As Haitian gangs expand control, cop’s family is left shaken

Jan 21, 2023, 7:09 AM | Updated: Jan 22, 2023, 4:19 pm
National police control security on a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. One...

National police control security on a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. One of Haiti's gangs stormed a key part of the capital, Port-Au-Prince, and battled with police throughout the day, leaving at least three officers dead and another missing. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

(AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

              A national policeman talks with his colleagues next to an armored police car in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. One of Haiti's gangs stormed a key part of the capital, Port-Au-Prince, and battled with police throughout the day, leaving at least three officers dead and another missing. (AP Photo/Megan Janetsky)
            
              A photo of missing Haitian police Officer Ricken Staniclasse is held by his 11-year-old son at their home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. One of Haiti's gangs stormed a key part of the capital, Port-Au-Prince, and battled with police throughout the day, leaving at least three officers dead and another missing. (AP Photo/Megan Janetsky)
            
              A bullet's impact is seen on an armored police car in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. One of Haiti's gangs stormed a key part of the capital, Port-Au-Prince, and battled with police throughout the day, leaving at least three officers dead and another missing. (AP Photo/Megan Janetsky)
            
              A member of the national police controls security on a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. One of Haiti's gangs stormed a key part of the capital, Port-Au-Prince, and battled with police throughout the day, leaving at least three officers dead and another missing. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)
            
              National police control security on a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. One of Haiti's gangs stormed a key part of the capital, Port-Au-Prince, and battled with police throughout the day, leaving at least three officers dead and another missing. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Every day when Marie Carmel Daniel’s husband put on his flak vest and walked out the door for another day of fighting Haiti’s gangs, she wondered if he would come home that night.

Friday was the day her smiling spouse of 18 years, Ricken Staniclasse, didn’t.

One of the country’s nearly 200 gangs ambushed his police unit that morning, sending gunfire echoing through the streets in an unexpected area — a mansion-lined stretch of the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

A gang led by Lionel Lazarre battled the police patrol under the sweltering Caribbean heat as officers desperately called for backup. But help never came, the country’s police union said.

The fighting killed three officers, hospitalized a fourth with bullet wounds and left the 44-year-old Staniclasse missing.

Daniel, meanwhile, was terrified for herself and their three children.

“My husband was fighting a lot with the gangs, and we don’t know what could happen to us,” Daniel, 43, said while curled up on her red couch surrounded by neighbors. “I can’t sleep at the house anymore because I don’t know what could happen to us.”

The firefight was just the latest example of how Haitian gangs have grown in power and expanded in reach, leaving much of the population terrorized.

While the United Nations estimates that 60% of Port-Au-Prince is controlled by the gangs, nowadays most Haitians on the street reckon that number is closer to 100%.

Haiti has struggled with endemic gang violence for years, but the country spiraled into lawlessness after the 2021 killing of former President Jovenel Moïse.

Powerful gangs have taken advantage of the political chaos and discontent with the current government led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry to further consolidate their control.

The government has failed to ease the violence, forcing many to flee their homes. News of rapes, kidnappings and ambushes on police have become the new norm.

Jolicoeur Allande Serge, director of the police unit that was attacked, said the Friday blitz in the Petion-Ville neighborhood was a sign of that. He noted that moving into upper class areas “benefits (the gangs’) economic interests.”

Kidnappings and ransoms as high as $1 million have been a key part of the financing for such armed groups.

Meanwhile, police units struggle to keep up.

While Canada and the United States have sent armored vehicles and other supplies to Haiti, law enforcement officials say it is just a fraction of what they really need.

Tensions remained high Saturday, and in the afternoon Serge stood among a pack of armored trucks dented with bullet strikes. Officers holding automatic weapons, their faces covered by black masks, bustled about.

A group of 50 officers was returning to the area where they fought Friday night to try to break a gang blockade and search for the missing officer, Staniclasse.

“I lost three men … We’re not scared. We’re frustrated because we don’t have enough equipment to fight,” Serge said as he watched a convoy of police trucks roll out from the station. “We need ammo, helmets, armored vehicles.”

Analysts expect the bloodshed to get worse, especially after Haiti’s final 10 elected officers ended their Senate terms in early January, leaving the parliament and presidency unfilled because the government has failed to hold elections.

Critics say that has turned Haiti into a “de-facto dictatorship.”

Meanwhile, people like Marie Carmel Daniel feel hope drain for their country. Daniel said her husband always hoped he could help clean up his city. Together, they built a home and a life together. Their 11-year-old son dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps.

“He loved people, he loved to help people,” she said of her husband.

But two years ago, violence began to get so bad in their neighborhood that they applied for a visa to migrate to the United States, hoping to join an exodus of people leaving Haiti. They never got a reply.

“I don’t know if he’s alive or dead, but I’m worried,” she said. “If we were able to leave the country, my husband would be alive.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Zoubin Ghahramani, vice president of research at Google, speaks at the Google AI@ event on W...
Associated Press

Google has the next move as Microsoft embraces OpenAI buzz

Before the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT was unleashed into the world, the novelist Robin Sloan was testing a similar AI writing assistant built by researchers at Google.
20 hours ago
budgets...
Associated Press

Group’s lawsuit seeks to void Washington transportation law

A conservative legal advocacy organization is suing to halt the nearly $17 billion transportation funding bill passed by the Washington Legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last year.
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Cops searching for 3 missing rappers find ‘multiple bodies’

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (AP) — Authorities searching for three aspiring rappers who have been missing for nearly two weeks found “multiple bodies” Thursday at a vacant Detroit-area apartment building. State police cautioned that the identities of the bodies had not been confirmed. “Please remember all victims have families, and we don’t have the luxury of […]
20 hours ago
This photo provided by Adriana Medina shows Guillermo Medina and his wife, Adriana, with their chil...
Associated Press

Recording: Wife told police mentally ill husband had gun

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police in Culver City, California, released body camera footage Thursday showing events before officers shot an unarmed man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in the back last year, including audio recordings of his estranged wife telling police he was armed and dangerous. In the footage, officers are seen chasing after Guillermo Medina […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

UN envoy: Iraq’s new leaders must keep fighting corruption

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. special envoy for Iraq urged the country’s new government Thursday to keep fighting corruption and move quickly on much-needed economic, fiscal and financial reforms. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told the U.N. Security Council many other areas also need immediate government attention, among them ensuring human rights, resolving issues with the Kurdistan […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Voters wait in line outside a pavilion at Center Street Park shortly before the polling site...
Associated Press

Trump campaign staff on 2020 election lies: ‘fan the flame’

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A newly released audio recording offers a behind-the-scenes look at how former President Donald Trump’s campaign team in a pivotal battleground state knew they had been outflanked by Democrats in the 2020 presidential election. But even as they acknowledged defeat, they pivoted to allegations of widespread fraud that were ultimately debunked […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
As Haitian gangs expand control, cop’s family is left shaken