Charges loom in Jamaica

Eight male members and the pastor of Pathway International Kingdom Restoration Ministries in St James, where two people were killed on Sunday night in a bizarre ritual, remain in police custody as detectives contemplate what charges they should be slapped with.

At the same time, an appeal was yesterday made to members of the organisation to donate money to retain attorneys for head of the church Dr Kevin Ontoniel Smith and other members.

The amount being sought is US$30,000 and the notice on the crowdfunding site stated that “now is the time to stand up against our adversaries”.

Forty-two members of the church, including the nine men, were arrested after the police, on their approach to the building in Albion, was fired upon.

“The first team of police that arrived was shot at, and so they waited on reinforcements to come,” Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.

“We were very concerned that some form of ritualised killing was going to take place here, and so we did an entry last night (Sunday night). We found that there were a couple of people who had been injured by other members of the church,” the police commissioner added.

He said that two members of the congregation were killed in what is alleged to be human sacrifice, while another member was killed during the confrontation with the police.

Thirty-one women, who were taken into custody, were charged with breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act and given bail, according to Senior Superintendent of Police Stephanie Lindsay, who heads the constabulary’s Corporate Communications Unit.

Fourteen minors who were at the church at the time of the incident are being held in State care.

The horrific incident sent shock waves around the island and brought into focus the pastor, who places the titles ‘his excellency’ and ‘bishop’ before his name.

The organisation’s Facebook page states that Smith is a “highly distinguished Jamaican-born child prodigy, entrepreneur and globe traveller to over 94 countries worldwide”.

It states, too, that his “extraordinary achievements has made him a respectable and recognisable global influential force and world leader in and throughout Christendom and the corporate sphere; all accomplished under the age of 30”.

Additionally, the Facebook page says Smith, is the visionary behind the King’s Oracles International Inc and he presides as “the chief special adviser sought after by many visionaries and dignitaries for insight towards the path of holistic transformation”.

It also states that Smith is the president and founder of KOS Deliverance International, the ministry vehicle that has taken him throughout the world, and he is “a sitting member of the International Council of Pentecostal Bishops where he serves as a regional bishop on the board”.

Yesterday it emerged that Sunday night’s ritual had its foundation in Smith’s anti-vaccine crusade.

Church members were summoned to a three-day convention, told to turn their cellphones off and leave them at home, and attend dressed in white.

One female member of the church, who had requested anonymity, told the Observer on Monday that she was getting ready to enter the church, to join her daughter and son, when she she saw a fellow congregant’s throat being slashed.

“It was very intense. When I saw blood and the young lady fell, I said ‘This is it for me,’ and I walked away; I could not stay, I couldn’t. What pushed me away, as a matter of fact, when I started to put one and one together, I saw two lady church members jump the fence, so I said, ‘No, this can’t be right,’ and those two were normally close to [the pastor],” the woman said.

She said she was adhering to the leader’s no-cellphone policy for the convention. She was forced to beg a resident of the community for a phone call to request a ride home and helped a teenage member to also escape.

Another female member of the church told the Observer that Smith’s many Facebook messages instructing his congregants to leave their phones at home, and to ensure the “ark” doesn’t leave them, was “normal”.

She said that the animals seen around the premises and were also alleged to be inside the building, were destined to be in the pastor’s “ark”.

Sources told the Observer that the building contained a lot of “valuable items” along with a wide variety of perishable food and livestock. There is also a room designed to resemble an ark and cellars filled with more food items, one source said.

Inside the building Monday, alongside bloodstains that were a vivid reminder of what took place Sunday, were several phones wrapped in aluminium foil and bags with personal items for many of the congregants.

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