THE body of Corporal Vincent Bent was yesterday pulled from the Rio Cobre in the vicinity of the Gordon Pen community in St Catherine, hours after the policeman fell into the water while chasing a group of gunmen along the slippery bank.

Bent and another policeman, who along with several others had engaged the group of men in a gunfight, fell into the muddy Rio Cobre water as they attempted to apprehend the hoodlums. The incident happened at about 6:30 am.

Bent’s colleague was saved by residents who responded to shouts for help from their frightened colleagues. After several hours of searching by his colleagues and residents of Gordon Pen, Bent’s water-soaked body was found minutes after 6:00 pm, lodged beside thick vegetation along the river bank.

Prior to the discovery of the policeman’s body, Superintendent Wilford Gayle, one of the commanders of the police Area 5 in which Bent was stationed, said the unfortunate incident highlighted the challenges the police face in carrying out their duties.

“It’s really sad; that officer (Bent) worked with us here for some time,” he said. “It just goes to show you what the police face on the road daily, ’cause many people don’t understand the challenges the police come up on,” he continued.

According to the police, the incident began to unfold when a patrol team went to premises in a section of the community called ‘Monkey Town’ and was greeted with gunfire.

Unconfirmed reports are that two illegal firearms were taken from the premises in which the gunmen were hiding.

Yesterday, dozens of residents, members of the constabulary and the Jamaica Defence Force, searched on the ground, and from the air in a helicopter in an attempt to locate the missing policeman. Some hung their heads in grief as the hours passed by.

“Is the first I hear police bawling out for help so this morning. I mean, is them wake me up out of my bed,” recounted one woman, who was among dozens of residents who braved the steep slippery river bank to peer into the murky waters.

“This part of the river is deep and, because of the heavy rainfall the other day, the river is running fast,” interjected a male resident.

“If we lucky, him body probably float up further down the river,” he continued, flashing his hand in the direction of the river flow.

There was an uproar of excitement from residents on the river bank when two divers combing the water thought they had found the missing policeman.

However, that excitement quickly turned into disbelief when they realised the divers had stumbled upon one of the alleged gunmen, who was hiding in bushes on the opposite riverbank.

For about 30 minutes, the divers fought with the suspected criminal, making use of strategies shouted at them by policemen standing helplessly on the opposite bank.

“Punch him inna him nose. Punch him and then you tie him up,” one policeman shouted.

“Hold him down, don’t let him escape,” added another, instructing other officers on the scene to radio for support on the opposite bank.

The resisting fugitive was later handed over to the waiting policemen, who slapped him around briefly before taking him into custody at the Spanish Town Police Station.

Not even his capture could comfort the police, as grief etched on the faces of those who assisted in the search of their missing colleague.