By Kenton X. Chance
Businessman Frankie Gooding, 60, who was shot and killed outside his minimart in Bequia around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, feared for his life to the extent that he told his family last week that he was going to apply for a firearm permit.
It is not clear whether he actually handed in an application for a firearm licence. However, iWitness News was reliably informed that Gooding was so fearful for his life in the days before he was murdered that he asked police to escort him to Hope Bottom, in Bequia, where his family owns property.
Police have released surveillance footage which shows an assailant shooting Gooding as he was lying on the ground.
However, a longer clip, seen by iWitness News, shows the assailant running up behind Gooding as he was about to get into a vehicle.
Gooding falls to the ground and the assailant, who was wearing a hoodie, appears to shoot him two more times.
Since the killing, a voice note has become public, which his family, in an interview with US media, confirmed that Gooding had sent to his son.
In the voice note, Gooding, who has five children and a grandchild, says the voice note might be his last and asks his son to look after his brother, who has some challenges related to his premature birth.
“Hey Keon, this is your dad. I don’t know if this message here I’m sending to you is – I’m not even sure there will be a next one. Just want you to know that – I want you to make sure to take care of Zeiandrae for me. My life — I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but something serious is going to happen here. If this is my last voice note, I just want you to know that I love all of you,” Gooding says in the voice note.
Gooding, who is also a U.S. citizen, was killed about six weeks after he returned to St. Vincent and the Grenadines from Florida, where his family lives.
He was murdered on the day that one of his brothers who had returned to Bequia around the same time that he did last year, returned to the United States.
Sources in the know have told iWitness News that Gooding had repeatedly complained about threats he had received, allegedly over property in Bequia.
“Something happened, why [Frankie] sent that message,” one source told iWitness News, noting that the message was sent around Wednesday, but his family only realised this after his death.
“If you listen to that message, you can tell he was afraid. He was scared. He knew something was going to happen,” the source said.
iWitness News has learnt that since Gooding’s death, his family was told that he had specifically asked his brother who returned to the United States on Saturday to go to Bequia with him.
While that brother was in Bequia, he would sit on his patio until Gooding closed the business place in the evenings.
Gooding also said to have asked a nephew in Barbados to join him in Bequia, suggesting that he did not want to be alone on the island even as he conducted business there.
And this is the reason why one of his business partners flew into Bequia on Saturday.
Gooding was about to leave for dinner with this business partner when he was ambushed and killed.
“…. cold blooded murder! It wasn’t a robbery,” one source told iWitness News.
The source speculated that the killer knew that Gooding’s brother had left St. Vincent on Saturday and chose that time for the ambush.
Gooding’s family is offering a US$5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his killer(s).
According to U.S. media reports, Gooding’s widow, Mary Gooding has informed the FBI and the US embassy about her husband’s killing. iWitness News understands that his family plans to bury him in the United States alongside his mother and daughter.
Gooding is a cousin of Opposition Leader Godwin Friday, who spoke on his death on NICE Radio on Monday, describing it as an “execution-style” killing and a “terrible, terrible shooting … shocks this community, shocks the entire nation.
“This is a terrible tragedy to have occurred here in this community, or any community in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to anyone, to any family,” Friday said on his New Democratic Party’s daytime programme.
He was speaking for yet another time, merely weeks after he addressed the nation on crime and violence and urged the government to do more, even as the country recorded a record 42 homicides in 2022.
Friday said crime and violence is generating fear among Vincentians who feel that they cannot be safe on the streets of the country.
“And that is the pervading fear throughout this country,” he told listeners.
And, on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves spoke about the killing as he returned to St. Vincent from a summit in Argentina.
“I want to express my personal sympathy and that of the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the death of Frankie Gooding in Bequia, who was shot and killed a few days ago,” the prime minister said.
“I understand that he’s a relative of the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, and I want to extend to him and to the entire family condolences and the circumstances in which that killing took place, I must as head of the country speak in the manner in which I’ve just spoken and I want to thank the police for their continued pursuit of who is responsible for this particular crime,” said Gonsalves, who is also minister of national security.
Police listed Gooding’s death as the second homicide in St. Vincent and the Grenadines this year.
Police have said that the country has recorded three homicides for the year 2023, omitting from the count the two people they shot and killed this year.