A U.S. Army veteran and racial-justice leader was murdered while shielding his girlfriend from gunfire during a vacation in the Caribbean, according to reports from island officials.
Kent Carter, vice president of the Arlington NAACP chapter and a realtor in the Virginia community, was one of three killed during a “targeted” ambush attack that shook the British territory of Turks and Caicos Islands over the weekend.
Having traveled to the island paradise to celebrate his 40th birthday, Carter and his girlfriend were returning to their hotel after a water skiing excursion when they were set upon by gangs, The Washington Post reported.
At approximately 6 p.m. on October 2, a group of armed criminals stopped the vehicle transporting the couple and excursion staff members and “proceeded to indiscriminately shoot into the vehicle,” said Trevor Botting, Turks and Caicos Territory police commissioner.
Carter, trained as a soldier in the U.S. Army, laid over his girlfriend, protecting her from the barrage. Carter and one local employee were killed in the ambush that injured the other three passengers. Carter’s girlfriend survived with minor injuries, according to Carter’s brother Barry Cantrell.
Tactical Unit police later intercepted the vehicle used by the alleged criminals, which was armed with automatic weapons, and followed the alleged gunmen, leading to an extended shootout in which police believe one of the alleged assailants was killed.
“Their bullets repeatedly struck the police vehicle’s windscreen and bonnet area multiple times. Bullets also deflated two tires of the vehicle driven by the officers,” Botting said in a statement. “Despite being under fire from automatic weapons, two of my officers, returned fire to protect themselves and that of their colleagues.”
One officer was grievously wounded during the exchange, he said.
“I cannot speak highly enough of the officers who came under attack and who, when they could have retreated or taken cover, stood their ground and returned fire,” Botting said. “Frankly, an astonishing display of courage under fire from high-powered weapons. Based on the injuries sustained throughout the shooting and the condition of the police vehicle, the vehicle containing the criminals escaped and the officers immediately sought medical help for their seriously injured colleague.”
It is believed another bystander, who presented himself to hospital medical staff, was hit in the head by gunfire during the exchange with police. A body, believed to be that of one of the shooters, was later found abandoned in Dock Yard.
“In summary, the explosion of violence [Sunday], perpetrated by these reckless and dangerous armed criminals resulted in the death of three people, including the man believed to have been shot by the Police with five more people injured,” he said. “I believe the original attack was targeted and carried out by armed gang members who act without conscience, who have no regard for life and who are hell-bent on causing indiscriminate harm and misery across the TCI. This violence is linked to drugs supply and is fueled by revenge, turf wars and retribution.”
The British government warns tourists of a significant increase in gun violence since September in Providenciales, the islands’ first point of arrival.
“[Gun crime] has been significantly higher than normal in concentrated known hotspots, mainly away from tourist areas,” the official UK government website said. “Whilst risks are lower in tourist areas you should take local advice and be aware of your surroundings at all times.”
The increase in gang warfare is burdening the small Turks and Caicos police department and leaving residents and tourists concerned for their safety.
“We know our communities are shocked and frightened by the levels of violence on the TCI in the last few months,” Botting said. “The levels of violence would challenge a Police Force many times the size of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force. However, the police officers that serve you in the Turks and Caicos Islands are not cowed by this violence or the violent criminals and we remain strong and determined to do all they can to take the fight to the violent criminals and protect our communities.”
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