Cop’s bullet shatters life of Laventille plumber — Courts Megastore shooting victim left paralysed

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Newsday reporter Gregory McBurnie interviews Nathan Pierre at his Upper Trou Macaque
Road, Laventille home on April 5. – Photo by Roger Jacob

One of the victims of the Courts Megastore shooting last year is pleading for help after he was left paralysed and unable to afford a wheelchair.

He cannot access his hillside Trou Macaque home without assistance from neighbours who carry him on a stretcher.

On December 17, 2023, 32-year-old Nathan Pierre was ecstatic, having recently started his own plumbing company and securing his first contract. He was finally living his dream. Life was looking up for him, as his father had also recently given him a small starter home.

The four-room structure was small and needed work, as the roof was leaking and the walls still needed to be plastered and painted.

Pierre didn’t mind, though, as he was capable of doing many of the repairs and upgrades himself. Furnishing it also wouldn’t be a problem, since the contract meant he could now afford it.

Pierre decided one of the first pieces of furniture he wanted was a bed for his stepdaughter and went to Courts Megastore in El Socorro.

On that fateful Sunday morning, Pierre was walking through the carpark when he passed a group of people arguing, but paid them no mind.

Moments later, he heard several loud explosions and felt as though “all the current went” in his lower body as he collapsed on the pavement.

Pierre realised he had been shot, and although he couldn’t see any blood, he began praying for his life. He was taken to hospital, where doctors rushed him into emergency surgery.

A bullet had shattered three of his ribs, severed his spine, damaged a kidney and remained lodged in his chest.

But the bullet did more than that; it also shattered his dreams.

The following morning after he awoke, doctors broke the news to him that he would never walk again.

Pierre was one of four people shot that day. Siblings Sinaya and Simeon Lessey died and Simeon’s girlfriend Kerry-Ann Moore was also shot.

PC Sidney Roberts, 34, of the Homicide Bureau of Investigations, has been charged with murder and shooting with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Newsday visited Pierre at his home on April 5 and he described how his life has changed since the shooting.

His girlfriend Sherice Lawrence met Newsday at the top of a narrow dirt track which led to a steep dirt yard filled with mini-troughs caused by run-off water after it rained.

Lawrence said whenever Pierre has to leave the house, she has to borrow a wheelchair and rely on neighbours to put him on a stretcher to get him from his house to an ambulance or a taxi.

Sherice Lawrence leads the way along a dirt track to her home at Upper Trou Macaque Road, Laventille on April 5. – Photo by Roger Jacob

Inside the small unfinished structure, Pierre lay shirtless on his bed with an adult diaper peeking out just above the blanket covering his legs. He has a long scar the length of his abdomen.

Tears rolled down his cheek as he spoke about how difficult it has been for him trying to deal with losing his independence.

“I have to be begging people to carry me out to vehicles because of the track. Things hard right about now.”

Pierre said before the incident, he was up early every morning and spent the majority of the day working before returning home on evenings.

“I was always at it, working, because I had my family to see about. Now…I can’t even turn (on the bed) for myself. I can’t do anything for myself except move my hands.

“Things were going good until this incident. This mash up my life. Now I can’t even move. I can’t do anything. I have to get help to roll.”

He said visits from friends and well-wishers have dried up and he now spends the majority of his day in bed, scrolling through social media, playing games and watching movies on his phone.

“I still wake up early every morning like I going to work and can’t go back to sleep. I just lie here and watch her do everything.

“I can’t even get up and assist. That does hurt me…She has to do everything.”

As he spoke, Pierre grabbed onto a piece of PVC pipe, held in place by a rope tied to the roof, which hung just above him, and shifted his upper body slightly on the bed.

“This is as much as I can move for myself now,” he said.

His nights are sleepless, as he is constantly in pain and any loud noises wake him easily and make him uneasy.

He said the police Victim and Witness Support Unit has not yet followed up on its offer of helping him access therapy.

“They never come to find out how he’s doing or if he’s OK. And they know more about the situation than the public,” said Lawrence.

As bad as things are for him, Pierre said he knows they have also taken an emotional and mental toll on his girlfriend.

Lawrence was unable to visit Pierre in hospital after the shooting ,as he was under police guard and visitors were restricted. She said the day after the shooting, she managed to see him by sneaking around outside his hospital room and talking to him through the window.

“Imagine, that is how I found out. I had to learn he was paralysed (by talking to him) through a window.”

Sad, but determined to see him and be at his side, Lawrence decided on a new tactic to convince the police to let her visit him.

“I went to the police station and asked them, ‘What if you just found out you’re paralysed and can’t walk again? Would you want to go through that by yourself? Do you think that is fair to him?’

“It’s only after that they let me see him.”

Pierre said he was hurt that Lawrence was now forced to endure and sacrifice so much, three years into their relationship. He was the sole breadwinner while Lawrence was a stay-at-home mother to her two children from a previous relationship.

Since the incident, she has had to become a stay-at-home carer without any formal training.

“My kids had to leave, because I couldn’t carry them to school or anything like that,” said Lawrence.

With Pierre unable to work and Lawrence providing the 24-hour care he requires, money had also become a problem.

“He has to get things like adult diapers and catheter bags. He has to go to the hospital every week, so he has to get a driver ,and all of those things cost money.”

Lawrence said they applied for a disability grant in January but were told they will have to “wait a few months” before it is approved – time she says they do not have.

She said they survive on the charity of friends and family but she is scared it will dry up eventually.

“Last week, we called the (Laventille West) MP (Fitzgerald Hinds) and (Success/Trou Macaque) councillor (Adana Griffith) to see if they can push for us (to get the disability grant), but since then we haven’t heard anything yet.”

She said Hinds’ office gave her a food hamper and told her she should go to the Self Help Commission but she had no money to do that or any way of accessing and printing the relevant forms.

“I can’t leave him home alone and I can’t afford to pay somebody to take care of him while I make those runs. And even so, I don’t have money to pay somebody to take me to all those places either.”

In this file photo, police and security cordon off the entrance to Courts Megastore, off Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Barataria, after two people were killed and three others injured in a police-involved shooting on December 17, last year. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

This dire state, Lawrence said, is what forced her to reach out to the media despite fears about their safety, as Pierre is a potential witness in the case. The couple agreed to the interview only if their faces would not be shown.

Asked if they intended to sue the state or the suspect, Lawrence said they hired an attorney, but with no money, they can’t afford to continue paying him.

She said they were also told they cannot sue the state and suing the suspect could be pointless, as any case against him only makes sense if he has the money to pay.

Every story has a silver lining though and theirs is no different. Lawrence joked they are now spending more time together “by force.” They have also managed to strengthen their relationship with God.

“A lady (at the hospital) introduced us to an online prayer service every Monday and Wednesday evening. So we do that and we pray together every morning and night, and that is like our comfort.”

Pierre said he prays for an ease in his pain, the miracle of walking again and to give Lawrence the strength to deal with him.

Lawrence said she prays for strength and for the Lord to make Pierre’s journey a little easier.

“I just want to make his life comfortable, because he have to go through this for the rest of his life. I have to watch the love of my life in pain every day for the rest of his life. That can’t be right.”

Anyone willing to offer assistance can contact Lawrence at 474-9173.