Father of man killed in Morvant triple murder: ‘I forgive the killers’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The area where Shaqkeem Dennis, Israel Mc Laren, and Jammol Williams were shot and killed at Paradise Heights, Morvant on Tuesday night. – Ayanna Kinsale

Hours after his only son was gunned down by men dressed in police uniforms in Morvant, Henry Mc Laren said he has forgiven the killers.

Mc Laren’s son Israel Mc Laren, another resident Shaqkeem Dennis and Jammol Williams from Upper Mapp Lands, Morvant, were killed when gunmen attacked them outside their Paradise Heights, Morvant homes on Tuesday night.

Police say at around 7.50 pm, the three men were liming with other people near building D when a dark-coloured pickup truck stopped alongside them. Three men dressed in police uniforms got out of the vehicle and identified themselves as police before opening fire on the group. The gunmen then fled the scene.

Police went to the area and took the men to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, where Mc Laren and Williams later died. Dennis died at the scene.

Speaking to Newsday at his home on Wednesday, Mc Laren said Israel, 19, wanted to migrate as he was concerned about TT becoming a “narco-state.

“We had a strong bond. He wanted to start his own business, he started forex trading online and he wanted to get into barbering. He was planning to migrate because he said Trinidad is a narco-state, he spoke about crime, and he wanted to make a life for himself elsewhere.”

Israel recently began working at Xtrafoods supermarket in Aranguez.

Mc Laren, a pastor at Hallelujah Prophetic Ministries in Sangre Grande, says despite his family’s tragedy, he chooses peace and forgiveness.

“We need to go back to the drawing board because whatever they’re doing to fight crime isn’t working, and the government doesn’t have a handle on crime. We cannot keep playing politics with people’s lives.”

The grieving man believes the Government and Opposition need to put aside differences and revisit the previously proposed crime talks, saying it is for the greater good.

In September, at the ceremonial opening of Parliament, President Christine Kangaloo urged the government and opposition to work together to curb the crime scourge. Since then, no crime talks have been held.

“People think everybody living in a hotspot commits crime, but that’s not the truth, these things don’t happen here.”

Mc Laren said before the shooting, his son woke up, took a bath and told his mother he was going downstairs to spend five minutes and would be back soon. Five minutes later, he was shot dead.

Below the Mc Laren residence, on the second floor, lives the grandmother of 26-year-old Shaqkeem Dennis Williams, who spoke lovingly of Israel, calling him a darling child. The shooting also claimed her grandson’s life, and Dennis’s grandmother, who did not want to be identified, fearing for her own life, called the shooting a senseless act of violence.

Relatives spoke fondly of Dennis with a joking tone, with one cousin calling him very greedy. The group said he was family-oriented and helpful.

His grandmother smiled as she recalled on Monday he made her curry chicken, potato and rice.

The family said they were confused by the killing and refuted the claim of gang affiliation, saying the area does not have any gangs.

“All we do up here is cook, lime and drink. This is a loving community, they deem here a hotspot, but we don’t have this kind of violence.”

Another cousin told Newsday Dennis was terrified of the police, saying it was a childhood fear.

The family believes that the gunmen identifying themselves as police was the only reason he stopped running.

“When the gunmen pulled up, he was already running, so they shouted ‘Freeze, police’, and he stopped running, turned around with his hands in the air, walked back and that’s when he was shot and killed.

“He died on the spot after they shot him, they opened fire on the two fellas sitting down on the bench. They just came to kill whoever was liming outside.”

The family questioned how the gunmen were able to access police uniforms and suggested unmarked police vehicles should not be allowed to patrol areas at night.

“The minister of national security needs to investigate how citizens are able to get police uniforms. What is crazy is he had already begun to run, if they were not dressed in police uniforms, he might still be living today. The van they came in circled the area about three times.”

Another relative said Dennis had returned from buying food earlier and called him a peacemaker in the community.

“He does not own a gun, he isn’t in anything, there are too many corrupt police, the service needs to be cleaned up and investigated, we need to build trust with officers, we need to know if we call and ask for help, they don’t tell the criminals.”

Dennis’s grandmother echoed Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher’s calls for prayers, saying God is the only way. The family told Newsday they would not have any wake as they do not feel safe.

When Newsday visited, a group of young men were under a tent where the shooting took place, about 20 metres away from both victims’ residences.

Investigations are ongoing.

Residents: Police ‘harassing’ us

On Wednesday evening, five vehicles with police went to Paradise Heights in Morvant with sniffer dogs.

They made no arrests nor searched any homes. Their exercise comes less than 24 hours after a shooting spree that claimed the lives of three men, two of whom were residents.

Residents said the exercise amounts to “harassment” while they are grieving.

“They are just feeling shame about three people getting killed and crime being out of control, they would rather terrorise us than do something about crime. They want videos of us fighting with them to go viral so the public can say, ‘Watch how they behaving,'” one resident said.

Another slammed police for their “insensitive” behaviour and questioned the timing of the exercise.

“They could have used this same amount of officers when they killed them fellas last night, they could have used it to block the exit routes so no one could have gotten out, but they rather come up here and rough up the young men who are still grieving the loss of their friend. Up here is a place of love, they want us to be seen as nothing but the ghetto.”