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The incident at Government House

Government House is the residence of the governor general, the representative of the head of state, the Queen. Dame Marguerite Pindling is the current officeholder. Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marines provide security at the site in the center of Nassau.

A surprising incident happened there yesterday morning – an incident that has the country talking.

A 52-year-old RBDF marine was shot to death shortly before 3 a.m. in the guard room at Government House.

Petty Officer Philip Perpall, who served with the RBDF for more than 30 years, was the victim.

“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,” said Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson yesterday at a news conference.

“This male opened fired from a handgun 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.

Ferguson said there were four others in the room where Perpall was shot. Others were fired upon too, he added.

While it is shocking that a shooting and murder took place at Government House, the suspect’s profession added more surprise. Police did not confirm the identity of the suspect or a possible motive, but it is understood that a fellow marine may have been involved with the incident.

All authorities would say yesterday is that a person of interest is in custody.

The Ministry of National Security will conduct a review, outside of the police investigation, to examine the full scope of what happened from a security perspective.

“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,” said Minister of National Security Marvin Dames.

RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethel said the shooting death has “come across as a real blow” to members of his organization and “certainly there will be a need for healing among the members of the force, especially for those who worked in his department”.

A full security review at major state installations is necessary. Security at these sites in The Bahamas is too laid back. This includes the courts and Parliament. That being said, it is difficult to prevent insider attacks, as this incident appears to be.

A tragedy has left a family mourning and much of the country shocked. Despite the violent crime problem we have had for a decade in New Providence, Bahamians do not expect the word “murder” to ever be in the same sentence as “Government House”, the residence of Her Majesty’s representative.

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