Painful award

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THE knowledge that he is the sole survivor of the four cops shot in a deadly assault in Horizon Park, St Catherine, in June who will collect a medal of honour for gallantry in person on Heroes’ Day shrouds any feeling of accomplishment for District Constable Lothan Richards.

The district constable, Superintendent Leon Clunis, Corporal Dane Biggs, and Constable Decardo Hylton, on the morning of June 12, were among a police team who came under heavy gunfire during a special operation to apprehend an armed criminal. In the terrifying incident, Biggs and Hylton were shot dead, while Richards and Clunis were seriously injured and hospitalised. Clunis, however, died on June 30.

The three are to be awarded posthumously, while Richards is expected to accept his award in person in October, during the Ceremony of Investiture and Presentation of National Honours and Awards customarily held on Heroes’ Day at King’s House.

Speaking somewhat reluctantly with the Jamaica Observer yesterday, the young lawman, who has not yet fully recovered from his physical injuries, tried to explain his lack of exuberance.

“This award is a remembrance. They are not just my co-workers, they are my friends; we trained and everything together. Whenever there were operations, it was just us. It’s not like we just met up for an occasion; those are not just my colleagues, those are my friends — close, close friends. Even though I am getting that award, it makes no sense to me,” he said.

“I can’t come up with any positive words right now. Further down the line, while still serving, I might feel proud to say I got an award for such, but at this time that overwhelming feeling is not really there,” Richards shared.

If only he was allowed one chance to change the outcome of that morning.

“Mi still miss mi bredda dem same way. [I am] even saying to myself that if only mi coulda get more shot so that all a wi inna hospital and all a wi live, but it just never turn out that way,” he said, seemingly heavy with regret.

The incident, which drew support for the men and women of the armed forces, and heavy condemnation for criminals, saw the observation of a Day of Mourning in June for the near 200 cops killed in the line of duty over the last 20 years.

Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson, at the time, reiterated that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) would not be cowed by criminals.

“The members of the JCF will step up when it matters. These are a set of people who are so committed that, even if on a normal day they might not be that enthused about something, whenever the day comes when Jamaica needs them, they will step up and do what they have to do,” Anderson told the Observer then.

Following the operation on June 12, the man believed to have been involved in the attacks on the cops, 39-year-old Damion Hamilton, was tracked to Cooreville Gardens, St Andrew, where he allegedly engaged the cops in another shoot-out, injuring two of them, before he was fatally shot.

Of the three policemen who died, Superintendent Clunis is the only one who has not yet been laid to rest. The thanksgiving service for his life is scheduled for 9:00 am on Saturday.

In the meantime, two other police officers will receive the Badge of Honour for Gallantry during the ceremony. District Constable Basil Fuller and District Constable Sean Pierre will be honoured for braving the rough seas and risking their lives in travelling to Honduras to retrieve a stolen police boat.

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