Family left without breadwinner after ultimate sacrifice – Harpe place hero

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Rudolph James

RUDOLPH James, one of the five people slain at Harpe Place, Port of Spain, is being hailed as a hero after he sacrificed his life for that of another shooting victim.

But the hero, who resided in St Barb’s Road, Belmont, has left five children, four of whom are under the age of 18, without a father and the sole breadwinner of that home.

Now, even as residents at Harpe Place are now praising him for saving a resident’s life, his children and disabled wife may not even have a place to stay.

Hero’s relatives: He always took action

Relatives described James as a hard-working, determined father, who, despite his love for his family, was not afraid to stand up for what was right.

“If he needs to get something he will get it,” said one of his three daughters, Arita James. “He is a good person but not afraid to take action.”

His wife of 14 years, Anita James, who suffers from multiple sclerosis described him as a family man and a good father to his five children – Arita, 15, Abiola, 16, Azia, 12, Adon, 3 and his eldest son, Rudoplh James Jr.

“He did everything for his family. He made sure we had food, we had clothes, the lights were on and the bills were paid,” Anita said. “He made sure to provide for us and protect us.”

James, relatives said, worked under the Unemployment Relief Programme since he was in his late teens. Each relative expressed shock at his death, saying he had just left home to get groceries so they could make a special Sunday lunch.

“The last time I spoke to him was on Saturday morning,” his wife said. “I told him to take it easy, to be careful down the road. I would normally call him during the day. If he left and it seemed like he was coming home late I would call him and see if everything is all right with him. He would then ask if everything was all right with me.”

At Forensics, Rudolph Jr said he was well-known at Harpe Place. “Almost everyone knew him at the Harp,” he said. “He had a lot of friends there.” He said his fondest memories were of him dancing. “It used to make me laugh,” he said. “Seeing this fat man trying to dance.”

His eldest daughter Abiona said they last spoke on Friday night, where he was admonishing her about a school project.

“He was getting on with me and telling me to focus on school,” she said. “He was always trying to encourage me to do my work.”

Abiona said the family found out about his death through relatives. She told Newsday two relatives showed up at their home and asked to speak to her mother.

“They said give her my phone so they could call and put the phone on speaker so everyone could hear. When I called one of the relatives said ‘Well I hear your father dead.’”

The relatives told Abiona and the rest of the family that they didn’t want them to go to the scene as they were already going, to find out if he was really dead.

“I was in shock,” Abiona said. “I started crying, but I didn’t believe them at the same time. I called his phone to see if it was true or not. A man who sounded just like my father said ‘Your father is here on the ground dead.’”

“I hung up the phone one time.”

The man explained that James passed the phone on to him before he died.

This was the start of an ordeal for the family, since James was the only one who brought in an income to the home, with Anita bedridden and incapable of working.

“We checked around to see if we had money in the house but it had none,” Arita said. “Up to now we still don’t have a dollar because daddy left with all the money that the family had to buy groceries.”

The only way that they were able to eat was through the assistance of a few of James’ friends. One person, his daughters said.

To add to this, the family is now saying that a family feud over the house in which they reside is now boiling over with him gone.

They said relatives had already approached them, saying that they could not afford to maintain the family and the house. James’ children and wife, however, said he had been living there all his life.

“He was the one who put up the wall around the house. He put up a new metal ceiling. These people have constantly put stress on him. He was always quarrelling about here,” Anita said.

“I feel broken,” Arita said. “I know what my father went through for us. He was making arrangements to buy a piece of land to build up and give us a place of our own, but he can’t do that now.”

Shooting survivor: I could have been dead

Harpe Place residents told Newsday James had just passed through the area to meet with a couple friends who were celebrating a birthday at the entrance of Harpe Place on Coronation Street, Port of Spain, carrying groceries. At about 10.55 am on Saturday, while the residents were liming, gunmen went into the area and opened fire indiscriminately. They were seen escaping in a white Nissan Tiida that was parked nearby. A total of eight people were shot in the incident.

James, 46, along with 51-year-old police sergeant Larry Phillip, Randy Greaves, 32, Peter Noray, 49 and Devon Jack, 42 were killed in the shooting. Three other people – Akina Thomas, Wendell Primus and Richard Pierre were also wounded.

Thomas told Newsday when it visited Harpe Place on Monday that James had saved her life. Newsday was told, when the shooting started James threw himself onto Thomas, shielding her from the hail of bullets.

“I can’t even really remember what happened to tell you the truth,” she said. “All I could remember is hearing the gunshots and the man (James) threw himself on me. He saved me. I could have been dead.”

Thomas, a mother of three, said one of her children had to sit SEA exams, but the entire family was shaken by the shooting incident.

“It could have happened to anyone that was out there,” she said. “Everyone who died that day was my friend.”

Residents: Where are the politicians?Residents took issue with statements made by Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds who, in a social media post on Sunday, suggested that residents of east Port of Spain had no desire to stop gang violence in their communities.

Speaking to Newsday on Monday, the residents responded saying that while the minister was asking where was the outrage against the violence that took place on Saturday, they were asking where were the minister, other politicians and the police. They said the barrier that was placed at the front of Harpe Place’s entrances on Coronation street were to protect residents in Harpe Place, since no one else was protecting them.

“We had a jeep on Oxford Street and Observatory corner a few weeks ago after someone was shot,” one resident said. “It’s not there anymore.

“Where are the police?

“Earlier on in the year, a car drove in front of Chafford Court and shot someone. They had to pass in front a government office to do it. Where are the politicians?”

Another resident said, “They make big statements and use political rhetoric on social media while they are in their ivory towers in St Joseph and other places, but they are not showing their face.

“I am a normal citizen. I am just trying to live and survive. But this crime thing is going on all over TT. Not just here. Wars, gang wars and other wars, is all about money. The people really pushing the war live comfortably outside of the city. You never see them.”

The residents said they did not believe the shooting was a reprisal killing, as no one who died or who was wounded were involved in gangs.

“They just came in and shot indiscriminately,” a resident said. “They didn’t have any particular target.”

Residents said while they did not believe that the barrier placed at the entrances would shield them from gun violence altogether, it would be one way that they could protect themselves.

When Newsday visited the area, residents with vehicles were seen stopping at the entrance and moving the barriers with the assistance of other residents.

When police passed through the area, residents would call out to each other in separate spots of the housing scheme and open the “gates” for them to pass through.

The residents said they were also calling on HDC to have cameras installed in the area. They said they were making arrangements to call for a gate to be placed at the entrances and to collaborate on security measures for Harpe Place.

“We even want to start a neighbourhood watch,” one resident said. “But if we do that they may call it a gang.”