Mon | Sep 26, 2022

Son of slain Chinese couple questions gun permit-approval process

Tests link recovered death weapon to other murders

Published:Sunday | February 20, 2022 | 12:11 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter

Retired army Colonel Audley Carter (left), chairman of the Firearm Licensing Authority, and CEO Shane Dalling revealed several bombshells regarding the agency during a press briefing last week.
Retired army Colonel Audley Carter (left), chairman of the Firearm Licensing Authority, and CEO Shane Dalling revealed several bombshells regarding the agency during a press briefing last week.
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When three armed thugs entered Jo Jo’s Supermarket two days before Christmas last year and executed the husband-and-wife operators, it marked the fourth robbery at the Chinese-owned business located in St Elizabeth. That was three years after the...

When three armed thugs entered Jo Jo’s Supermarket two days before Christmas last year and executed the husband-and-wife operators, it marked the fourth robbery at the Chinese-owned business located in St Elizabeth.

That was three years after the last robbery, when gunmen also barged into the supermarket “and jus tek the money” and other items, Wenqiang Shu, the son of the slain couple – Haikong Wan and Shiyun Shu – disclosed.

The supermarket was also robbed in 2017, he said.

The robberies convinced Shu that he needed a licensed firearm and in 2019, with the approval of his parents, he submitted the first of two applications to the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) for a permit to own a 9mm pistol.

“I wanted the firearm licence to be able to protect my parents and me,” he told The Sunday Gleaner last week.

Six months before his parents’ caught-on-camera execution-style slaying, Shu’s second gun-permit application was denied by the FLA, even though they were aware of the robberies.

“The following is the reason for the said denial of your application: the applicant has not established a clear need to be armed,” the regulatory agency said in a June 24, 2021 letter to Shu, which was seen by The Sunday Gleaner.

“He is not exposed to any particular risk,” it added.

Shu could not recall the date his first application was refused.

The FLA has been under fire since Chief Executive Officer Shane Dalling publicly admitted last Tuesday that more than 200 people with criminal convictions or adverse traces were issued gun permits between 2014 and 2017.

They include dancehall artiste Jah Cure, a well-known Corporate Area don, and an ex-convict who returned to the island after being extradited.

Dalling said he was unaware of the details surrounding Shu’s case and promised to make checks before speaking to The Sunday Gleaner.

But without referring to Shu’s case, FLA officials say the fact that an applicant operates a business that has been robbed several times cannot be the sole determining factor in granting a firearm permit.

“Do we know anything about this Chinese national? Do we know anything about his ties in China?” one official opined to The Sunday Gleaner.

“We have lawyers and serving members [of the police force] who have applied for gun licences and are denied because they are not fit.”

FLA chairman, retired army Colonel Audley Carter, defended the decision to turn down Shu’s application, telling journalists last Tuesday at a media briefing that doing proper background checks for “certain” foreign nationals have proven difficult.

“The societies from which they come tend to be closed societies. Mainly for eastern European countries and countries in the Far East, it is very hard to do background checks for them,” Carter said.

“So, sometimes the board has to be cautious and you deny the applicant, but the applicant has access to an appeal process.”

Documents seen by this newspaper showed that Clint Rennie, the brother-in-law of Dennis Meadows, former deputy chairman of the FLA board, was among the more than 200 people of questionable character granted licences.

Rennie was convicted for possession of cocaine and had his gun-permit application denied in August 2015 on the basis that he failed to disclose the conviction, the documents show.

But without appealing the decision or filing a new application, he was granted a licence in June 2016, three months after Meadows joined the FLA board.

The licence was revoked in February 2020, the FLA has confirmed.

Meadows has denied any wrongdoing.

He confirmed that he was part of the board of directors that approved Rennie’s application, but said that at the time, he declared their ties.

UNFAIR PRACTICES

Last week’s revelations and allegations left one Corporate Area businessman fuming about the practices of the FLA.

He was denied a gun permit in January last year, three years after submitting his application.

The businessman, who did not want his name published, slammed the regulatory agency for what he believes are unfair practices that block suitably qualified citizens with a legitimate need from legally owning a firearm.

“I have been following the discussions on this whole thing just because me feel like I was dealt with unfairly while some man who have robbery record and drug record get the green light,” he said, asserting that he has a clean police record.

Shu has been pondering if his parents would be alive today, had he been granted a firearm licence.

According to police reports, on December 23 last year, three men armed with guns entered Jo Jo’s Supermarket and announced a robbery.

Shu’s parents, who came to Jamaica over a decade ago at the invitation of a compatriot, were shot at point-blank range in front of terrified customers before the killers escaped with an undetermined sum of cash.

“They were good people. They don’t make trouble. They are good people,” the son insisted.

Interestingly, the same 9mm pistol that was used to kill Shu’s parents was used 21 days later to snuff out the lives of Westmoreland shopkeeper Sophia Brown and her friend Bernie Lewis during a brazen daytime robbery, police investigators revealed, citing ballistics tests.

The gun was seized last month after a man travelling from St Elizabeth was intercepted by the police in Westmoreland, investigators revealed.

Brown, 45, operated Texas Grocery for over two decades despite being robbed 11 times, her daughter Tiffany Turner disclosed.

Six months before her death, gunmen attempted to stage another robbery.

“They came and fired shots, but they never got anything because there was a licensed firearm holder and he fired back after them,” Turner told The Sunday Gleaner on Friday.

Turner said her mother contemplated applying for a gun permit, but quickly abandoned the idea.

“She had the papers [application forms], but she didn’t sign them,” said her daughter.

“They are still blank.”

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com