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  • Rally to demand justice in Kenny Mitchel case, Anguilla, June 20, 2020.

    Rally to demand justice in Kenny Mitchel case, Anguilla, June 20, 2020. | Photo: Facebook/ @caribbeanlivesmatter

Published 20 June 2020
Opinion

Gavin Scott Hapgood, who faces manslaughter charges in the Anguilla island, flew to the U.S.

‘’Let… me… speak.’’ These were the last-known words of a hotel worker, Kenny Mitchel. They have become the rallying cry of activists in the Caribbean island of Anguilla, who gathered to demand justice in Mitchel’s April 2019 killing.

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Mitchel died after he was put in a chokehold while on the job at a tourist resort.  The U.S. citizen Gavin Scott Hapgood, who is facing manslaughter charges in connection with Mitchel’s killing, is currently in the U.S. after being released from the custody of Anguillan authorities on a US$74,000 bond.

His release mere hours after he was taken into custody, has sparked anger among Anguillans who argued that Hapgood was getting preferential treatment as a wealthy U.S citizen, and because of the color of his skin.

Reports state that Hapgood- an investment banker- while vacationing in Anguilla on April 13, 2019, put hotel handyman Kenny Mitchel in a chokehold; with his knee in Mitchell’s back pinning him to the floor, then applying pressure to his neck. 

Hapgood is 6-foot-2 and over 240 pounds, while Mitchel weighed approximately 140 pounds and was 5 feet 7 inches in height.

An initial autopsy revealed the cause of death was “prone restraint and positional asphyxia, and blunt force trauma to the head, torso, and abdomen.”

Last September, a second autopsy, which included toxicology, showed Mitchel had a high level of drugs in his bloodstream.

Hapgood, 44, has claimed he acted in self-defense.  He told police Mitchel showed up unannounced at his hotel room with a knife and demanded money.

Hapgood’s young daughters were reportedly in the room when the killing occurred. Reports also state that hotel employees were alerted to the commotion and rushed to Hapgood’s hotel suite.

One eyewitness is reported as saying that Mitchel was heard uttering, “Let me speak” before his body appeared to go limp.

Now, just over a year after the incident, activists on the Caribbean island vow that they will not keep quiet until justice is served.

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On Friday, under the banner of ‘Caribbean Lives Matter- Justice for Kenny’ supporters gathered at a rally near the Valley Police Station on the island of nearly 15, 000 people, to demand a thorough investigation and fair trial in the killing of the 27-year-old hotel employee.  The activists also expressed their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S.

Calls for justice have also resonated from Mitchel’s relatives who say he was well-loved across the island, and would never have committed armed robbery. They have called the accusation senseless, saying Mitchel was required to wear an employee T-shirt and name tag while on the job which made him easily identifiable.

Meanwhile, a preliminary hearing that began in September was to resume on November 11, 2019, but Hapgood failed to attend. His attorneys had expressed concern about their client’s safety on the island, but an Anguillan magistrate called those concerns “totally groundless.”

Additionally, the Caribbean island’s attorney general has said in a statement that Hapgood is considered a “fugitive” and could be extradited to Anguilla to face the manslaughter charge.  Hapgood’s next court appearance is scheduled for August 22, 2020.

However, an appeal of the magistrate’s decision to not have allowed the preliminary inquiry to proceed in the absence of Hapgood begins on June 22, 2020.

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