A 52-year-old Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marine was shot to death shortly before 3 a.m. in the guard room at Government House, according to law enforcement heads.
RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethel said the victim was Petty Officer Philip Perpall, a former United Nations peacekeeper, who served with RBDF for more than 30 years.
Speaking to reporters at the Central Detective Unit yesterday, Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said a man entered the premises of Government House around 2:30 a.m. and “made his way to the guard house” where Perpall was located.
“I’m told that the guard commander (Perpall) was sitting in the guard area, in the administrative area along with another marine while others were on break in the room area,” Ferguson said.
“This male opened fired from a hand gun on the guard commander, hitting him several times to the upper body before fleeing the premises. He was pursued by alert marines but he made good on his escape.”
Perpall died at the scene, police reported.
Ferguson said there were four other people in the room where Perpall was shot.
When asked if the gunman opened fire on any of them, he said, “Those persons in the guard room? Yes.”
No other officers were injured during the incident and the governor general was not on the premises, according to Ferguson.
When asked if another RBDF officer was in custody in relation to the matter, Ferguson told reporters, “All I can say is there is a person of interest that we are talking to and hopefully from talking to this person we are able to bring some resolve to this investigation.”
The commissioner did not reveal whether the shooter was licensed to carry a gun or how the suspect gained entry to the compound.
“The investigation is very young,” Ferguson said.
“We are doing all of the analysis and hopefully at the end of the day we should be able to determine what motivated all of this incident to take place.”
While noting that he was “very, very pleased and confident” in the work of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said police are “in fact on the right track and should be wrapping this up shortly”.
Bethel said the shooting death of Perpall has “come across as a real blow to the members of the defense force and it’s ricocheted through the force and certainly there will be a need for healing among the members of the force, especially for those who worked in his department”.
He said counseling will be offered for the RBDF officers involved in the incident.
In light of the shooting, Dames assured that the government is “committed to the security of this nation, the security of every single Bahamian”.
He said incidents like the one that took place at Government House bring “us all to the fore to appreciate how important it is for us to take security and safety seriously”.
“And so, this particular incident, of course, is of serious concern to the government and we will be looking at it in depth to find out exactly what happened, why it happened and if there were any breaches or failures to address those aggressively,” Dames said.
He added: “Our concern is having to do with how was something like this allowed to take place in such a public space that was supposed to have been so secured and that’s a concern of mine. It’s certainly a concern of our government.”
Dames said he met with Ferguson and Bethel to discuss how to “bring this matter to a closure”.
He said he has asked the commodore to look into the security of other government buildings.
The minister also said that within “the next week or so”, he will assemble a team to investigate the incident “not from a police investigation side but from a practice and procedural side to determine what went wrong, why it went wrong and if persons are responsible then they must be held accountable”.
“This is how we do business,” Dames said.
“For a while now, we have been talking about the protection of government buildings, especially key government buildings, and putting in place the requisite policies and procedure that will allow us to know exactly what we need to do and when we need to do it.
“This, of course, will speed this process up. It is time, high time, to move in that direction. We are living in a different world nowadays and must move with the times and so very shortly we will be getting back to you on that.”
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice