$225k for common-law widow of man shot dead by police in 2016

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo

A HIGH COURT judge has ordered the State to compensate the common-law wife of a construction worker who was killed in a police shooting in 2016.

In an order, Justice Carol Gobin ordered the State to pay Alisha Richards a total of $225,000, plus interest and costs, for wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution, and assault and battery by a police officer.

The case arose from an incident in which Adelle Gilbert, was fatally shot by police on October 20, 2016, at the Lawrence Street Housing Development in San Fernando.

In 2021, one officer was committed to stand trial, charged with Gilbert’s murder.

Another was freed by a San Fernando magistrate who upheld a no-case submission at the end of a preliminary inquiry into Gilbert’s death.

In a claim filed by her attorney Abdel Mohammed, Richards said she was at Gilbert’s home at the housing development, hanging clothes, when she saw a drone flying around the building.

Her lawsuit said Gilbert and three other neigbours went to find out why a man was operating the drone from a rooftop close by. She said he was told they were doing a promotional video.

Ten minutes later, she said police came running towards Gilbert, and the same man who had claimed he was making a promotional video kept shouting, “Where the man in the white vest?”

The police ran into the apartment buildings and then she heard a gunshot.

She said she ran to the front yard to pick up her children, who were there, when she heard rapid gunshots. When she got the children inside, she heard gunshots again and ran back out to see Gilbert lying on the ground, bleeding from his back.

His last words to her, as he gasped for breath, was, “I feel I going an’ dead.”

Richards said one of the officers charged toward her and punched her in the face and body so hard that she urinated on herself in pain. Another police officer then pinned her to a washtub while police searched Gilbert, finding nothing illegal on him or her, she said.

She said while the policewere removing Gilbert’s body, she begged them to take him to the hospital. She said when they put his body on the ground close to the police vehicles, the officer who had previously punched her charged at her again, cuffing her repeatedly in the face.

“After the beating, I was then arrested and handcuffed,” she said.

She said she was put in the back seat of a police vehicle which drove to the NP gas station on Rushworth Street and returned to the Lawrence Street apartments. While still in the vehicle, she vomited and was bleeding from the head. She said her clothes were soaked with blood from the beating.

An hour later, she was taken to the Marabella police station, made to sit at the foot of a staircase, and then taken to two health centres for treatment.

She received four stitches above her left eye and was then taken to the San Fernando hospital for a CT scan and X-rays. She was given an injection and warded for four hours before she was discharged.

She was taken back to the police station later that night and said she was handcuffed to the burglarproofing on the windows while the officer who assaulted her taunted, “Is two left and a right I give she.”

An hour later, after being fingerprinted, Richards was taken to the Gasparillo police station and put in a filthy cell. She said the smell of faeces and stale urine was so bad she vomited throughout the night.

The next morning, she was taken to the San Fernando magistrates’ court, where she learned she was charged with assaulting the officer who beat her.

After she made four appearances, the case against her was dismissed, since the police officer who charged her failed to show up in court, the police had no file and the police officer she was alleged to have assaulted was not present.

In her lawsuit, she contended the police framed, fabricated and concocted evidence against her to say she assaulted the officer, when she was the victim of his beatings.

She also said, “To this date, my life has been permanently impacted. I cannot get over the loss of my common-law husband who was shot and killed and then having to endure a vicious assault all on the same day in front of my children. To date, I continue to feel depressed and violated. No amount of compensation can ever overcome my mental distress and anguish.”

She also said she has lost all faith in the police.