From time to time, these sorts of perplexing questions seem to arise, especially when someone is shot under mysterious circumstances. For example, television buffs back in the day will remember the oft-repeated question: “Who shot J.R.?” the popular figure in the CBS show, DALLAS. Then, immediately after President Lincoln was shot at the Ford Theatre in Washington DC, the question on everyone’s minds was: “Who shot Lincoln?” Ditto, who shot El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz aka Malcolm X? Who shot JFK? Who shot MLK Jr.? Who shot Selena? Who shot Mahatma Gandhi? Who shot John Lennon? And who shot Tupac Shakur?
Of course, many arrests were eventually made for many of these shootings, but the conspiracy theories, the doubts and the questions never really went away. For example, notwithstanding the fact that James Earl Ray was arrested and did time for the shooting of MLK Jr., his family, and many members of the public, still harbour doubts that the authorities got the right suspect, and that he was acting alone. The same thing can be said of the Malcolm X case where there are still questions in the minds of some as to whether Thomas Hagan was the shooter, never mind his confession. And we could go on and on, but you get the point.
Here in our fair State, in much the same way as those notorious cases, inquiring mind want to know who the hell shot our very own Cornell Benjamin, the dearly-beloved and ranking Customs officer who was assaulted by persons unknown in his own yard. Here’s what we know. According to our very own reporting, just after 9:45 pm on Sunday 13th October, Benjamin stepped outside his home to ascertain why his dogs were agitated. It was at that time that two men approached him from nearby bushes and opened fire, delivering gunshot injuries to his legs.
Mercifully, Cornell Benjamin survived, but he had to be flown out to Jamaica for treatment, and sadly, Antiguans and Barbudans are still scratching their heads as to the identities of the bastards who perpetrated such a brazen assault on an upstanding limb of the law. It’s been roughly six months since the dastardly deed, and the country is still in the dark – not a peep, no update from the authorities. This deafening silence has led to much speculation. Was Benjamin assaulted on account of his work as an investigator into shenanigans at Customs? Police Commissioner Atlee Rodney has said that the shooting and the investigation may not necessarily be connected. The good Commissioner Rodney (and he is indeed a fine gentleman, above reproach and worthy of the office) has assured the nation that the investigation is ongoing, without let or hindrance, and certainly, without fear or favour. We take him at his word.
Nonetheless we share the angst of the political leader of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), Mr. Harold Lovell, who, after a month of eerie silence (November 11, 2019), wrote letters to the Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams; the Prime Minister, Gaston Browne; the Public Safety Minister, Steadroy Benjamin; the then-acting Commissioner of Police, Atlee Rodney; and the Comptroller of Customs, Raju Boddu, exhorting them to leave no stone unturned in bringing the goons to justice. Lovell offered that the “gangster-style” attempt on the life of a “Civil servant who was doing his duty cannot be brushed under the carpet.” He also expressed concern that, “We have not heard the police put out any bulletins. We have not heard any ads saying ‘if you see something, say something’… and I believe that there’s some attempt to cover this thing up.” Remember folks, Cornell was shot just three days after Cabinet revealed a $3 million sleight of hand at the Customs.
Many months have passed since Lovell’s earnest call for an independent body to get to the bottom of this mess, “this act of intimidation and terrorism,” and still, nothing from the authorities. Moreover, even if the authorities are loath to reveal the status of the investigation, for fear of tipping their hands and compromising it, we wish that they would offer periodic words of assurance to the public. And yes, we are disappointed that we have not been hearing public words of comfort, support and concern for Benjamin and his family from the aforementioned authorities. We can only hope that they are doing right by Benjamin in private.
We certainly trust that this matter is being vigorously investigated, because, according to Lovell,“We cannot allow for this to become a part of the culture of Antigua. One thing that we pride ourselves on in this country… is that we have observed peaceful coexistence and a peaceful decorum. We don’t want to have a country where people are intimidated for doing the right thing.” Time was when law-abiding citizens could venture into their own backyards and front lawns at night, but alas, with this heinous crime against a law enforcement officer, many citizens are fearful of so doing.For shame! We submit that only when the authorities answer the question of who shot Cornell Benjamin and why, will this climate of fear dissipate.
The shed blood of Cornell Benjamin cries out from his lawn for justice! Our sacred duty demands it! So too does our peace of mind! Remember, there are two armed men still roaming to and fro in our fair State, “seeking whom they may devour.” Or silence!