Police had increased the bounty on the head of Jamaica’s most wanted fugitive, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, to J$5 million.
The police high command had earlier last week offered a reward of J$1.7 million (US$20,000) for information leading to the capture of Coke, who is wanted by the United States Government to answer drugs and gunrunning charges.
Coke managed to escape from his former Tivoli Gardens stronghold in West Kingston after police and soldiers launched an all-out offensive against heavily armed thugs who were hell-bent on preventing them from serving an arrest warrant on him on Labour Day, Monday, May 24.
The gunmen had barricaded themselves inside Tivoli and vowed to defend Coke to the death. Thugs loyal to Coke, the day before the Tivoli assault, attacked police stations in the city, burning at least one to the ground and attacked police officers, killing two of them. A Jamaica Defence Force soldier was also cut down as he and his colleagues were entering Tivoli. At least 50 more members of the security forces were also injured.
Seventy-three civilians were killed during two days of fighting.
After breaking down the defence of Coke’s former stronghold, the security forces have maintained a presence there ever since.
The security forces have since conducted several massive operations in the community in order to collar the former strongman and alleged drug boss, but he has managed to elude their efforts and has been on the run ever since.
Coke’s brother Leighton ‘Livity’ Coke, his sister Janet Coke, close confidant Justin O’Gilvie and O’Gilvie’s son were among more than 1,500 taken into custody under the State of Emergency Act. The majority of those arrested have since been processed and released.
Leighton Coke, who was allegedly involved in the attack against the police, was pointed out in an identification parade earlier this week and is now facing shooting charges. Police said the shooting incident took place in West Kingston.
The security forces, during their operations, found the body of a district constable who was on suspension in a bushy area close to a section of Tivoli Gardens known as ‘Rasta City’.
The body was found gagged with its hands and feet bound, and police believe more bodies have been buried in the area. The security forces have since asked the US Government to assist them with sniffer dogs to help unearth any more bodies that may have been buried there.
In August last year, the US made a formal request of the Jamaican Government to extradite Coke to face the drug and gun charges there. The US State Department reported that 13 co-conspirators had given vital information to assist them in building a case against Coke, who has been under surveillance since 1994. But the Jamaican Government held out on the request for nine months.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding came under fire after he announced in Parliament that he had sanctioned his party to hire US law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips to lobby the US Government on behalf of Coke.
Sustained outrage from the wider society forced Golding to back-pedal and offer an apology during which he announced that a warrant to proceed with extradition proceedings against Coke would be signed.