Jamaica arrests alleged gun, drug trafficker after monthlong search

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Ending a monthlong search that has cost 76 people their lives, Jamaican authorities on Tuesday captured Christopher “Dudus” Coke, 42, an alleged trafficker in guns and drugs who is also wanted in the United States.

Acting on a tip, police captured Coke in St. Catherine parish on the outskirts of Kingston. He was dressed like a woman and wearing a wig, police said.

Coke was in the company of the Rev. Al Miller, who earlier had mediated the surrender of Coke’s brother, Leighton, to police. Coke was on his way to surrender at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston when he was stopped at a police checkpoint, Miller told a Reuters reporter.

“The police searched the vehicle that I was in and they recognized him and held him,” Miller said.

Police said Tuesday they are now seeking to arrest Miller, who was not taken in with Coke and remains at large.

The capture occurred two days after the police offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

“I knew when they offered so much money, he would not be allowed to remain at-large too long,” a vendor in downtown Kingston said.

U.S. authorities initially requested the extradition of Coke in August after he was indicted in New York on drug- and gun-smuggling charges. Although he first declined to execute an arrest order, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding finally launched an operation to capture Coke in the last month in the Tivoli Gardens slum, which is Coke’s power base.

Authorities met with resistance from Coke’s gang
members, with 73 civilians and three security force members killed in
gun battles. More than 900 suspects were arrested and held in the National Arena for several days.

Golding’s reluctance to arrest Coke had raised
suspicions that the leader was protecting him, and the bloody search
for Coke nearly cost Golding his job. Opponents, including former Prime
Minister Edward Seaga, urged Golding to resign, and he narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in Jamaica’s Parliament on June 1.

The case has focused scrutiny on the close relations
between some Jamaican politicians and so-called “dons,” or neighborhood
ward bosses, of whom Coke was the most powerful. As the Caribbean
became a major drug-trafficking route in recent years, U.S. authorities
say that some dons, including Coke, became involved in illicit drugs
and other illegal activities, with some accruing more power and wealth
than their former political patrons.

Coke allegedly was the leader of the so-called Shower Posse, the most powerful Jamaican drug-smuggling gang, with members in New York and other American cities along the East Coast.

Coke’s father is a former Shower Posse boss who was burned to death in jail in 1992 before he could be extradited.

A state of emergency and curfew is still in effect for much of Kingston, and the U.S. State Department has issued a travel advisory for the capital and its environs.

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(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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