Lindo Creek CoI By Jarryl BryanThe Lindo Creek Commission of Inquiry (CoI) continued on Tuesday, with Assistant Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken recounting the harrowing details of a 2008 shootout with the “Fine Man” gang in the vicinity of Christmas falls, prior to the discovery of the massacred miners.A map showing the distance between Christmas Falls and Lindo Creek (Photo by Travis Chase)Back then, Hicken was temporarily stationed at the Kwakwani Police Station in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) as the deputy Head of the Tactical Special Unit (TSU). Now Assistant Commissioner of Operations at the Force’s Eve Leary office, Hicken related that he was approached on June 5, 2008 to assist in coordinating an operation in the area.According to Hicken, then Crime Chief Senior Superintendent Seelall Persaud picked him up in a three-car convoy and they travelled to Christmas Falls, where the group could hear continuous gunshots on the other side of the Upper Berbice River.Assistant Commissioner Clifton HickenThey were subsequently ferried over the river and on the other side, the tactical team travelled on foot so as to not give away their position. Hicken recalled that they finally came upon a compound with several seemingly abandoned and incomplete buildings. It was as they took up their positions in the surrounding ‘bush’ that they saw they were not alone.“I observed first there was a mattress on the ground (of one of the buildings),” Hicken explained. “There was a thin-boned Rastafarian, bulging eyes, resembling the bulletin that was put out on Rondell “Fine Man” Rawlins. On the second flat, we had a thin Rastafarian male with a white brief or trunks.”“There was another one in a hammock, with a green pants and a grey jersey. Just five to six feet from where we were, there was another man with a brown pants and a camouflage jersey.”The final man, he pointed out, appeared to be carrying out farming activities. He recalled that while Police carried out their reconnaissance, the men suddenly gave signals to each other, as though they had compromised their positions and opened fire in their direction.According to Hicken, the men fled while firing suppression shots at the Police, who returned fire. He recounted that when the men were no longer in sight, the ranks proceeded to clear out the buildings and area.Besides four shotguns, two Fusil-Mitrailleur (FM) submachine guns, two revolvers and assorted ammunition, the Police also came upon the body of one of “Fine Man”’s cohorts lying at the bottom of a ravine. He had sustained gunshot wounds to his shoulder and torso, and was pronounced dead on the scene. Following the shootout, the slain man was subsequently identified as Otis “Mud Up” Fifee.Hicken informed the Commission that following the operation, they did not immediately pursue the surviving gunmen, as they did not have enough supplies or data to undertake an extended operation in the terrain.He related that he subsequently returned to the city, where he briefed his superiors, including late Police Commissioner Henry Greene on the firepower the gang possessed and what the Force would be up against. Further, Hicken noted that he did not take part in subsequent Joint Services operations in the area or visits to Lindo Creek.Sometime between June 12, 2008 and June 24, 2008, miners Cecil Arokium, Dax Arokium, Compton Speirs, Horace Drakes, Clifton Wong, Lancelot Lee, Bonny Harry and Nigel Torres were shot and killed, and their bodies burnt at the Upper Berbice River mining camp, which was being operated by Leonard Arokium.The Lindo Creek CoI is the first of what the coalition Government has said would be a series of inquiries into the hundreds of killings, which occurred during a crime wave that began in 2002. The public hearings continue on April 4.