A man was left “badly wounded” on Wednesday after a beating inflicted by residents of Vermont when the man robbed at gunpoint a minibus servicing the area.
Minibus owner and driver Avil “Mastermind” Slater told I-Witness News that the man — said to be a foreigner — fired three shots during the robbery, and escape attempt.
No one was reported injured as a result of the gunfire.
Slater told I-Witness News that the robbery occurred around 2:10 p.m. as he was travelling from Vermont to Kingstown.
The minibus operator said that he has known the assailant — who claims to be St. Lucian but speaks with a Barbadian accent — since November.
Slater said that while he has never really spoken to the assailant, he has given him free rides from time to time between Vermont and Kingstown.
On the date in question, Slater said that the assailant was among other passengers who boarded the van in Kingstown.
He said that when they got to the end of the route in Vermont, the passengers disembarked and the assailant came and sat in the front passenger seat.
A passenger who boarded the bus at Penniston was behind, along with the conductor and two other passengers that embarked at the end of the route.
On the way down from Kingstown to Vermont, the assailant and the conductor were speaking but he didn’t know what the conversation was about, Slater told I-Witness News.
‘You think I joking, killers?’
The minibus operator said that on the way back to Kingstown, near Nimble’s shop in Vermont, he heard the assailant tell the conductor that they had a deal and now that he came to check the conductor for the money the conductor was not living up to his end of the bargain.
The assailant then told Slater to stop the van, then took out a gun from a knapsack, inserted the magazine, cranked it and fired a shot outside the passenger window.
“He point the gun at the conductor and said, ‘You think I joking, killers?’” Slater recounted.
Slater said the assailant then pointed the gun at him and took the purse and exited the van.
“I said, ‘Man, just so you take my purse with all my money I done work so hard for during the day?’
“He shut the door and said, ‘Man shut up!’ and he shut the door and he said, ‘Any one of you try anything stupid, y’all getting it you know’,” then left the scene, travelling in the direction of Vermont, Slater said.
“Then I tell the conductor leh we go station and make a report. The conductor said, ‘Man, station? Leh we run down the bloodc***t and see if we catch the man’,” Slater told I-Witness News.
He said the conductor then grabbed two stones and began pursuing the robber.
“The conductor was the one who run him down, so I then jumped in the bus and reversed back. But what the conductor did, I didn’t think it was a wise thing, because he jeopardise his own life. Because a man has a gun and you have two stones you pelting after the man; anything coulda happen.”
He said the man fired another shot, then a third later on as a shopkeeper came to see what the commotion was about.
He said the robber crossed the river and went in the direction of Fiddle Piece, Vermont, where he was later found hiding in a bamboo field.
A villager armed with a cutlass ordered the robber to come out of the bamboo field, by which time a crowd had gathered and cornered the robber as he tried to escape.
“The civilians apprehended the man and start to beat him and asked him what he did with the money and where is the gun,” Slater told I-Witness News.
He said a man who described the robber as “my partner” came and started to “fire some wild chop with a cutlass, and so the villagers backed off”.
Slater then told the cutlass wielding man what had happened and the robber was taken to the police station and is in hospital “badly wounded, because the villagers beat him up real bad.
“If the guy didn’t rescue him there, they woulda kill him there,” Slater told I-Witness News.
Slater, who has been operating a minibus for the past eight years, said it is the second time that he is being robbed in recent years.
He said that while in his yard around 9 p.m. after working one Friday, three persons armed with guns approached and fired shots at him and made off with the money that he had in the van.
He said that in a separate incident he escaped what he believed to have been another attempt to rob him, when the road in Vermont was blocked some time ago.
Slater said that the robber last week claimed that he gave the gun to the man who rescued him, but the man denied that this was the case.
He said that his conductor has since told him that he had agreed to buy a game console from the assailant and had paid down EC$100 of the EC$350 for the device.
The conductor said he changed his mind after he learnt that the console might have been stolen, hence the robber’s accusation that the conductor was not upholding his end of the deal, Slater told I-Witness News.
Targeted because of kind deeds?
Slater said that while he has resumed his bus service, the incident has left him shaken up.
“Right now, I’m in a shaky frame of mind. I am trying to put the pieces together and just come up with a plan so in the future I can avoid them kind of ordeals there. … That is my way of life. I have no other choice. I have bills to pay …,” he said.
Slater said that he thinks he might be targeted not only because his van is popular, but because of his charitable contributions to the community.
“Actually, I have a scholarship programme with the Buccament Government School. Every year, the top student who passes the Common Entrance Examination I sponsor them two thousand dollars,” the Community College graduate said.
“So, I don’t know if it’s all those things why they are targeting me. They must be tell themselves I making money or something. That is just giving back. I am in the process of forming a charitable organisation, so that is just a start of better things to come,” he told I-Witness News.
Slater said he was surprised by the robber’s action, noting that while he doesn’t know the robber personally, he has given him free rides in the past.
“To be honest, me nah bin a look for them kind of movements they from the man. He caught me off-guard. I was so surprised by the man’s action.”
He said the robber has said that he stays at three houses — one in Prospect and two in Vermont.