9 SHOTS FOR SUSPECT – CoP: Probe launched into police killing in Princes Town

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

WRECKED: In this uncredited photo, crime scene investigators are at the site of a police-involved killing in which one suspect was shot dead and two others wounded during a confrontation with police at Cleghorn Village, Princes Town on Friday morning. –

A video of a police killing in Princes Town on Friday is being investigated by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and police.

In the video, a man lying face down and apparently complying with instructions from police was shot at repeatedly by an officer.

This is the twelfth police-involved killing for the year.

The video, which was uploaded on WhatsApp groups and later on Facebook, captured the shooting, in which the suspect crawled in front of a crashed car and flinched spasmodically as a uniformed police officer fires off nine rounds in quick succession in his direction.

He was one of three men, including a Special Reserve policeman, being pursued by cops.

In a statement, CoP Erla Harewood-Christopher said the police executive is aware of the video and the incident, which occurred in the Southern Division. She said she has ordered an immediate investigation and awaits the findings of the investigative team.

PCA director David West also invited the public to come forward with information to help his investigators to determine whether or not the PCA findings should be forwarded to the DPP for further investigation.

The volley of gunshots shattered the mid-morning calm at Ganpat Trace, Cleghorn Village, Princes Town, where police intercepted a bronze-coloured Elantra, PDN 8294, with three occupants. One  was killed and the other two injured, as they tried to escape from the car when it crashed into the fence of a private home.

Only one of the three, the driver, has been identified. He told police he is a Special Reserve Police (SRP) officer, attached to a unit in the Port of Spain district, where he also lives. The other two men are yet to be identified.

The family into whose premises the car crashed said they dropped to the floor in fear and remained locked inside, long after the sound of the crashing car and about nine bullets rocked the quiet neighbourhood.

Ganpat Trace, Cleghorn Village, Princes Town has returned to relative calm on Friday afternoon, a few hours after one man was shot dead and two others were wounded during a confrontation with police. – Lincoln Holder

Police claimed the trio were on their way to rob “an establishment,” which was not identified, in the district. With the help of the public, police said they were able to set up an “operation” with unmarked police vehicles along the route  to intercept the car.

ACP Richard Smith told the Newsday when the suspects realised they were being followed by the police, they tried to run the Toyota Cruiser off the road.

Smith gave an account of what subsequently happened. “They rammed into the Land Cruiser, firing a round, causing the officers to scramble for safety. One of the officers received injuries to his shoulder. He remained in the vehicle.

“The suspects lost control of their vehicle, slammed into a box drain and crashed into a fence. They came out and there was a further exchange of gunfire and one of the suspects was fatally wounded.

“The two others, both suffered gunshot wounds and injuries from the accident. Together with the police officer, they were taken to the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) where they are being treated,” Smith, who led the subsequent investigation, said.

At the scene, the police said, they found a pistol and a revolver.

While the video showed that the man appeared to be unarmed as bullets were pumped into his body, residents in the area said they had no remorse for the killing and commended the police for doing their job.

“I am not in their shoes, so I would never criticise the police. They are just doing their job,” one woman who was in conversation with others as they recollected the events, told the Newsday.

None of the women wanted to be identified or have their photographs taken due to fear of reprisal.

An elderly woman stated, “This is the first time I hear gunshots. Things like that don’t happen in this neighbourhood. We are a quiet community. Sometime last week two men were killed in Palmyra, but that is far from here.

“Right now, I feel sick, I feel sad, I feel unsafe.”

An occupant of the home where the shooting took place said this was also her first experience with the sound of gunshots.

“I get frightened real fast, so I just stay in the house. Police told everyone in the neighbourhood to stay inside. After they (cops) finished their work, they came around asking if we were all right and assured us that we were safe.”

She said the incident left her heart racing, but prayers helped to calm her.

“I know I may get up in the night, dreaming of the gunshots, but I would pray to my God and ask him to give me rest.”

Smith thanked the public, who he said provided the information that  prevented the robbery from happening.

“We could not have done this today without the support of the public. This is a clear message that we have zero tolerance for crime.”

Police took away the disabled jeep, the suspects’ car and a black Lancer on wreckers after crime scene unit officers gathered evidence.