CoP condemns ‘senseless’ act as four dead, eight wounded — Cocorite bloodbath

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher addresses the media during her visit at Phase 1 Powder Magazine, Cocorite on May 5. – Photo by Venessa Mohammed

POLICE are working on the theory that the 12 people – four dead and eight wounded – who were victims of a shooting at Phase 1 Powder Magazine, Cocorite on May 4, were attacked by gunmen over turf.

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher confirmed that initial intelligence indicated that it was one of the possible motives behind the shooting as she spoke to reporters while visiting the scene of the shooting on May 5.

Christopher said the police is taking a zero-tolerance stance on gang violence and assured that all resources will be applied to ensure that a proper investigation is done and the perpetrators are brought to justice.

“Clearly these young persons have no regard for life and this is not a situation that we will continue to condone. We will not condone this. That is why we are here – to get a first-hand experience of what transpired.” she said. “The criminals cannot and will not control any turf. Communities control their turf.”

She called on the community to make it known that illegal activity is not welcome.

Police say at about 11 pm on May 4, the group of people including Shaquille Ottley, 22, Antonio Jack, 57, Sadikki Ottley, 31 and Jonathan Osmond, 36, all of Phase 1 Powder Magazine, were liming at Building F, when a dark-coloured car, make, model and registration number unknown, drove into the compound, turned and stopped at the entrance.

Two men in dark clothes got out of the car and opened fire on the group before escaping.

Shaqulle and Sadiki Ottley, as well as Jack were taken to the St James Medical Facility, but they died. Shaquille Ottley and Jack were declared dead on arrival and Sadiki Ottley died shortly after. Osmond died at the scene.

The other eight victims – six from Powder Magazine, one from Diamond Vale, and another from Cocorite Terrace – were also injured, and taken to the St James Medical Centre by residents.

Senior Supt of the Western Division Garvin Henry said while seven of the wounded people were treated and their wounds were not life-threatening, the police are now praying for the life of one person who is in a stable but serious condition at hospital.

He told reporters he was taking the shooting incident personally.

“The fact is, and the community knows, that there are elements of gang activity in these areas. Yes, the area has been quiet for a while. It is not only sad, but it is unexpected that we had that level of violence directed at this community (last night).

“This crime that took four lives and injured eight citizens will not be tolerated. As commander, I am taking this wanton act personally.”

Cops ramping up activity in area

Both Harewood-Christopher and Henry said the police will be actively engaging the community to curtail crime activity in the area. Henry said police presence, direct exercises, investigations and other actions by the police serve to deter criminals from taking control.

“There is no turf here. This is a community and it belongs to the residents. It is important for us to partner and collaborate with them in order to find (the criminals).”

He said one of the key components to the police’s strategies is speaking to people in the area and addressing their concerns.

Harewood-Christopher already started her community engagement on the scene as she was seen speaking to a young man. She said speaking to the public was of a high priority.

“We try to focus on scientific evidence, but we still need the help of eye witnesses; we still need information from the community,” she said.

She said the man speaking to her, identified as Jerome Smith complained that police catch criminals, interview them and release them but they are not charged. She explained that information alone cannot convict a criminal.

“If we don’t have the evidence, we cannot charge them,” she said.

Henry said the Western Division plans to not only ramp-up police activity in the area, but will also improve engagement, as he has noticed that some in the community may be too shy to come out to town hall meetings to speak.

“We have not had a town hall meeting in the St James district for this year as yet, but what we found was that the last one we had in Lions Club, you would find communities such as this to be kind of shy to come out and interact with us,” he said. “Our intention is to come to this community – if we have to pitch tents and invite the community – to talk to us. That will happen in the near future.”

Harewood-Christopher said police will also be ramping up searches in the next couple months to increase the rate of recovery of illicit firearms transported throughout the country.

“We would have said our challenges are guns, drugs and gangs. We recognise that obviously firearms don’t have wings or legs, so we know that firearms are being transported. So within the next couple months I will ask citizens to bare with us because there will be some inconvenience expected.”

In a media release sent on Sunday, Harewood-Christopher condemned the actions of the criminals.

Residents: Victims were innocent

While most residents were reluctant to speak to the media, some said the victims of May 4’s shooting were not involved in criminal activity.

Residents said the group of people were liming in the area as they normally would on a weekend when they were senselessly attacked by gunmen.

“It had no criminals there. No one there had no kind of guns or anything,” said one resident.

“When you are in a zone like this there are no delinquents in the area.

“Some zones there are a lot of delinquent people, but here wasn’t so.”

Residents said a couple of the victims were playing cards, another victim was selling food.

Sule Kenyatta – Photo by Venessa Mohammed

One man, Sule Kenyatta said the senseless killing was the result of spiritual wickedness.

“It is the work of the devil,” he said. “They only want us to kill out one another.”

He called for more communication and social work between government and communities, saying that if youths are given better direction they will not be scooped up by gangs.

“They could pick up the youths on the street, so when a bad man or a gunman comes and tells them to come and rob someone they would say no, they have a good job or a good trade,” he said.