Hinds praises police raid in western Trinidad – MURDER ACCUSED WITH 3,000 ROUNDS

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

SEIZED: The cache of arms and ammunition seized by police in an apartment unit at the HDC’s Victoria Keyes Apartment Tower 2, in Diego Martin on Thursday. PHOTO COURTESY TTPS –

A MAN who was granted bail earlier this year, for a 2018 murder, was arrested by Western Division police following a raid at his HDC apartment home on Thursday.

During the raid, the police found eight semi-automatic pistols and over 3,200 rounds of assorted ammunition.

The discovery was first raised in the public domain by National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds when he spoke during the PNM public meeting Thursday night at the Barataria Community Centre.

He praised the intervention of the police saying God alone knew what could have happened if the guns and ammunition fell into the hands of criminals.

The TTPS issued a press release on Friday with basic information on the raid, while senior police sources confirmed that the suspect is a man in his early 30s who was arrested and charged earlier this year for the murder of a man who was gunned down in Harding Place, Cocorite on April 15, 2018.

After his court appearance for the murder, the man applied to a High Court judge for bail, which was granted.

The TTPS press release said the raid took place between 12 pm and 5 pm on Thursday by officers of the Special Investigations Unit.

The release added that officers executed a search warrant at the HDC’s Victoria Keyes Apartment Tower 2 in Diego Martin, for firearms and ammunition.

The search resulted in officers finding 2,353 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, 432 rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition, 458 rounds of .30 mm ammunition, 37 rounds of .40 mm ammunition, six rounds of .45 mm ammunition, and one hollow-point bullet.

Officers also found eight semi-automatic pistols and quantities of component parts used in the manufacture of a firearm, namely a rifle stock, butt and magazine.

The suspect who was in the apartment during the raid was later arrested and remains in custody.

In an unrelated but similar anti-crime exercise, Western Division Task Force officers, between 11 am and 7 pm on Friday, found 20 rounds of ammunition in a concrete structure near the Belle Vue Community Centre in St James. Six suspects, all of St James, were arrested.

Speaking at the public meeting on Thursday night, Hinds as he called for more co-operation between the public and police, said, “On my way here this evening, I would learn that the police, acting on intelligence, went to a house in this country and found eight pistols, one assault rifle and near 3,000 rounds of assorted ammunition, and all I can say is thank God for that.

“Because God knows what those firearms and that ammunition would have wreaked on you the citizens of this country tomorrow, which is why we have been calling for your support.

“We realise that the police can only do so much. They could only be in so many places at the same time, but I give you the assurance that the police have operating right now, a major gun-retrieval programme aimed where the main focus is to mop-up illegal firearms in TT.”

Hinds said that the use of illegal firearms, long ago, “was only in Laventille… but now it is a public health crisis, like covid, it is everywhere.”

Commenting on the find, a senior police source in Western Division said he was concerned over the trend of criminals using legitimate ports of entry to receive weapons and ammunition.

“It’s alarming, the rate at which these weapons are coming into the country. They are using legitimate shipping companies to bring in guns through legal ports and that is what we are looking at,” the source said.

He added that while the trend is very troubling the police remain committed to rooting out criminals.

“You will definitely be seeing more raids like these in the not-too-distant future, it’s something we take very seriously.”

It was just a year ago, that the Appeal Court cleared the way for people accused of murder to receive bail when it struck down a section of the Bail Act of 1994 which made murder an automatic non-bailable offence.

Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justices of Appeal Mira Dean-Armorer and Malcolm Holdip in a ruling on February 17, 2022, declared that section 5(1) was unconstitutional, impinging on a person’s rights, and removed the jurisdiction of judges to grant bail for murder.

In response then, former acting police commissioner McDonald Jacob said the police service had grave concerns that people charged with murder could apply for bail. The police have previously advocated for maintaing no bail for murder, and even for gun-related offences. Another section of the Bail Act that denied bail to anyone charged with gun possession for up to 120 days was repealed in 2020.