage of cannon fodder or grist for the mill of newspaper editorials – least of all here in Antigua and Barbuda. Certainly not when the air is thick and the grapevines dense with entertainment and windfall taxes; the necessity of One Nation partying, when we have not even shaken off the hangover of Christmas and New Year feting; the notion that we need an expensively “free” mega concert to heal our presumably alarming divisiveness in a way that the festive season of cheer and peace on earth, goodwill to men apparently could not achieve; the threatened compulsory acquisition of a prestigious Canadian bank, when we were never able to pay for the half-baked Half Moon Bay expropriation; the threat (again!) to an Indian e-books provider that if they do not slash freely contracted license fees then their (confederate?) local officials would face the disciplinary firing squad (why should they care?); mammoth illegal garbage dumps smack in the middle of populated areas, but only discovered after 16 years of equipment and activity so heavy duty as to be worthy of the planet Cybertron from the movie series Transformers . . .

We could go on and on, but you get the idea. Instead we shall take the opportunity today to focus on something more “positive”; whatever that may mean, as it does, different things to different people – some naïve, some convenient, others opportunistic. We’re talking about the early Sunday morning capture of double murder suspect Calvin “Burga” James. Congratulations are in order for the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda and whoever provided the leads and tip offs that led to this successful and most welcomed apprehension of what must surely be considered one of the most feared and dangerous criminal suspects on the run in recent times – the other being the accused vampire multiple killer, Delano Forbes.

Kudos must also be extended to that courageous retired Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Colbert “Gadaffi” Francis, who put his life on the line to single-handedly confront and subdue James at the fugitive’s lair in the Hermitage Bay area of Pearns Point, before handing the (reported to be) heavily armed menace over to his active duty colleagues for safekeeping to face trial and justice as appointed and expected. Retired ASP Francis is to be commended for contributing to better sleep for many of us who wondered when a gun-toting Calvin “Burga” James might jump out of nearby bushes to spring a carjack as we stopped to take a leak; or find ourselves staring down into the abysmal darkness of his loaded gun barrel as we opened our doors in the still dark morning hours to head for work or exercise, demanding our car keys or whatever else he needed to continue surviving on the run. Such was the unsettling, disquieting effect he had on our imagination, on our fears.

If a man could do that (seemingly without compunction) to his sister, to his niece, to his nephew … what second thought would he spare to blow me away, just to make my home his rest stop for the night? This was the effect Delano Forbes had on us, especially when he escaped police custody and was on the run between February 12 and March 9, 2018: Would I somehow become his next choice and target for a salivating draw of blood? The police and prison service must ensure that such an escape is never repeated – certainly not with someone like what we have been told about Calvin “Burga” James.

Should he ever give law enforcement the slip, then the national unease and insomnia will be total. But, having said all that, James remains innocent until proven guilty. Which is why we are happy (appropriate as that word could be in this context or circumstance) that apart from preserving his own safety, ex-cop Francis was able to take the murder suspect alive and, by all accounts, unharmed. What a pity that another retired ASP, also surnamed Francis, seemed to have repeated difficulty modelling himself on that kind of restraint and efficiency.

Sadly, the reputedly trigger happy Everton Francis may never get to taste acclamation as any sort of community hero, and the current saga in which he is embroiled over a second controversial shooting could cost him a lot more than the $250,000 he was ordered to pay as compensation to his victim of the previous instance. As a retired police officer, and hence a civilian, we see no reason why Colbert Francis should not qualify for the $25,000 reward on offer for, merely, “information leading to the capture of Calvin “Burga” James. Colbert Francis did more than provide information. He, at great personal peril, effected the capture himself. He deserves every dime of the bounty and the peace of having earned it without pre-trial or extra-judicial bloodshed.