BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - TODAY, Tuesday, March 3, 2009 could have been one of the happiest days of Jusan ‘Jusbo’ Hendricks’ young life, if he had lived.
After failing the road test on Tuesday, February 17, Jusan was scheduled to re-take the driving exam today.
His driving instructor, Ramonge Bassue-Benjamin, 32, recalls the day he took the 18-year-old out on the road for their first session. It was Sunday, January 18 around 1:00 p.m.
The eager driving student drove from Fiennes Avenue in McKnight, where Benjamin had picked him up, on to Frigate Bay. Benjamin a.k.a. Shaq, who is a 14-year veteran police officer, said Jusan showed obvious concern during their hour-long driving appointment.
Jusan said, “Everyone wants to know when I’m going to get my license,” recalled Officer Benjamin, adding that the young man’s demeanour had also struck him. “He was very quiet and humble.”
Benjamin said he assured Jusan that it looked like he would get his license within three weeks’ time.
It was clear to him that Jusan had driving experience. Plus, his young student had passed the written exam in December 2008.
“I was very impressed with his driving,” the instructor said. “He handled the vehicle very well. He held his road very well.”
He described Jusan’s reversing as “superb”. Jusan also did a three-point turn and, according to his instructor, “He did it well, of course.”
Their second appointment started at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 24. “It was another royal performance by Mr. Jusan,” Officer Benjamin said affectionately.
They met again on Sunday, February 1 at 4:00 p.m. Jusan struggled with the parallel parking, which he did for the first time that day with Officer Benjamin’s guidance.
“His demeanour struck me because even though he couldn’t get in the parallel parking the first time, he tried,” Benjamin said. “Some students get very frustrated, but Jusan never got frustrated.”
Officer Benjamin added, “He just said, ‘Let me do that again, De Boss’ and he had another go at it. I pointed out certain things to him and he got it the second time. Then I told him 'Excellent!' I asked him to do it again without me saying anything this time. He went into it and he got in [the space].”
Asked how his young student would react to commendations such as “Excellent”, Benjamin said, “You could see that smile. It was not a wide open mouth smile. It was just a little smile to say, ‘OK then, I got it now, Shaq.’”
Their final appointment before Jusan’s road test was Saturday, February 7. Jusan’s session started at 5:00 p.m. and they went over everything Officer Benjamin had taught him.
“He did well,” said the driving instructor.
A few anecdotes below crystallize just how much success on the driving test meant to Jusan, who, by the accounts of Officer Benjamin, held his emotions close to his chest.
He took the driving test on Tuesday, February 17 around 10:00 a.m. It appears that his nerves – thrilled by the anticipation of getting his driver’s license – got the best of him.
“Things that we did during practice and he got it dead on, when the policeman asked him to do it, for some unknown reason he just didn’t get it done,” said Officer Benjamin. “As a result of that, he failed the road test.”
For instance, the police officer who administered the road test asked Jusan to reverse into a narrow street in St. Johnston’s Village and his superb reversing skills failed on him.
Officer Benjamin said as a result of that, the policeman decided, “Well, that’s enough.”
“He did not cry,” Benjamin said, “but it was only then I saw the real frustration when we went back and the police officer told him that he failed.
“When the policeman left the car, he sat there just for a few seconds contemplating on what he did wrong. He was just very disappointed. His facial expression said it all.
“His facial expression said it all,” Officer Benjamin reiterated. “When he got out the car, he took his shirt off because he had two shirts on. He took the top one off and he went like, ‘Stroop, aayyh’ like ‘I throw way me license.’”
To make him feel better, Officer Benjamin consoled Jusan with the fact that one of the young man’s friends, who was also his driving student, did not get his license until the third attempt.
“I told him that he must keep his composure and he said ‘OK, De Boss. Next time, I’m going to get it.’”
Officer Benjamin added, “But, unfortunately, that day did not come.”
A masked gunman killed the teenager in McKnight on the night of Tuesday, February 24.
“I was very shocked,” said Officer Benjamin, describing how he felt when he learnt of Jusan’s death that same night. “It gave me a chill. I kept trying not to picture picking him up the next day at 3 o’ clock,” said the driving instructor, who explained that he and Jusan had scheduled the first driving lesson after his failed road test for Wednesday, February 25, the day after the young man’s sudden, senseless death.
On Friday, March 13th, Valencia Grant will debut the first installment of “On the Spot”, undertaking a gripping and touching investigation into the life and death of 18-year-old Jusan Hendricks. You’ll hear more from Officer Benjamin and others who knew the real Jusan, the young man we rarely see behind the chilling headlines.