Father of murdered St James man: Criminals ‘can’t make we leave’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

COMMUNITY IN MOURNING: A look from the hilltop at Jeffers Lane, St James after four men were shot at while liming. Two of the men, Steffan Belgrave and Darnell Pierre, died. – Photo by Roger Jacob

Despite three young men, including his son, being shot dead in the area in a span of three months, Dale Pierre says he will not be chased out of St James.

Pierre’s son Darnell Pierre was one of four men shot on Jeffers Lane on November 1, 2023.

Darnell, who worked for CEPEP, and his childhood friend Stephon Belgrave both died. Two other men survived last year’s shooting

Police said Belgrave was known to them and had been arrested in the past.

Another man was murdered on Wednesday night around the corner from the scene of last year’s shooting.

The man, identified only as “Snoop,” was shot around 11pm while liming on Alfred Richards Street. He was taken to hospital but died of his injuries.

Police found three spent shells at the scene and residents told Newsday they heard as many as seven shots.

Newsday encountered Pierre while trying to get residents’ views on the general state of crime in the area.

Pierre was on the pavement outside his home liming with some relatives in front of the spot where his son was killed.

Pointing to bullet holes in the wall nearby, Pierre said he heard the shots, but is no longer afraid since his son’s death.

“I ent afraid anyone. They kill half of me (when my son died). So if they kill me, they kill me. I walking (on the street) anytime. I don’t care about them.”

He said he believes his son’s death by a stray bullet is the result of youths in the area fighting for turf.

He also questioned the police’s ability to effectively fight crime, saying suspected criminals are back on the streets within 24 hours of being arrested.

Pierre struck a defiant tone as he said he refused to leave a community where he has spent his entire life.

“We not bowing for them. They can’t make we leave.”

A woman nearby pointed to a nearby house and chimed in, “I born in that house right there. Leave here? Hmph. Them can’t make we leave.”

Pierre said crime in the area is also being fuelled by outsiders who have recently moved in. He said some residents even encourage this, as it suits their own nefarious motives.

“Some people in the district harbouring them too and have them coming in their place with gun to lock certain parts around here.

“But we don’t want that here. We don’t want gangsters and we don’t want nobody to lock here, because when you bring strangers, that is what is creating a monster.”

He said he had warned some neighbours, but his pleas were ignored.

“I tell them that what they encouraging with all them strangers and them little fellas, it going and happen, just like it happen on we block. Look it happen now.”

Pierre’s cousin Sheldon Bridgeman, who lives abroad and returned TT on holiday, said he is disappointed at the state of crime.

“It’s a sad thing that when I come here, I have to hear all the shooting and all that. It ent good.

“When you listening to news and hear what going on in TT, you have to be fearful. If anybody said they are not, they are lying to themselves.”

He said his wife will soon be joining him from the US for Carnival and he will be limiting his liming, as he expects she too will be fearful.

“You think I could tell her, ‘Let we go for a walk’?

“As much as a lot of people like to compare crime here to crime in New York, it’s not the same. People could walk any day, any time in New York for something to eat. You can go outside to any corner store, at any hour in the night – but not here.”

Another resident who now lives in the US said he returned to TT on Wednesday night and as he approached his gate he was met with the sight of the murder victim’s body lying in the road.

“I haven’t had a chance to adjust to the situation yet. I’m still in shock.”

But he said despite the gruesome welcome, he isn’t fearful about his return to TT.

“I figured it’s always like that in Trinidad. I’m used to it…I know how to move in the area, but it seems like it’s worse than it was before.”

He said his time living in New York and TT has left him almost immune to crime, but admitted seeing the man’s body on the street had a temporary impact on him.

“I’m kind of used to the wildness, so it’s not really bothering me too much.

“But that did throw me off, because I was supposed to go out last night and pulling up from the airport to see a dead body that I had to drive around, I decided not to go anywhere.

“So it ruined my first night. But other than that, I’m going to carry on like normal. Just block it out and compartmentalise.”

Another man who was in the area to visit his elderly mother said despite both murders occurring metres away, he was not concerned about her safety.

“Very rarely do bystanders get caught up in the crossfire. When bystanders do, the press makes something of it. But it’s not normally the case.”