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Man shot in chest in drive-by shooting

page1b101CUL DE SAC--A 25-year-old man from French Quarter was brought into the hospital by friends on Sunday morning after having been shot in the chest, a source confirmed.

K.L.B. had been a passenger in a grey Kia Picanto, which had come from St. Peters and was approaching the roundabout near Le Grand Marché in Cul de Sac in the left lane, preparing to turn left towards Philipsburg.

Another vehicle pulled up next to the vehicle in the right-hand lane, and at least one shot was fired into the Kia, hitting L.B. in the upper left chest. The vehicle then sped off in the direction of Cole Bay.

L.B. is believed to have been in the car with two other men. The driver continued directly to the hospital, where L.B. was admitted in a critical condition. Detectives attended the hospital, along with forensic investigators who examined the Kia in which L.B. had been taken to the hospital.

A source at the hospital confirmed that L.B. had been brought in with a gunshot wound to the chest, and that he was initially in critical condition. However, he has since stabilised and is expected to survive the shooting.

It is unclear at this stage if the shooting is linked to any of the recent murders. The police were unable to comment, but are expecting to be able to give more information today, Monday.

Suspects in grocery store armed robbery released

MARIGOT--Gendarmes arrested two suspects on Thursday in connection with the armed robbery of a grocery store on Rue de Hollande on Tuesday morning, but subsequently released them from custody pending further investigation into the incident.

A man was detained at 8:00pm on Wednesday for firing shots with a gun at a car in French Quarter. The occupant of the car was not injured. The incident is under investigation.

Elsewhere, there were no incidents to report on Friday, Gendarmerie spokesman Capitaine Sylvain Jouault said.

WICSU concerned about safety of prison guards

POINTE BLANCHE--Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU) is concerned about the safety of prison guards at the Pointe Blanche Prison, and is calling on government to urgently address the staff shortages at the facility for the safety of inmates and its members.

The union's concerns come on the heels of a serious fight at the facility Thursday, which resulted in an inmate being seriously injured and the discovery of two firearms in a subsequent search of the facility.

WICSU/PSU President Dearie Leonard told The Daily Herald that manpower at the prison needs to be beefed up with competent persons. If this cannot be done the union wants government to consider seeking temporary assistance from the Netherlands for manpower to help bolster the security at the facility until alternatives can be found.

She said the safety of prison guards has been at risk for quite a while now. The union has held numerous meetings with prison director Edward Rohan and had recommended possible solutions. The suggestion of enlisting the assistance of the Netherlands was made to prison management and the union had been told that these suggestions were brought to the attention of the Justice Minister.

"Just Monday, we had a meeting with the prison director and he indicated that the suggestion that we put on the table was discussed with the Minister of Justice, but somewhere down the line the suggestion was not taken up," she said. "Requests were made for more prison guards, but the same story of there being no more money on the budget for this was given.

"Today it was a prisoner who was hurt, but tomorrow it can be a prison guard. These issues need to be addressed," she stressed. "It is not that we do not care about the prisoners because they are human beings, but if anything should happen to any of our members at the prison, the union will hold government fully responsible for that individual."

Leonard said it was worrying to learn that guns had been found in the prison. Although the union is there to defend the rights of its members, it will not condone any member breaking the law. "If it is proven that it was a guard who took those guns into the prison, whether they are a member of the union or not, they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law because by doing this they are jeopardizing the safety of prisoners and prison guards.

"We are calling on government to solve the problem of staff shortage at the prison today and not tomorrow. It is strange how we can go and recruit people to come to St. Maarten to work, but conveniently it cannot be done for the prison."

She said as temporary measure manpower can be brought in for six months to a year or two until the prison has sufficient manpower to adequately protect the facility. "We don't need quantity alone, we also need quality.

"We want the Minister of Justice to look into this matter, and whoever will be the Minister of Justice after October 10, we would like for him or her to focus on equipping the prison with prison guards," Leonard added. "We are urging all of our members at the prison to think of their safety first."

Unrest still ongoing in Pointe Blanche Prison

page3a100~Director gets death threat~

POINTE BLANCHE--Police assisted Pointe Blanche Prison for a second day in a row as there was still "unrest" in the prison. A second round of cell searches was completed.

Police spokesman Inspector Henson confirmed that further searches had been completed, and that officers had been asked to work overtime to facilitate the assistance to the prison. Other officers had been called in to work on their days off.

The police assistance was based on a request from Prison Director Edward Rohan, who had received information from inside the prison on September 12 that "the other cell blocks within the facilities should be searched for more illegal weapons and drugs. If this was not done, other very serious confrontations and vicious attacks between inmates would occur," the police press release stated.

A large police search team including the K9 unit and members of the VKS was put together and joined the prison search team. A very thorough search took place between 10:00am and 5:00pm on Friday.

"During the search, numerous homemade weapons, such as cleavers, machetes, knives or shanks, cellular telephones and many other illegal items including female G-string underwear were removed from the cells. No guns or ammunition were found during this search," the police press release stated.

Prosecutor Karola van Nie confirmed at the time of press that the only one man who had been arrested so far was the man arrested on Thursday for possession of an illegal firearm. His initials are K.F. No one had been arrested at the time of press for assault or attempted murder.

When asked if there were any plans to transfer any prisoners abroad for safety reasons, Van Nie responded, "We are not in the process of making those arrangements at the moment. At this time, there is still some unrest in the prison so the priority at this time is to get things to calm down again."

The man who was said to be one of the main players in the prison disorder of Thursday was named locally as 33-year-old U.L.W., known under the nickname "Nuto."

Nuto is said to be a lieutenant in the Curaçao gang "No Limit Soldiers," a member of which was held responsible for the murder of politician Helmin Wiels in Curaçao. However, so far, W. has not been arrested.

C.R., who was badly cut with a machete during the incident on Thursday, is still in the intensive care unit in critical condition, a police press release stated.

The Daily Herald understands that Prison Director Edward Rohan received a threatening letter yesterday morning. Although the contents of the letter cannot be disclosed, it is understood to have contained a death threat. Rohan was not available for comment, and police spokesman Inspector Henson could not confirm nor deny that a letter had been received.

Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson said of the situation: "It is clear that the safety in the prison falls short of what is desirable, if two firearms are found inside."

He said that immediate measures, such as heightened controls, are ongoing. The National Detectives ("landsrecherche") have also started an investigation into how these firearms could enter the prison. "It is clear there needs to be a different system of checks to minimise the risks of illegal items entering the prison," Richardson said.

When asked about how the shortage of staff in the prison will be addressed, Richardson said: "The sickness percentage is high. If people are abusing the sickness benefits, measures will be taken. Their actions are at the cost of others, who do their jobs the way they should." An investigation into sickness amongst staff is also ongoing.

"This week, I signed off the function book for the prison," Richardson said. "The prison currently is on 50 per cent of its full strength, staff-wise. We are aiming at increasing this. However, we are short of funds. St. Maarten is in debt. We have to take into account the budget. But this is not just a problem for the prison, but also for other agencies, such as the police force."

The minister called the situation a big dilemma. "We are not going to be up to strength in the short term," he said. "At the moment, we are focusing on making the best out of the resources that we have. We have to improve efficiency and heighten checks. Talks will start imminently on how to achieve this."

Richardson said that he did not have the feeling that those in government held Prison Director Edward Rohan responsible for the ongoing situation. "Rohan cannot run the prison on his own. However, he is responsible for his staff. But Rohan has always been very clear that he has insufficient staff."

Richardson did point out that both the prison as well as the police force has grown in staff numbers and capacity since 10-10-10. "The attention has been increased and the departments have grown. However, the growth is insufficient to deal with the current threat."

Lamman Rucker visits zoo to kick off fundraising tour

page1a099By Claudienne Peterson

MADAME ESTATE--Animal lover, activist, educator, entrepreneur, public speaker and actor Lamman Rucker arrived on-island yesterday with his main purpose to help Save our Zoo.

Best known for his roles in Hollywood hits such as "Why Did I Get Married 1 and 2," "Black Coffee" and "The Man in 3B," Rucker wasted no time. He went from the airport straight to the Zoo, stopping only for lunch at Taloula Mango's, to hold a press conference along with the St. Maarten Zoological and Botanical Foundation board.

Rucker addressed the importance of the Zoo's role in the community and spoke of his own love for animals, the plant kingdom and memories of his childhood visits to zoos, and gave various solutions to generating interest and income to help improve the state of the Zoo. After this, board members Dr. Jovan Halley and Tammy Oliver gave Rucker and various media outlets a tour to experience the Zoo's current condition.

The Zoo's current condition shows the difficult task ahead; this is where Rucker's positive outlook, passion for animals and experience truly shone. The Zoo has not been maintained properly for many years, mainly due to the years it was especially affected by several major and minor hurricanes, which resulted in a negative budget.

Although the government assisted with a yearly subsidy, not including maintenance, and it received aid from the business community, the Zoo was barely able to maintain itself. No matter, Rucker still said, "You are sitting on a goldmine here, but you only get out of it what you put in."

Aside from his love for and interest in the animal and plant kingdom, Rucker is very active in community efforts. He is the real deal; of all the celebrities who were approached, he was the only one who took on the task of coming here to help raise funds for our Zoo, free of charge.

Saturday night, September 13, you will have the chance not only to participate heavily in contributing to save the Zoo, but also to enjoy a memorable Hollywood event with Lamman Rucker at the Zoo's fundraising Gala Premiere Movie, Dinner and Dance.

How you can help

Purchasing a ticket(s) to this fundraising event during which a silent auction will take place is just one of the ways you can help. You also can donate funds to the Zoo at any time.

The Zoo also welcomes donations of food and other items for the animals such as bowls, buckets, shovels, etc. Fruits are an important food source, so the Zoo is urging those of you who have an overflow crop from your fruit trees to bring over your extra fruit.

Building items also are welcome for reconstruction and restoration of various parts that need repair or complete replacement. A good example of this is the Zoo's boardwalk, which has rotted away and as a result is a useless eyesore that is closed to the public.

The board also will be happy for donations of construction materials, especially wood, which not only will contribute to the rebuilding of the Zoo's boardwalk, but also to repairing the playground area for the many children who love to play there after visiting the animals.

Just visiting the Zoo is yet another simple and enjoyable way to support the zoo.

Zoos play an important role in the survival of a species through extensive and scientifically controlled breeding and release programmes. They can and should be used as an educational tool for young people to gain knowledge about nature, the environment, endangered species, and conservation.

Our Zoo has been a top attraction on the island for almost 20 years, offering visitors the opportunity to see a wide variety of Caribbean and South American animals, and also can provide excellent recreational value for tourists and locals alike.

Do your part to help save the St. Maarten Zoo with this incredible fundraising event and the efforts of movie star Lamman Rucker. This busy actor is giving his time and using his star power with the hope that his example may spur the St. Maarten public to action.

Rucker will be at the Belair Community Centre on Saturday evening, where you can meet, greet and dine with him, plus have the opportunity to view his movie "Where's The Love." A silent auction and surprise raffle give-away in aid of the St. Maarten Zoo will be taking place during this event.

Employers are urged to purchase tickets to the fundraising gala at the Belair Community Centre Saturday night, or even reserve a whole table for themselves and their staff, as a donation to the Save the St. Maarten Zoo Campaign.

The dress code for the event is formal Caribbean chic evening wear. Tickets are US $150 and include the movie premiere, a meet-and-greet with Rucker, dinner and entertainment all night long by Control Band.

Tickets are available at Van Dorp in Madame Estate and Simpson Bay, Bebe N Kids on Bush Road and in Bellevue on the French side, St. Maarten Veterinary Clinic, Animal Hospital of St. Maarten, Island Pet Shop, Maleona's and from all Zoo board members.

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