June 18, 2015
A gunman robbed 12 people at a Toastmasters club meeting at the Bahamas Red Cross Society's headquarters on John F. Kennedy Drive on Tuesday night, leaving behind a terrified and shaken group. The meeting was about to conclude around 9 p.m. when the gunman ran inside and demanded that everyone empty their pockets.
Toastmaster Charles Hunt said it all happened so fast. He said 12 people attended the meeting. He said the gunman dashed inside, wearing a white cloth over his face.
"He said in a very loud voice, 'Get to the back of the room and put your hands on the wall'," Hunt told The Guardian. "We did follow the instructions and we went to the back [of the room] and put our hands on the wall. Then he said, 'I don't want anybody to look at me because it's easier to do what I tell you than to lose your life.'
"We were all quiet in the back but I know people were very afraid."
Douglass Fawkes, vice president of membership, said he did as the gunman told him.
"I went up on stage and when I went up on stage I put my hands up," he said.
"I turned around and I took my coat and put it on the floor and I kicked off my shoes I turned my pockets inside out and I just stayed in that position.
"I'm also a member of the Red Cross and we learned that anytime there is a crisis, take three deep breaths and keep yourself calm because the man who has that gun is more nervous than you are and if you show any signs of nervousness or fidgetiness he may shoot and you might be in trouble. So that's what I did."
After the gunman collected the group's wallets, money, cell phones and other items, he had one more request, Hunt said.
"He said, 'The person who is driving the maroon jeep, give me your keys'," Hunt said.
"That was our treasurer's and she gave the keys to him. He then took off in the jeep."
Fawkes said some of the Toastmasters ran outside to see which direction the gunman drove in.
"I stayed where I was because I wasn't moving until it was all clear," he said.
After calling the police, Fawkes said, he tracked the stolen phones using an app and said police were able to locate the stolen car.
Police said shortly after the robbery, officers arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the matter.
Asked his feelings on crime in the country, Fawkes said, "I think that our people have to step forth and say, 'No criminal and no sense of criminality is going to decide what goes on in this country'.
"We have a lot of good to do in this country and the good will not back down to the evil. We are going to continue and we are going to be stronger."
Speaking to the matter yesterday, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade said, "We are totally bothered by the callous attitude and the nerve of that bad man, who walked into a room where those decent Bahamian people were conducting business to the betterment of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, held a gun in their face and robbed them of their valuables, and in the process left in a vehicle."
Director General of the Bahamas Red Cross Society Caroline Turnquest said the incident was very unsettling.
Toastmasters -- a service club that focuses on effective public speaking and nurturing strong leadership skills -- rents the space to hold its meetings on Tuesday nights.
"As a result of this it means that we now have to find additional funds to put in some security measures to ensure the safety of those persons that come and share this place," she said.
Turnquest said several other groups, including Kiwanis, rent the space. She said the Red Cross will now have to invest in security cameras, reinforced doors, more lighting, and maybe even hire a security guard.
Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian