A father of three who tried to intervene in a street robbery was shot dead yesterday in a burst of gunfire hours after seeing in the New Year.
Two brothers who were friends of the dead man were also injured, one shot in the side and the other pistol-whipped to the ground during the ferocious assault in St Paul's, Bristol, a district notorious for drug- dealing.
A major police operation involving 30 detectives took place across the city during the day to try to track down the gang of four men who sped away in a car after the attack at 7am.
Last night one of the brothers was still under guard at a hospital which police refused to disclose owing to fears that his life might be in danger. Another man who had been the victim of the original mugging was not seriously hurt and was being questioned by detectives.
The dead man, Evon Berry, 37, a caretaker at the Malcolm X community centre in St Paul's, was hit by a single bullet in the head. But the Jamaican- born man, who has three daughters and comes from Montpelier, managed to crawl 50 yards in an effort to reach a taxi office before collapsing in the street where police found his body.
Police said the tragedy appeared to have occurred after the three men, who were returning home after clearing up at the community centre's New Year party, attempted to halt a robbery in Sussex Place.
They saw a man, surrounded by four men, being pistol-whipped. Mr Berry and the others asked what was going on and were told to "mind their own business".
But as he and the others continued to protest they were threatened and shots were fired. As they moved backwards, their hands in the air, a man ran forward and more shots rang out.
One of the brothers, aged 39, was repeatedly clubbed in the face with a pistol butt and eventually knocked to the ground. He was released from hospital after treatment. As his 36-year-old brother tried to come to his aid he was shot in the side. His condition was said to be "serious but stable".
Officers said the four men they were hunting were "armed and dangerous" and warned the public to keep away from them.
Chief Inspector Piet Biesheuvel said officers had interviewed the robbery victim, from Southampton, for clues. "We are still questioning the first man, who was apparently being robbed, as he is our chief witness," he said.
"At this stage, there is no motive for the shootings. These men may just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Last month, two young men were shot and injured in separate drug-related incidents, but Mr Biesheuvel said there was nothing to suggest that yesterday's murder followed the same pattern.
The caretaker leaves three daughters, aged 17, 15 and 11, who are all still at school. His widow, Linda, said: "He was a lovely man who was just a big, gentle person who would not hurt anybody. We will all miss him, he was such a good father and a husband."
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