Brazen gunman murders vendor, 20, on Charlotte Street

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The father, right, of murdered vendor Jaheim Diaz consoles his other son on the corner of Duke and Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, where Diaz was shot and killed in a brazen attack on March 5. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Vendors and shoppers were sent running for safety on March 5 when a roadside vendor was gunned down in broad daylight on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain.

Jaheim Diaz, 20, was selling juice and bottled water out of three styrofoam coolers at the corner of Charlotte and Duke streets near KFC when he was shot dead.

Video from the scene show a lone gunman wearing a black T-shirt and a mask walking up to Diaz and shooting him in the chest.

Diaz falls backward and the gunman is seen standing over him and shooting him two more times before running off.

Police arrived shortly after and cordoned off the street, leading to gridlock traffic, as they diverted drivers across Duke Street.

Relatives say they warned Diaz about selling on Charlotte Street as he might be a target for gang members from other areas because he lived on St Paul Street. They said they believed that was why he was killed.

“They in their war thing, and they can’t catch who they want, so they killing the innocent.”

Relatives described Diaz as a hard-working family man.

“He does sell juice and orange. Everybody know him. He never kill nobody, he never rob, he never snatch.

“Always on something positive,” added the relative.

They said he adored his little sister and took her to the cinema recently for her birthday.

A group of onlookers criticised the government and the police, saying they were not serious about fighting crime. They said more needed to be done, and called for a “stiff hand” to deal with criminals.

“They doing it because they think they will get away. Look at how many cameras around here. A man wouldn’t do it if he know he wouldn’t get away. And until a man realise he will get catch, they wouldn’t stop.”

Another man said, “The question is not when is the next murder…it is who will be next?”

A mother who stood nearby with her child waiting for a taxi said the crime situation had left her scared and worried.

“It’s not nice thing to see…It’s scary.”

Pointing to her daughter, the woman said she worried about herself or her child being innocently shot on the way to school and work or on the way home.

Asked if she had any hope the current crime situation would change, she said, “The only hope is in God.”

DOMA president Gregory Aboud, centre, looks on at the scene of the brazen murder of 20-year-old vendor Jaheim Diaz on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, on March 5. –  Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Some nearby vendors refused to speak with the media, but one vendor, when asked if he was concerned about his safety and if he planned to leave, said, “Life have to go on.”

He said he was accustomed to the shootings in Trinidad and Tobago now, adding, “It’s just sad.”

Speaking about the crime situation he said, “Them police playing. They playing man.”

Head of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) Gregory Aboud was at the scene and told Newsday he was worried “these sorts of things are happening on a regular basis.”

Noting the recent murder of Mosi Ross, who was killed on Charlotte Street on Saturday, Aboud said gun violence was ruining lives ,with many young men being killed “for absolutely no reason whatsoever…

“If you were to lean up on a man’s car and he ask you to move, you might shoot him for that. Or if you ask the DJ to play a song and he refuses at a party, you might kill him after the party for not playing the song you wanted.”

He said murder in full view of the public had now become TT’s reality.

“That is the reality of the ruined lives and the lost souls that are committing these acts of great savagery and committing these great atrocities in plain view of all of our decent people, including schoolchildren who are coming home this afternoon to see this uncovered, bullet-ridden body lying in the street.

“This is something to be very worried about and I am very worried.”

He said it was impossible not to be concerned about how the situation might affect business.

“Something like this has far-reaching consequences for the city and for the country. The lawlessness and the state of lawlessness that we are living with has to change if we’re going to save this country.”