Lorbeca Brutus was preparing to turn 25 on Thu., Dec. 16. She wanted to do her hair for her birthday but needed an extension cord for her hair-iron. So on Dec. 15, she set off on foot for the market at Port-au-Prince’s Delmas 24 to buy one. She never did get to do her hair.
At the market, she was spotted by members of the gang from Ruelle Maillart, a street that connects the Belair neighborhood to lower Delmas. They recognized her as a resident of Delmas 6, the neighborhood protected by the vigilance brigade of Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, the leader and spokesman of the “Revolutionary Forces of the G-9 Family and Allies, Mess with One, You Mess with All” (FRG-9).
The men who abducted her were led by gang members Wadley Marseille and a man identified only as “Vierry,” who used to play soccer in Delmas 6. These days, although he’s not a cop, Vierry dresses often in a police uniform, which was given to him by Guetchine “Pachou” Auguste, a policeman who is the de facto leader of the Ruelle Maillart gang.
Gang members grabbed Lorbeca and took her to Ruelle Maillart. They bound her hands and put her in a steel barrel. Then, they poured gasoline into the barrel and set her ablaze.
Fortunately, they had not bound her feet. Although badly burned, she managed to escape from the flames and run away down the hill towards safety in Delmas 4. The gang members set off in pursuit, shooting at her. But she managed to get to Bawozi, where men from Delmas 4 found her and brought her up the hill to their neighborhood in a cart.
They called an ambulance, and she was transported to the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Drouillard, near Croix des Bouquets. Despite the best efforts of doctors, Lorbeca succumbed to the third degree burns which covered most of her body. She died at the hospital on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.
This account is pieced together from what Lorbeca told her brother, Ricardo, from her hospital bed as well as the men who saved her, along with the testimony of witnesses to the event and other Delmas 6 residents.
She leaves behind her 2-year-old son, Lubens Elma, who is now an orphan. Tragically, Lubens’ father, Ama Elma, a construction worker, was shot to death in November under ambiguous circumstances when returning from work to Canaan, a sprawling Port-au-Prince suburb, where he had a home.
“Lorbeca was a child of Delmas 6,” Ricardo Brutus told Haïti Liberté. “Everyone knew her. Her death has so moved the neighborhood, when I meet people in the neighborhood, before they even reach me, they start crying, which also makes me emotional. The only thing that we hope for is justice, because imagine them burning someone like that, who had no conflict with anybody. It doesn’t make sense.”
Unfortunately, Lorbeca is only the latest of several Delmas 6 residents to die at the hands of the Maillart gang. On Jan. 28, 2021, Jameson “Tizo” Verly was returning from his job on the Airport Road when Pachou and another cop captured him, shot him, and took him on a motorcycle to Ruelle Maillart, according to his sister, Guerdy Verly.
“When they got to Maillart, they took pliers and pulled out Jameson’s teeth,” she explained for a soon-to-be-released film, Another Vision. “They cut off his two arms and legs and then told him ‘Go find Barbecue.’ They took out a machete, and he pleaded, ‘please don’t cut off my head.’ They cut off his head, and then they played soccer with it. It was Pachou, Vierry, and Billy.”
According to their neighbors, other Delmas 6 residents have been snatched off the streets to be killed by Ruelle Maillart gang in a similarly gruesome manner.
“According to what I have heard, there was a student [from Delmas 6] in the Daniel Fignolé high school,” Ricardo Brutus said. “They plunged a metal coat-hanger into his ear. They forced the coat-hanger into his ear until he died. That’s why I never go out. I just stay at home.”
On Jan. 1, the 218th anniversary of Haiti’s 1804 independence, the Ruelle Maillart gang began shooting at Delmas 6 across the deserted streets that form a pock-marked no-man’s land between the two neighborhoods.
“Barbecue said, ‘let’s refrain from getting drawn into another war,’” said Mario Brunache, 68, a Delmas 6 resident who was for decades a postal worker and unionist in New York City. “‘Let them shoot. We’re not going to be provoked into shooting back.’”
But the shooting escalated in the early morning hours of Jan. 2, and the policy changed. The men of Delmas 6 launched a counter-offensive, capturing the Dahomey Professional School in central Maillart, which had acted as a kind of headquarters for the Maillart gang. They also burned down a field of banana trees which the Maillart gang members would hide in and shoot from. Cherizier’s soldiers also occupied the Daniel Fignolé High School.
Despite press reports that they lost 7 to 9 men, the Delmas 6 forces did not endure any casualties, according to Brunache, other than one curious teenage boy who was shot in the leg when watching the fighting. Belair neighborhood spokesman Marc-André “Toto” Alexandre said that seven Maillart soldiers had been killed.
On Jan. 1, Cherizier delivered an address to the nation on social media announcing that the truce that he announced in November is now over. The FRG-9 is now launching “Operation 2022,” he said, to continue the struggle for the land reform and egalitarian society that founding father Jean-Jacques Dessalines had announced in Haiti’s independence proclamation 218 years ago and to achieve “a year of unity so that we as a nation can find stability.”
The heavy fighting of Jan. 2 subsided on Jan. 3, but will likely flare again. “Ruelle Maillart’s terrible crimes against lower Delmas must stop,” Brunache said. “No-one can leave the neighborhood without the fear of being attacked and possibly killed. And the burning of Lorbeca was the last straw. The situation is intolerable.”