Cop arrested over Courts shootings

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Courts Megastore, Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Barataria, after two people were killed and three others injured in a police-involved shooting on Sunday. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

THE police officer involved in the shooting incident at the Courts Megastore at the Churchill Roosevelt Highway in San Juan was arrested for questioning on Thursday night.

Sources confirmed to Newsday that the officer is expected to be interviewed by investigators before they consult the Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard.

On Sunday, police said they responded to an incident at the store, in which a police officer used his personal firearm to shoot five people, killing two, later identified as Simeon Lessey and his sister Sinaaya Lessey, and wounding three people – Simeon’s wife, Kerry-Ann Moore, a family friend and a third unnamed person.

Lessey’s relatives said the group went to meet someone who promised items at a reduced price but had become suspicious and wanted to cancel their transaction.

Relatives on Sunday said Sinaaya reported the initial transaction to the police and planned to meet the person at the Courts Megastore’s car park to get the money back.

On Monday, the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by the Prime Minister, held an extra-ordinary meeting with Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Vice-Marshall Darryl Daniel, and the director of the Security Services Agency.

In a statement after the meeting, Dr Rowley said the NSC had decided to review the relevant laws, regulations and practices surrounding certain aspects of the operations of the police in the wake of the Courts shooting.

PSWA President: Don’t disarm cops

While it is not exactly known which aspects of police operations would be reviewed, Police Social and Welfare Association (PSWA) president, Gideon Dickson urged the Government not to take personal firearms away from police officers.

In a conversation with Newsday on Thursday, Dickson said police officers, as citizens of TT, had the same rights to access Firearm Users’ Licenses (FULs) for their own protection and, as police officers, the protection of others.

He added that Sunday’s shooting was an isolated incident and not a police operation.

He also questioned how the NSC could review police operations based on the incident, without final findings from the investigation.

“This has nothing to do with police operations. This wasn’t a police operation. The officer in question is an FUL holder.

“A police officer works 24 hours a day, and seven days a week.

“TT’s society has degenerated considerably, so we are faced with hotspot areas in every community.

We face AK 47s and AR 15s and 5.56mm rounds and 7.62mm rounds nearly on a daily basis.

“Do you really want criminals who do not have to sign off and sign on their firearms to always have the upper hand on the police?

“We believe all police officers, once they meet the criteria, should have a secondary weapon.

“If a police officer, who the public knows is a police officer is present during an incident on his rest day and he fails to respond, he could either be liable for criminal negligence, or given a disciplinary charge.”

Dickson described Monday’s NSC meeting as premature and unfortunate.

He said any review of the operations of the police, as described in TT’s constitution, falls under the remit of the Commissioner of Police and the Police Service Commission.

“We are seeing more and more, attempts to try to police the police,” he said.

“We already have several entities dealing with this investigation, and they will also look at operations while they make their recommendations.

“On the other hand we have inefficient laws, spiralling crime and challenges in terms of human and physical resources and no real effort is being made by those in authority to address these things.”

He said the deliberations of the NSC could harm the ongoing investigation.