Ideally, they wanted to experience undiluted joy on Mother’s Day. Instead, they are blanketed by the disquieting and heart-shattering reality of a Beryllium security guard they know and love. One is his mother, the other is the mother of his only child.
“My mother calls me every single morning before I go to work and reminds me that she loves me. She is always showing her love. She probably has fears, but she’s just trying to be strong so I can be strong out there,” the guard told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview, with the only chuckle he produced in a 17-minute interview.
“Everything is going to be alright,” his mom reassures him each day. And, “Can you quit?” his spouse questions repeatedly.
The guard added, “I live with my partner, and her thing is if I can get a different job. That’s what she really wants. Today I would say to my mom and the lady I am with that God is in control, so don’t worry. We are targeted because we travel with lump sums of money — millions of dollars daily. They tried it and saw that it worked two times, back to back, so I believe that is the reason why they are focusing on Beryllium that much.”
Admittedly, he said being a security guard is not his passion but a field he ended up in to have a nine to five and a sure source of income.
“From there, I just continued. I tried for other things and they did not work out, so I never had any problems working as an armed guard.”
Gunmen attacked a Beryllium Limited security unit at a petrol station in Albion, St Thomas, on Saturday, April 29. An officer was injured in the incident.
On Sunday, March 19, four security guards were shot and injured in an attack on a Beryllium van in Braeton Parkway, Portmore, St Catherine. That time, criminals made off with over $23 million.
Almost a month prior, gunmen attacked another Beryllium team, leaving a security guard dead and two others injured. The criminals made off with $10 million in cash from the Portmore Pines Plaza incident.
“A lot of us are trying to be strong, because at the end of the day we are human beings and things are happening in real life. It is not like things are being made and a story is being made up. It is actually happening in real life, and we have feelings and emotions are high,” the guard told the Sunday Observer.
He also baulked at the trend of motorists and passers-by filming the Beryllium teams on duty for social media.
He said that was a sore spot for the various teams that go out for 12-hour shifts, noting that the videos had a mental impact on him and his colleagues.
“A lot of us don’t like the media thing and the video thing. Sometimes we will tell a person, ‘Don’t bother with the video thing,’ and those little things because we really feel a way at times. We do go on TikTok and certain platforms and see where they are making fun of the securities at Beryllium. But, at the end of the day, we have a job to carry out and we cannot really make that break us,” he said.
He recalled learning of the first attack. When the news broke, he was on assignment at another location. It was as though the ground had fallen from beneath his feet.
“We were never looking forward to that happening. When I heard about it, it mashed up the whole operation overall. Securities had to hold out until supervisors could get to them. It was terrifying for everyone in the company — the entire Guardsman group and not just Beryllium alone,” he told the Sunday Observer.
The second attack came, and the thought, “I could be next,” held his mind hostage.
“I wanted to do something about it, but it isn’t about me alone. There is a group of persons out there, and we don’t know who is who. We don’t know if it is a group of persons or divisions of persons from all over the place. But I wanted to put down one of these guys. Every time we heard Beryllium in the media, it was always us on the bad side,” he said.
By that time, everything changed. He is no longer living in a home-to-work routine. Each move, from the minute he wakes up in the mornings, has become an ominous song, he said, in reference to the process of waking up, getting ready, getting dressed in his branded Beryllium gear, and going out on the road.
Jamaica, for him, currently feels like a game of darts, and his team is the circular target.
“We have to put ourselves in the frame of mind knowing that we are going out there to challenges, and we don’t know when or how the challenges will come. It puts you on higher alert, because now you can’t be too comfortable with people. In your head, a person moving in a group will jump out and just shoot,” he said, emotionally.
“We have to focus ourselves and, at all times, put Father God first. In the mornings when we gather our crew together, we pray. We get our weapons and our vests and everything and we say a word of prayer, because God is the head of all things and we have to go to God for protection,” the guard continued.
Nonetheless, even the strongest prayer doesn’t shield them from basic human emotions and being “paranoid”.
“At the same time, there’s a part of us that has a little tingling feeling saying, ‘You might [stumble upon] danger.’ So it causes you now to start premeditating every single thing while you’re on the truck. It takes a lot of effort; it’s like running your brain extra faster than normal,” he told the Sunday Observer.
“It’s like you’re working twice as hard as you used to, because you can’t just do the casual thing. I always say to myself that I have to go back home to my family. I have a daughter. So I am preparing myself to come out on the winning side at all times.”
In a bid to shield his child from the same reality that weakens his spouse and mother, the father said he has never had a conversation with his daughter about work.
“I don’t put her in that position, because my daughter is a young lady that loves her father so much, that she would put everything on her head. So I keep that away from her.
“Your family members would rather you leave the job or find something else to do. But everybody has a job to do… even the police officers and soldiers. That’s just how it goes. They do worry about me. We pray for the best and pray for covering so that we can go back home to our families.
“But Beryllium put things in place and the police are working with us very closely and I strongly believe that things are going to change for the better and I believe that is sooner than we think.”
He added that meetings at Beryllium’s “base” have seen the proliferation of words of encouragement to guards on how to “be strong and remain professional on the job despite what is going on. We need that strength out there.”
On Wednesday, May 10, a man, said to be of unsound mind, was shot and killed by a Beryllium security guard in Morant Bay, St Thomas, after he approached two of them with what later turned out to be an imitation firearm.
The guard, who said he dreads the incident in what is an already perturbing period for the company and his colleagues, told the Sunday Observer that he understands the reaction during the ill-fated incident.
“What happened is very unfortunate. A lot of things have been happening regarding Beryllium officers and criminals out there, and we have to do things to protect ourselves, other persons’ lives and properties at all costs,” he said.
“I would just say to Jamaica, ‘Bear with the whole Beryllium team. Help us to stand together because we are here to serve the country.’ We service ATMs [automated teller machines] and we do pickups and drop-offs, so we are here to serve Jamaica. So we are asking Jamaica to just stand with us and let us be strong together.”