On Wednesday, May 20th., 1964, around 7:00 p.m. or so in the evening, somewhere in Over-the-Hill, Nassau, Rueben Rolle, a thirty-year old negro carpenter, was loading his shotgun.
Over-the-Hill, characterised by hut like clapboard houses was the traditionally poor, negro populated area near the city limits of Nassau. It had been that way since the early 1800s, when it was settled by liberated Africans and emancipated slaves.
Reuben Rolle was angry, fed up with the world, and apparently tired of living. One thing we undoubtedly know about the mind of the man that night, Rolle was certainly tired of his wife staying alive.
Reuben and Eloise Rolle had not been getting on well, their marriage seemed to have been irretrievably broken. In fact Eloise had moved out of their house to live with her sister, just a week or so before May 20th. Reuben Rolle had been very upset over these turn of events.
Before the end of the day on May 20th., 1964, Reuben Rolle would become a famous man. He would become the very first spree killer in Bahamian crime history.
Believe it or not, there are very distinct differences between mass murderers, serial killers and spree killers. Serial killers kill people over long periods of time. They are often quite hard to catch.
Mass murder is the act of murdering a number of people, typically simultaneously or over a relatively short period of time and in close geographic proximity. The FBI in the United States defines mass murder as murdering four or more persons during a criminal event, with no “cooling-off period” between the murders.
Then we have the spree killers. Spree killers are those who kill at two or more locations, with almost no time break between murders. It doesn’t matter how many people they kill, what is more important is that it can be spontaneous or premeditated, the killer moves quickly in order to increase the fatality count, they are often angry, delusional, but most of all, deadly.
FIRST MURDER WAS THE ESTRANGED WIFE ON BROOME STREET
Rueben borrowed a friend’s automobile. Walking through the streets of Over-the-Hill with a loaded 16-bore (gauge) shotgun would have certainly drawn attention. Rolle wanted to make sure that he had enough time to do everything he had in mind to accomplish that evening.
Rolle drove to Broome Street and parked out front of a small wooden house. It was the house of his sister-in-law Winifred Ferguson. He got out of the car and called to his wife Eloise. The darkness of 8:00 o’clock in the early evening hid the shotgun from easy view, for surely had his wife noticed the long gun, she would have tried flee her fate. As soon as Eloise drew close, Reuben fired three times.
She never had a chance.
The first shot had killed her for sure, but Reuben wanted to make certain. He fired the shotgun two more times in rapid succession. Loud booms which followed the pull of the trigger drew people’s attention from tiny houses which dotted Broome Street. Those who were just hanging about on the street moved toward the unmistakable sound.
Eloise’s sister, Winifred Ferguson ran to the body as it lay motionless on the dirt road. Rueben fired the shotgun at her as well. Ferguson was blown back towards the wooden porch of the house.
No one dared approach the man with the smoking gun, as he got back in the borrowed car.
Rueben Rolle had more death to visit upon more unsuspecting inhabitants of Over-the-Hill. He reloaded as he drove.
There were a group of men and boys standing on a corner, near the entrance of a bar. Reuben spotted them as he drove by. He got out of the car quickly.
Reuben fired the shotgun so quickly toward the unsuspecting group that it seemed as if they didn’t even have a chance to run.
Eric Strachan shot. Carlton Sweeting, 14 years-old was also shot. William Fernander, who sold ice-cream, was shot. He died two hours after being admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital that night. Bursell Fowler was shot. Lodom Woodside was shot. He died before the sun came up on the next day, Thursday.
THE HERO ALFRED GLINTON
The youngest person shot was Betty Sweeting. Little Betty Sweeting was 2 years old. Betty survived the murderous rampage because of a man named Alfred Glinton.
Alfred Glinton was a hero that day.
Glinton took two-year-old Betty, and others who had been shot to hospital. He put them all in his car and drove to the Princess Margaret Hospital as fast as he could. But the shock of seeing so many shot down in the street, bleeding and crying in pain was too much for Alfred.
Alfred collapsed before he was able to get out of the car once he had reached the hospital with the injured. A heart attack tore through the chest of this good samaritan. Alfred Glinton died sitting behind the wheel of his car.
WEAK POLICE RESPONSE
So much had happened so fast that by the time the police had been marshalled, it was more like a comedy. A two mile area had been cordoned off around Over-the-Hill.
Reuben Rolle had nowhere to escape.
Bluehill Road to Nassau Street to Augusta Street to Shirley to Bay Street had police on the corners, waiting to spot the car, and the man, the first spree killer, in Bahamian history, to happen by.
It is unclear how long the police waited. In any event, their wait was in vain.
At some point, Reuben got tired of shooting people. He was probably out of cartridges for his shotgun. While the police were all over the negro areas looking for him, Reuben Rolle went home.
He saved one cartridge for himself. Rolle loaded the shotgun one last time. He put the muzzle to his chest and pulled the trigger.