Glenroy Sinclair, Assignment Coordinator
Griffiths relates his ordeal at Green Bay. - Norman Grindley/Deputy Chief Photographer
On January 5, 1978, 14 men from the Jamaica Labour Party stronghold of Southside, central Kingston, were escorted to the military range at Green Bay, St. Catherine, by soldiers. The men were lured with the offer of jobs. Five of them were allegedly shot dead by the soldiers, resulting in a scandal for the ruling People's National Party. This is the final part of a story in which survivors relate their ordeal.
It was 5:15 in the morning and an ambulance and a minivan were already parked in the darkness, waiting in the volatile community of Southside, Central Kingston, to transport a group of men to the military range in Green Bay, St. Catherine.
But not all the men who were recruited and had agreed to go, made the trip. Some were still asleep, a few had declined to take the ride in the ambulance, while others who had become suspicious of the mission, stayed away when the transport arrived.
Most of those who were supposed to go, retired to bed late the night before the bloody incident because they went to the now defunct Palace Theatre to watch the movie Honour Thy Father.
"It was my bigger brother who was supposed to go, but when the ambulance and minivan, came he was still asleep, so I took his place," recounts Ian Brown, one of the five survivors of the controversial Green Bay Massacre.
Danny Roots, who was originally supposed to go on the journey, became upset when he saw the ambulance and changed his mind. He tried to persuade his dreadlock friend, Trevor Clarke, alias 'Gold Eye', not to go, telling him that it was "bad luck fe dreadlocks travel inna ambulance".
Delroy Griffiths, alias 'Jadda Brag', was 23 years old at the time, unemployed and had two children to support. His name was not among the recruits. However, the morning the transportation arrived, he made sure he got a seat in one of the vehicles.
"Me neva did a work at de time and me decided that me nah beg nobody nutten. Me hear seh a work de man dem a get, $500 a week. Me did want a work, so me mek sure seh me get a seat inna de vehicle," Griffiths tells The Sunday Gleaner.
His attire would fool anybody that he is insane. Since his near-death experience at Green Bay, he has become scared of going out and approaching strangers for jobs. Instead, he chooses to walk the streets of Kingston and 'hustle'."What dem do to the man dem at Green Bay is total wickedness. Imagine, dem come and promise we work, then tek we and carry we go a Green Bay fe kill we off," relates Griffiths.
The Sunday Gleaner understands that the job they were promised was to transport and guard shipments of illegal guns.
Recounting what took place on January 5, 1978, at the military range, Griffiths remembered that when the transportation arrived that morning, the drivers of the vehicles told them they were going to meet the so-called boss.
When the vehicles turned off the main road and disappeared into the bushes, going towards the military range, Griffiths said several things began racing through his mind. The closer he got towards the military camp, the more he became suspicious of the mission.
"Me tell miself seh, if a de boss we going meet fe get work, then something must wrong, because no boss nah go de in a bush weh so much soldier deh," said Griffiths.
When they arrived at the range, there were soldiers all over. He said a huge and unusual, high-powered weapon immediately caught his eye. The weapon was partially concealed in the bushes, pointing in the direction of the shooting range.
Griffiths, who now walks with a permanent limp, said one of the soldiers then gave orders for them to assemble at the shooting range, at which the gun was pointing. He said another soldier pointed to Rudolph Nesbeth and asked if he was the leader of the group. Nesbeth answered no and pointed at Winston 'Saddle Head' Hamilton.
According to some of the men who were supposed to go on the trip but had changed their minds at the last minute, Hamilton was the main man. He was the one who had met and spoken with a soldier by the name of Junior Star and had organised everything.
"I watched one of de soldier hug up Saddle Head and walk wid him, until dem disappear roun a corner. Less than a minute after dat, me hear a shot fire and then me tell miself seh, 'A 'Saddle Head' de boy just kill'," Griffiths recalls.
He says within seconds after hearing the initial gunshot, he heard a barrage of shots and saw blue flames coming from the huge machine gun that was partially concealed in the bushes. He heard some of his friends scream in pain, while others shouted that it was a trap.
"Me dive pon the ground and roll. De machine gun dig up the dirt and me feel stone and dirt start sting me inna me face," the Green Bay survivor relates.
He got up and dashed towards the bushes, making his way towards the sea. During his attempt to escape, he ran into a soldier.
"When me see de soldier, him point de gun pon me and fe couple seconds him neva fire. Me run off again. This time, me mek a dummy run, turn back, dive to the ground and get up and run again," Griffiths recounts. "De soldier open a barrage of shots, but me just keep running, till me climb down pon some rock near de sea. Me see a boat wid two fisherman, me signal and dem pick me up and carry me come a Greenwich Farm," says Griffiths.
Eventually, the five traumatised survivors - Griffiths, Rudolph Nesbeth, Ian Brown, Tony Spencer and 'Fire Booger' - returned to the Jamaica Labour Party stronghold in central Kingston to tell their sad tale.