A report by Michael Harriot for The Root
Those words reflect one of the few things we know about the death of 27-year-old Kenny Richie Marty Mitchell, who was known as “Mylez” to his friends and family in Anguilla. The death certificate, obtained by The Root, lists the causes of death as prone restraint, positional asphyxia and blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso.
“Prone restraint means a person was restrained while on their abdomen,” explains Dr. Karen Reynolds, a physician at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, in Birmingham, Ala. “Asphyxia means oxygen was restricted from entering the airway, which might be caused by the constraint of the position.”
We know the name of the person who is alleged to have killed Kenny Mitchell—Gavin Scott Hapgood, a wealthy, white American investment banker. Hapgood has been charged with manslaughter after multiple witnesses reportedly watched Mitchell’s death at the hands of Hapgood on Saturday, April 13. These facts answer the who, what, when and how concerning Mitchell’s death. Yet, because of money, power and privilege, it is possible that no one will ever know why this mysterious death occurred.
But to understand how a Caribbean paradise ended up on the knife’s edge of unrest over the death of Kenny Mitchell, one must first understand where this happened.
It happened inside a secret.
“Anguilla is coveted and peerless,” explains Marvet Britto, a former brand strategist for the island, a 16-mile-long beautiful stretch of paradise 100 miles east of the British Virgin Islands. “The island has 33 beaches; seven of them have been rated the world’s best. You can count on one hand the number of traffic lights on the island, it’s the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and it is largely visited by the wealthy.”
Fewer than 20,000 people live in the island country, 85 percent of whom are black and only three percent of whom are white. Still, Anguilla is a British overseas territory and, aside from its immaculate beaches, beautiful weather and five-star resorts, it has one other attribute that attracts wealthy people from around the world:
It knows how to keep a secret.
Anguilla is one of the few countries in the world that does not levy income taxes, capital gains taxes or estate taxes on money earned outside its borders. It also has strict laws against revealing financial information—even to other governments. For this reason, Anguilla’s banks have become as famous as its beaches for the wealthy elite who hide their money from tax collectors in offshore bank accounts. The country is so good at keeping its mouth shut, in 2018, the European Union added Anguilla to its “graylist” of international tax havens.
But tourism is still the main source of income in the Caribbean paradise. For wealthy wanderers in the know, Anguilla has an island feel without all the tourist traps. It’s one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean, according to the travel experts at Frommer’s. And, to keep its status as the Caribbean’s best-kept secret, Anguilla doesn’t even allow cruise ships to breach its shores.
“It is a place that is known and loved for its quiet seclusion and safety,” Britto explained. “It is not a party island, there are no nightclubs. It’s a place where people don’t lock their doors, everyone knows each other, and it has very low crime.”
The Hapgoods were typical Anguillan tourists.
Forty-four-year-old Gavin Scott Hapgood works in the banking industry for a large-scale asset management firm, UBS, according to Hapgood’s hometown paper, the Darienite. In his spare time, he is a champion paddle tennis (basically ping-pong on a tennis court) player with his wife Kallie Hapgood, who is also a high-level financial expert at a private equity firm, where she serves as managing director.
Because both Hapgoods have ties to the high-end financial industry, no one knows if they were in Anguilla to take advantage of the banking, if they wanted to spend some time in the sun with their two kids, or if they were using the island as both a tax haven and a family vacation spot. But by the end of their holiday, Davin Hapwood, his wife Kallie, and their two kids would all watch a man die.
Even though Kenny Mitchell was a Dominican national living and working as a maintenance engineer in Anguilla, in a place so small, everyone knew him as “Mylez” Mitchell. He was married with a young daughter and people close to him remember him as someone who was always full of energy and loved making his friends laugh with entertaining freestyle raps, reports Unity for Justice, a group dedicated to uncovering the truth about Mitchell’s death.
“Everyone on the island can vouch for him,” said Haydn Hughes, an Anguillan radio host and community leader. “He is a hard worker; he did a lot of jobs at the hotel, he comes from a very good family, his father has a stellar record, brother has an unblemished record … So, nobody can say that he was the type of person who would try to rip off someone or try to steal.”
The Royal Anguillan Police Force has acknowledged that the “temperature is high on this issue” and worry that the public comments can “incite racial hatred.” The level of secrecy has grown so high that the official RAPF Facebookpage warns residents not to talk to members of the press or post on social media about the specifics of the case, citing an Anguillan law that charges a person with a crime if they “make use of any speech or writing misrepresenting such proceeding or capable of prejudicing any person in favor of or against any parties to such proceeding, or calculated to lower the authority of any person before whom the proceeding is to be held.”
While the RAPF would not respond to our inquiries, The Root spoke with witnesses who gave firsthand accounts, as well as friends, family and residents of Anguilla. Because they face the threat of incarceration, we have decided not to identify the sources who helped us piece together a disturbing puzzle of what happened to Kenny “Mylez” Mitchell.
“Any and everybody in Anguilla that has seen Kenny before, that knows Kenny, they will like him,” said Mitchell’s brother before pausing and wiping away a tear. “Yeh, mon. Everybody liked him.”
Around 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, a security worker at the luxurious Malliouhana resort was alerted by other employees to a commotion in a suite. When he opened the door, the security guard and other staff members found Hapgood—who was listed in college at 6-foot-2, 240-pounds—on top of Mitchell who weighed approximately 140 pounds and stood 5 feet 7 inches. Firsthand accounts say that Hapgood had Mitchell in a chokehold with his knee in Mitchell’s back. None of the parties dispute that Hapgood’s children were also in the room, as was his wife Kallie, who reportedly filmed the incident.
Accounts vary on what was initially said, but during the pandemonium, Hapgood allegedly told the security guard that Mitchell had attempted to rob the couple with a knife. Sources say that Mitchell, lying under the larger Hapgood, refuted Hapgood’s assertion. When employees attempted to break up the melee, the security guard purportedly warned staff members not to intervene because Kallie Hapgood was filming the incident on what two eyewitnesses described as a large white iPhone.
“So anyway, [Kenny] was alive at the time, and he said, ‘Stop it, stop!’, and Hapgood looked over him and said, ‘He came to my room to rob me!’” one witness told The Root. “And Kenny said, ‘No!’, and [Gavin] said, ‘Shut up!’ And he applied a lot of pressure to [Kenny’s] neck, and in no time at all, he expired.”
On Sunday, April 14, in a statement, the RAPF acknowledged the incident took place. By Monday, almost everyone on the island was aware of Mitchell’s death but Hapgood was still a free man. So on Tuesday, when Hapgood, who still hadn’t been arrested, was given a police escort across the island to the Four Seasons Hotel, Anguillans lined the streets and were outraged to witness the spectacle of privilege.
Sources told The Root that Hapgood likely switched rooms for safety because hotel employees had witnessed Mitchell’s death and the American couldn’t stay in the same suite as it was now the scene of a crime. Still, it is understandable that watching the police protect a person who is alleged to have killed someone could be infuriating.
On Wednesday, April 17, the Royal Anguilla Police Force arrested Hapgood and charged him with manslaughter. His attorney initially proposed a bail of $50,000 in Eastern Caribbean dollars (About $18,500 USD), which was denied by the magistrate who remanded Hapgood to Her Majesty’s Prison. A scant few hours later, Hapgood was reportedly granted an after-hours audience with Anguilla’s High Court, where Hapgood’s lawyer requested a $200,000 EC bail ($74,000 U.S. dollars). The judge agreed to the bail and the prosecutor reportedly did not object.
And, just like a puff of white smoke, Gavin Scott Hapgood boarded a private jet, flew into the sunset and returned to his $1.6 million-dollar home.
“Unbelievable!” exclaimed Hughes in a lilting Caribbean accent. “We know young men in Anguilla who are caught with marijuana, had to put up significant bond, significant bail, would be in prison, would have to relinquish their travel documents, go to the police station every day at a certain time to sign in to ensure where their whereabouts are and what-have-you. And this man has killed a young man who had no criminality behind him! He comes from a good family, and killed him and leave the island. Unbelievable!”
Critics of the government and the police allege that Hapgood was allowed to skip out of the country because of the color of his skin and the size of his bank account. Others point out that the black islanders face harsh punishment for crimes against white tourists, but officials are willing to overlook crimes against native Anguillans. To quell the bubbling unrest, Anguillan law enforcement took to social media again, basically telling its citizenry to shut up, writing in a Facebook post on April 19:
The RAPF would like to inform the general public that they in no way are associated with or condone any racial or prejudicial statements or innuendos being circulated on social media as a result of the said incident and ask that person stop posting such material on the RAPF Facebook Page.
If you do not then we will consider if these amounts to breaches of the law and act accordingly. We respect your right to express yourself but this must be done with due regard to good conduct, public order and the constitution. As published in the RAPF’s policing Strategy, the RAPF upholds its core values which respect race and diversity. As such the RAPF would like to urge the general public to desist from making such statement which can ultimately negatively affect the amicable environment which we proudly call tranquility wrapped in blue.
“You have to remember that Anguilla is a British overseas territory,” Britto explained. “So, there is a white governor and a white chief of police and they are largely involved with how things are carried out. With things that happen in the Caribbean islands, there’s always a desire to bury stories, because of the notion that it could be bad for tourism—and I would agree that happens when you have locals that kill a tourist. But I can tell you that that rarely happens. And that has never happened in Anguilla.”
Island residents and activists have vowed that they won’t keep quiet until justice is served. Citizens have used social media to speak out on the issue, even though they may face harsh consequences for doing so. The backlash ignited a furious debate on race, privilege and justice.
Yet, questions remain unanswered, including:
- What happened to the video that Kallie Hapgood allegedly recorded with that white iPhone?
- Why was Hapgood charged with manslaughter instead of murder? (Anguillan law does not provide for degrees of murder)
- What caused Kenny Mitchell’s blunt force trauma?
- How did Hapgood get the high court to offer him a bond hearing so fast, and how did Hapgood make $74,000 appear so quickly?
- Why was he allowed to leave the country?
- And if Kenny Mitchell attempted to rob Gavin Hapgood—a large, athletic man who played defensive end in a Division I college football program—with a knife, why didn’t Kallie Hapgood call security?
“That is unbelievable,” Hughes shrugged. “Kenny was half [Hapgood’s] size. Even if he wanted to rob Hapgood, one look at his size would have changed his mind. The fact remains that the wife didn’t call for help.”
None of the witnesses who spoke to The Root can recall seeing a knife anywhere near Mitchell. It is entirely possible that no one would have noticed a knife during the commotion and resulting death. The secrecy surrounding the incident makes it impossible to know what is conjecture and what is verifiable, even if they remembered other details so vividly.
For instance, two separate witnesses perfectly described Kenny’s toolbox. They also clearly remember Kallie Hapgood recording the incident on a “white Apple phone … the new big one.” Another observer said Hapgood was holding up a “rather large … and white” phone.
Numerous sources and witnesses shared information with The Root, including video taken right outside of the room as Mitchell’s immobile body was being carried away. A longer video featured Gavin Hapgood being escorted into Her Majesty’s Prison in Anguilla. As he walks in, accompanied by RAPF officers, the camera catches a five-second glimpse of his wife Kallie leaving the prison. But the most interesting part of the clip is what she is holding in her hand:
A rather large, white iPhone.
The Root reached out to Thomas Astaphan, Hapgood’s Anguilla-based attorney, who said he is not authorized to discuss the case. Through a spokesperson, Gavin Hapgood released a statement saying:
Attacked without warning in his family’s hotel room by a maintenance worker who was armed and demanding money, Scott Hapgood acted in self-defense to protect the lives of his young daughters and himself.
Despite false reports to the contrary, the Hapgoods never called maintenance. Neither invited nor expected, the worker showed up unannounced in uniform at the hotel room, claiming he was there to fix a broken sink before carrying out his sudden, violent attack on the family.
A dedicated father and husband and respected member of his community, Scott and the members of his family have been traumatized by the assault they survived and are thankful to be alive.”
We also contacted the Royal Anguilla Police Force and Anguilla’s attorney general, neither of whom has responded to our inquiries.
No one knows if Gavin Scott Hapgood will even show up on Aug. 22, his next scheduled appearance in court. By then, maybe the people of Anguilla will have some answers. Perhaps Kenny Mitchell’s family will one day know why “the white man squeeze his neck” and why a 27-year-old husband and father of a toddler had to die.
Or maybe not.
After all, Anguilla is great at keeping secrets.