Too many questions!
The tears rolled down Joan Headley’s face as she began to talk about her son.
It was 20 years ago, on June 22, 1993 to be exact, when 21-year-old Devere Headley, also known as Kachar, died along with his two friends – Ronald Codrington, 17, and Ezra White, 18 – in a house at Melrose, St Thomas after a gun battle with police.
The front pages of newspapers the next day showed the three young men, their bodies riddled with bullets, lying in a bloody bedroom.
Headley was clutching a Magnum revolver. Another gun was next to Codrington and a cutlass beside White.
None of the police officers were injured.
The three youths were wanted by police for armed robbery and other violent crimes.
But while admitting that her son was “no saint”, Headley, whose family went as high as a human rights organisation in England to prove that an injustice was done against the three men, said her son and the other two men did not deserve to die in that manner.
“It still hurts me how they killed my son,” she said, pausing to dab her eyes with a handkerchief as she sat?on a chair in her living room.
“All the time, I?hear police issue reports for wanted men but I?never hear that they wanted Devere; they never came here looking for him at that time,” she said.
She recalled that on the afternoon of June 22, she was at home in Deacons Road, St Michael, when she received a telephone call from a family member informing her that several police officers were at her house in Melrose, St Thomas, where her son David lived with his wife.
“I?called the house and a voice answered the phone and I said, ‘Who the hell is this in my house?’ and the voice said, ‘A police officer’. I?said, ‘I am Devere’s mother, call him to the phone’ and the person dropped down the phone in my ears.
“I?called my husband and we went straight to Melrose. When I?got there I saw two police officers with two big guns in their hands standing by my house and they told me that I can’t go in.”
But it was when an ambulance arrived on the scene and left shortly afterwards without anyone in it that Headley realised that her son might be dead.
“I?was crying, begging the police to let me see my son,” she said. “Somehow my daughter got into the house and she allowed the police to know that the house was ours. When we did get in the house, I saw Devere lying by the door dead with a gun in his left hand. His body was full of bullets and that is how I?know that my son [was unfaired]. I?just started screaming.”
Police issued a statement that day saying they went to the house to execute a search warrant and the three men opened fire on them. They also said Devere was shot while hiding in the ceiling.
But Joan said she never believed the police account of the events.
First of all, she said that Devere, standing at more than six feet tall, could never have fitted into the low ceiling, which she added still had the nails pointing up because the carpenter had never bent them.
Secondly, she said that an expert who also examined the house determined that the holes in the ceiling were not bullet holes, since there were no signs that any bullets had penetrated the roof.
In addition, she also charged that while police reported there was a 90-minute gun battle between them and the trio, except for the bodies which were riddled with bullets, the house was relatively intact – not even a window was broken.
“They say that my child died holding a gun in his left hand but Devere could not use his left hand because he fell out of a plum tree and broke his legs and damaged the nerves in his left hand. I have never seen Devere use his left hand after that and he was not a left-hander, so why would he be holding a gun in his left hand?” Joan asked.
But she said she has never made any excuses for her son, even though she believes that because of his bad reputation, it was easy for everyone to call his name.
“Devere was very hard ears,” she admitted. “If anybody call me and tell me Devere up the road fighting, I didn’t have to worry. There were no maybes about that. But I realized that everything that happen in the Farm they use to say Kachar did it. His name use to get call in everything and the police use to torment and harass this house to the point where I?get so fed up that one day I?tell them stop coming here. All 4 o’clock in the morning, they turning up here breaking down doors saying they looking for Kachar. If you see the police out here you would think that the police station move up here.
“One day a woman came here crying and tell me that Devere just rob she down by Brandons beach and carry way all she jewellery. I?listened to her because I?know Devere was in Trinidad. As soon as he get back to Barbados, the police arrest him for robbing the woman and a man. I had to take his passport down to the police station and show them that he could not be in Trinidad and Barbados too.”
She also recalled receiving a lot of negative reports about her son’s behaviour from teachers at St James Secondary School, which he attended.
“One day the principal called me and told me not to bring him back to school unless I?take him to a doctor for an examination,” she said. “I?took Devere to the doctor and the doctor spoke to him and wrote down that he operates at the level of a five-year-old, and he felt that people did not like him and that was why he was always fighting. I?took the letter to the school but I?never heard anything else.”
As to the human rights organisation in England, Joan said a group came to Barbados and investigated the shooting. It found that there were some discrepancies.
“I?took the reports to the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, the Ombudsman, everybody you could think of, and I?never heard anything back from them. It got to the point where I just give up. I?got fed up because I see nobody wasn’t paying us any mind,” she said.
These days the 67-year-old woman, who is blind in one eye, said her son’s death still impacted her family to this day. The house in Melrose remains unoccupied; the memory of that day 20 years ago still too much for the family to handle.
“Devere was the last child out of my five children and despite what everybody else said about him, he was a good child to me. Now he dead I?don’t see the police any more. I?respect them but I am nothing to do with the police. They ain’t treat me good at all in this situation.
“But I know there is a?God above and He sees everything that happen – everything. Only the police, the three dead men and God know what happen in that house.”
There was a coroner’s inquest into the deaths but no-one was held criminally responsible.