A U.S. citizen vacationing in the Turks and Caicos was killed Sunday night in an explosion of gun violence that left three people dead and five others injured, including a member of the island's Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force.
The tourist, a man, has been identified but his next of kin has yet to be informed and police are refraining from releasing his name, said Denyse Renne, a police spokeswoman.
The incident in the British Overseas Territory, which is still recovering from last month's Hurricane Fiona, was perpetrated by "reckless and dangerous armed criminals," the chain's police chief, Trevor Botting, said. It started at around 6 p.m. Sunday in the Long Bay area of Providenciales, which is known for its high-priced luxury resort and white sandy beaches but lately has been rocked by a series of gun-related killings that have left families in mourning and islanders terrified to leave their homes.
"We know our communities are shocked and frightened by the levels of violence on the TCI in the last few months. The levels of violence would challenge a police force many times the size of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force," Botting said. "We remain strong and determined to do all they can to take the fight to the violent criminals and protect our communities."
Botting said police believe that the latest attack, which played out in four different incidents through the evening, "was targeted and carried out by armed gang members who act without conscience, who have no regard for life and who are hell-bent on causing indiscriminate harm and misery across the TCI. This violence is linked to drugs supply and is fueled by revenge, turf wars and retribution."
According to Botting, the shooting spree began when armed criminals traveling in a vehicle indiscriminately shot into another vehicle transporting staff from a local business and two tourists who were headed back to their accommodations after an excursion.
"As a result of this attack, two persons were murdered, one from the local business and the other being a tourist from the United States," Botting said in a statement, offering the islands' "deepest condolences" to the families of those killed.
Another visitor to the island also was among the three persons injured during the spree.
Botting said that when a police patrol car with the tactical unit attempted to intercept the vehicle used by the shooters in the first attack, the officers were shot at with automatic weapons but stood their ground and returned fire.
"Their bullets repeatedly struck the police vehicle's windscreen and bonnet area multiple times. Bullets also deflated two tires of the vehicle driven by the officers," the chief said. "Despite being under fire from automatic weapons, two of my officers returned fire to protect themselves and that of their colleagues. One officer received a serious injury from a gunshot wound."
Botting called his officers' response "an astonishing display of courage under fire from high-powered weapons."
The vehicle with the shooters got away. The police chief also said that a man later arrived at the hospital with a head injury. He was found at Smart Supermarket, and police believe he had been struck by shots fired by the criminals in their confrontation with police officers.
Police are also investigating a report of a body of an unidentified man found in Dock Yard in Providenciales, Botting said.
"While subject to confirmation, we believe this to be one of the armed attackers who was shot by police officers during the attack on the police vehicle," he said.
Botting said police are determined to tackle the problem head on, and that officers are not "cowed by this violence or the violent criminals."
In response to the ongoing spate of violence, he said, the chain is expecting to receive substantial support from across the Caribbean region and the United Kingdom in the form of armed officers and investigators to assist the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force to deal with the threats.